Audi A5 review
The Audi A5 is a stylish two-door coupe that's a rival to the likes of the new BMW 4 Series and Mercedes C-Class
Launched in 2007, the stylish Audi A5 is a stern rival for the BMW 4 Series and Mercedes C-Class Coupe. The desirable two-door is based on tried and tested A4 underpinnings, and effortlessly blends head-turning looks with a solid gold premium image and composed driving dynamics. A mid-life facelift in 2012 has kept the A5 looking fresh, while a choice of front-wheel-drive or quattro models, a wide spread of trims and a variety of engine options mean it’s still a very popular coupe. If you need extra practicality there's also a five-door Audi A5 Sportback model, and Audi offers an A5 Cabriolet with a folding fabric roof, too.
Our choice: Audi A5 2.0 TDI quattro S line
Upmarket looks have always been key to the appeal of the Audi A5. A sharp crease running from the headlights to the boot keeps the proportions taut, while it’s marked out by Audi’s trademark grille and a neat tail. However, the coupe’s image varies from model to model. Entry-level cars can look a little lost on their standard 17-inch wheels, but S line models are more convincing with their bigger rims, lower suspension and bold bodykit. The Range-topping A5 Black Edition car takes things further with 19-inch wheels, matt black exterior detailing and privacy glass. Inside, the Audi gets piano black trim inserts, a lovely flat-bottomed wheel and high-end Bang & Olufsen audio. Better still, all versions of the A5 benefit from a solid and stylish design, with first-class materials, upmarket switchgear and an intuitive dash. The A5 is one of the older cars in the Audi range, and the cabin design is starting to look dated compared to the 4 Series’. Still, all models from SE upwards feature leather seats, cruise control and a DAB radio as standard.
Dynamic coupes are part of the Audi success story, as the brand’s sporting heritage is built partly on the legendary eighties Quattro. Yet the A5 never quite matched the 3 Series Coupe in terms of outright driver enjoyment – and our test suggests the arrival of the new 4 Series has widened the gap further. The Audi doesn’t feel as sharp or responsive as the BMW, and its steering feedback is more artificial. But that’s not to say it isn’t fun. Fitted with quattro four-wheel drive, you get plenty of grip and reassuringly planted handling, while body control is first rate. Front-wheel-drive versions handle pretty well, too. Performance from the our favourite engine in the range, the 2.0-litre TDI engine is strong, plus the Audi is refined at idle and makes a pleasingly subdued hum higher in the revs. Our car featured
the dual-clutch S tronic transmission, which serves up fast shifts and decent manual control via steering wheel paddles. There’s the option to upgrade the A5’s dynamic set-up with £375 Dynamic Steering and the £520 Adaptive Damping and Drive Select system, although none of the above fundamentally improves the driving experience. Large 19-inch wheels mean the Black Edition’s ride is on the firm side, and on country roads you’ll notice bumps and potholes send shudders through the steering wheel. Still, Audi offers softer Sport-spec suspension as a no cost optional extra.
Owners ranked the A5 a disappointing 65th in the Auto Express Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey, and although Audi finished 10th out of 32 in the manufacturer rankings – five places ahead of arch rival BMW – it trailed behind Mercedes. If you do encounter any reliability issues, Audi’s dealers weren’t rated especially highly – the network finished 23rd in the Driver Power countdown, falling between its rivals here again. Euro NCAP has yet to crash test the A5, but it uses the same platform as the A4, which was awarded the maximum five-star rating. Standard safety features on the coupe include front, passenger and curtain airbags. There’s also the option to add active safety kit like lane departure warning, blind spot warning and adaptive cruise control.
The Audi A5 coupe has a 455-litre boot, which is exactly the same as the BMW 4 Series and five litres up on the Mercedes C-Class Coupe. There’s a space saver spare wheel under the boot floor and split-fold rear seats come as standard. Drop them down using the handy levers in the load area, and maximum luggage capacity jumps to 829 litres. Settle into one of the comfortable, sculpted rear seats, and you’ll find there’s a similar amount of legroom to the 4 Series, although the sloping roofline pinches headroom a fraction more, so the Audi doesn’t feel quite as spacious. However, it’s still much less claustrophobic than the Mercedes. Up front, there’s plenty of adjustment in both seats – although you have to twist round and grab the seatbelt yourself, unlike in the BMW – while the driving position is very comfortable. The electric handbrake frees up space for stowage, but its grabby operation won’t be to all tastes. And adding power-fold mirrors will set you back £290.
The range-topping A5 quattro Black Edition with the S tronic gearbox costs a hefty £37,225 and sits in the 22 per cent Benefit in Kind tax bracket. However, opt for the £31,120 manual front-wheel-drive SE, which emits 120g/km, and you’ll cut your bills to a lower tax bracket than the a similar specced BMW 4 Series. Audi offers fixed-price servicing, but it’s not as cheap as BMW’s five-year/60,000-mile package. And as with other models from the company, the A5 Coupe’s variable service intervals mean a check-up is needed every 9,000 to 19,000 miles, depending on how the car is driven. There’s also the option to extend the standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty to four years and 75,000 miles for £535. On the face of it, the A5’s predicted residual values look good, at 47 per cent, but over three years you’re likely to lose just under £20,000 in depreciation – nearly £5,000 more than those the 420d, for example. However, cheaper A5s won’t depreciate as heavily, and residuals are better than for the Mercedes.