Audi A5 vs Mercedes C-Class Coupe

Audi A5 vs Mercedes C-Class Coupe
Credits: Pete Gibson
29 Feb, 2012 11:00am

Coupes sell on looks and desirability, so does the revised Audi A5 have what it takes to beat the Mercedes C-Class Coupe?

Fashion is a fickle beast and the coupe class is the most style-led in the car world. Yet in recent years, Audi has managed to keep its models at the forefront of desirability. To make sure it stays that way, the A5 has been given a mid-life update.

Audi claims the new car has been “extensively re-engineered and subtly restyled”, and with revised looks, new interior trim and cleaner, more efficient engines, it appears stronger than ever.

There’s a trio of petrol and diesel models, plus the usual choice of quattro 4WD or front-wheel-drive, and six-speed manual, Multitronic CVT or S tronic dual-clutch boxes. We test the flagship diesel version: the 241bhp 3.0-litre TDI, fitted with the S tronic box.

Up against it is the 201bhp Mercedes C250 CDI Coupe. This is the most powerful diesel two-door C-Class available, and it costs less than the A5. In fact, at £35,120, it sits between Audi’s lower-spec 177bhp 2.0 TDI quattro and 201bhp 3.0-litre TDI Multitronic front-wheel-drive coupes.

It’s £4,835 cheaper than our 241bhp A5. But which car is more desirable?


Choosing between these flagship diesel coupes comes down to your priorities. With its smaller-capacity four-cylinder engine, the Mercedes is cleaner and cheaper than the Audi, so is a more affordable company car choice. And private buyers who go for the C-Class will be able to pocket the £4,835 difference in price over the top-spec A5, or indulge in Mercedes’ comprehensive options list.

Yet while both cars’ diesel engines produce 500Nm of torque, the 3.0-litre V6 in the Audi is smoother and more refined – and that helps the A5 feel more upmarket. In-gear performance is similar, but the Audi is punchier across the rev range and the dual-clutch S tronic transmission is a better choice for keen drivers.

The Audi has a smarter interior, plus it’s the more engaging driver’s car, with all-wheel drive, excellent body control and weighty steering. Unfortunately, the large wheels of our S line model result in an unforgiving ride – although the C-Class Coupe doesn’t ride perfectly, either, despite its softer suspension and smaller alloy wheels.

So the A5 clinches victory with its sharper looks and smoother engine, plus the genuinely upmarket feel it provides. But the Mercedes runs it close and still represents excellent value for money.

Audi A5 3.0 TDI ★★★★

The A5 has always mixed style and substance, and Audi has refined both, so it’s more desirable than ever. It looks good in S line trim, but you’ll get a better ride – and reduce the price premium over the Mercedes – by opting for an SE with smaller wheels. A 2.0 TDI or front-driven, lower-output Multitronic 3.0 TDI A5 will be more affordable, yet our test car justifies its higher price with its performance, refinement and quality.

Mercedes C250 CDI Coupe★★★★

Mercedes doesn’t offer its 350 CDI engine in the C-Class Coupe, but the C250 is a desirable car that runs the bigger-capacity A5 close for performance. It’s good value, too, yet trails on refinement, throttle response and handling. The solid cabin isn’t as classy as the Audi’s, either, while the ride can get fidgety on rough roads.

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I have a question for AutoExpress concerning how you define an upmarket feel and interior quality. I've driven some Audi models, Mercedes models and some BMWs. I think Audi has the poorest quality of these as there is more hard plastics. The interiors are more flashy, but then surely the Focus should take victory over all.

Mercedeses tend to have a lot more padded plastics than the Audis, and I know many who are not too impressed with the Audi plastics, but you seem to be in awe of it. It's not a critique as such, more a wondering...

I agree with TestaRossa - what is it that makes audi interiors soooo special in journalists' eyes?

The seats are poor and the basic ergonomics aren't great. Mervedes, unfortunately, is worse.

BMW is the best of the bunch, in my view, as their spartan dashboards age better than the button-fests of audi and MB.

Please note that i am comparing the a4, 3-series and c-class interiors.

Nlouw: I agree completely. Placing yourself into the new C-class doesn't give you that special feeling; the old one, W203 after the facelift was better in this respect as there was much more soft touch plastics and the design was cleaner.

Get behind of an A4 and you could just as well sit behind the wheel of a Skoda Octavia - there really isn't that much of a difference. Sure, you could spec it, but that costs a small fortune. The 3-series has a very nice interior, as does the new 1-series (I suppose they look pretty much the same).

The ubiqutuos journalist comment that an Audi has a higher quaality interior is getting redundant as there are no arguments to substantiate it, nor are there images to prove it either. Come on AutoExpress, give us an answer here!

I also agree. Needless to say that in my oppinion some "journalists" today aren't exactly subjective.

Autobild seems to bash BMW's though they are also german (and undeniably better in any single way other than cost) in favour of VAG cars all the time with few exceptions in a couple of years!

Reminds me of shroedder and his ties with VW. It is unacceptable to me but I guess to buy or not such a magazine is up to anybody.

Autoexpress is by the way.

I think some of the comments in this forum are from people who have not tested or driven the A5, BMW or merc. I have only decided to write this review as i am currently in the market to buy and thought i would look up independant reviews for these cars, to see how there rated. So from testing these cars i would have to contradict the previous comments as i believe the A5 and BMW are closely matched and funny enough the merc is off the pace as the quality of the cabin did not match its looks on the outside, "dash board too flat and not ergonomically suited to the driver, plus cheap quality buttons and materials in the center dash" which was dissapointing, as initially it was my first choice. I was a bit hesitant about the A5 at first, as I had read on forums such as this one that they are over rated, but after looking at the A5 I was surprised at the quality inside and out and actually thought it looked lower to the ground, had more presence and looked more purposeful than the merc. The seating position and the way the dash is ergonomically set means everything is at the tips of your fingers without having to move. Plus the quality of the buttons and the little touches of chrome around all the instruments really make an impression. There is a real sense of occasion, like your actually sat in a sport coupe. The merc also failed in this department. The BMW is a closer call. As with the audi I found the cabin top notch. The dashboard and layout is well designed, with nice materials. It also looks classy and full of intent. So if you were to look it would be between the Audi or the BM.

These commentators are all going off the old A4 that had an interior like an old Rover. The A5 (like most new Audis) have brilliant interiors, with soft touch plastics everywhere and great seats (especially the S-Line upwards). If you haven't tried it, you can't comment on it. We're on our second A5 so I know all about the interior. What should be commented on however is how they have ruined the car's most prominent and best feature; its front end. It had such serious road presence, whereas now the lights are far too small for the car and the shape of the LED strip is just ridiculous. Another case of a german car company not being able to stop designing (I'm looking at you BMW).