Audi A5 3.0 TDI quattro

Can a conventional coupé still cut it when it comes to individuality?

  • Want to enjoy a great driving road? You’ll need the keys to the Audi.
  • The generic front end is a bit of a disappointment.

In our quest to find the ultimate versatile sports model of the 21st Century, only one conventional coupé felt worthy of inclusion. Representing the traditional approach is Audi’s ultra-modern A5. If you are in the market for an X6, you are unlikely to be able to live with the limited versatility of a TT, but might be able to squeeze what you need into Audi’s larger two-door.

And there’s no doubt the A5 is truly in vogue. It’s one of the must-have models of the moment, and other drivers gave our car admiring glances wherever we went. Without studying its shape closely, you will probably be left wondering what all the fuss is about. The merger of A4 and A6 lines has resulted in what can only be described as a nondescript shape from some angles.

However, it’s the subtlety of the design that has appeal – the exact opposite of what the Cayenne offers. The A5’s flat panels and sharp lines are modern, and typify Audi’s carefully crafted reputation for solid engineering.

Inside, we’re less convinced of the A5’s showroom appeal. The dashboard is solidly constructed and well equipped, but there’s no wow factor – you could easily be sitting in an A6.

It’s little better in the back, where the Audi can’t match the space offered by any of its rivals. Children can easily get comfortable in the rear, but it’s a squeeze for two adults. The seats are usable for short trips, though, and boot space is excellent. Also, the 455-litre capacity can be expanded to 829 litres by folding the rear seats.

The A5 is the only model here to be developed with driving fun as its sole focus, and it can teach the Porsche and Mercedes a thing or two about handling. The steering is well weighted, and keeps you in touch with what the front wheels are doing at all times.

There’s more than a hint of drama to the handling, too. Drive is fed through the quattro 4WD transmission, but the majority goes to the rear, providing the perfect power distribution for optimum cornering abilities.

The A5 is fun to drive and tucks its nose neatly into bends if you lift off the accelerator when cornering. It also maintains a steady line when you get back on the power. Even more impressive is the ride quality, which isn’t compromised by the sporty set-up. It’s stiffer than the CLS and X6’s, but few people will have any complaints about using the A5 as a long-distance cruiser.

What’s more, the punchy 3.0-litre diesel is a joy. The direct-injection unit has superb refinement and gives little away to the petrol-powered CLS in terms of long-distance cruising comfort.

The 6.2-second 0-60mph time is faster than any rival here, and the in-gear thrust offered between 2,000rpm and 4,500rpm is addictive.

Choose the Audi, and you will also reap the benefits at the fuel pumps. The A5’s claimed combined economy of 39.2mpg is within reach on relaxed motorway trips, and our overall average of 32.2mpg was impressive; the Cayenne’s 16.8mpg consumption seems ludicrous in comparison.

Of course, Porsche will argue that the GTS will appeal to a wealthier customer – and the Audi’s price also has to count in its favour here. Our test car weighed in at less than £40,000, despite being loaded with £6,095 worth of options, and the spec list puts it on a par with far more expensive models.

So it will fit into a much tighter budget. But does the A5 prove the traditional coupé formula is still the best option to make a statement?

Details

Price: £33,775Model tested: A5 3.0 TDI quattroChart position: 2WHY: A5 takes a traditional approach to stylish coupé motoring – and in 3.0 diesel form it’s much cheaper than any competitor in this test.

Economy

Also strong in the fuel economy chart is the Audi. In our hands, it did 32.2mpg – impressive given that it’s the best-performing model in our test quartet.

Residuals

Top marks for Audi. The A5 is much cheaper than its rivals and has the highest retained value of 59.3 per cent. Go for lower-powered models, and you save even more.

Servicing

Given its lower asking price, we were surprised to see that the A5 is so expensive to maintain. Three years’ servicing will set owners back a whopping £1,270 in total!

Tax

The A5 has the lowest emissions, at 191g/km, so it’s the cheapest car to tax here. Four-cylinder diesel variants are even more cost-effective for business users.

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