Audi A5 3.0 TDI

Style, quality, image come together

FEW car makers do sharp, yet understated style quite as successfully as Audi. Its vehicles all share a definite look. But far from being a weakness, this familiarity is a strength. 
The A5 Coupé is no exception, and its smooth, well proportioned features and neat details exude class. 
In desirable S line trim, with its smart five-spoke alloy wheels, unique front and rear bumpers and lower side sills, it has a more athletic stance, too. Its LED daytime running lamps are sure to catch the attention of other 
road users, and it has more presence than the Mercedes.
If Audi’s exterior designers have hit on a successful formula, so have those responsible for the interior. With its distinctive aluminium-rimmed instruments, high- grade plastics and chunky perforated leather steering wheel, the S line feels genuinely special inside. 
Build quality is also first rate, but our car’s black rooflining and small glass area result in a more sombre cabin than the lighter, pillarless E-Class Coupé.
Even if you plump for the lesser SE model, you still get plenty of toys to play with. It’s £2,200 cheaper than our flagship car, putting it much closer to the Mercedes SE Coupé on price. It features rear parking sensors and three-zone climate control, but does without our version’s stiffer suspension set-up and supportive sports seats. 
And whatever spec you choose, rear seat space is on a par with its rival. You get a decent-size boot with split- folding rear seats as standard, 
as with the Mercedes.
Under the bonnet, the 3.0-litre TDI diesel unit has impressive stats and its power output of 237bhp leaves the 228bhp Mercedes in the shade. However, its torque figure of 500Nm is 40Nm down on its rival. From a standing start, this makes no difference, because the Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive set-up provides incredible traction. At the test track, the A5 blasted from 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds. After that, the Merc has the slight performance edge.
What the Audi lacks in straight-line speed it makes up for in corners, because the S line’s firmer set-up inspires much more confidence and generates superior grip. Big potholes thump through the cabin and you sense motorway expansion joints inside more than you do in the E-Class. However, the trade-off is tighter body control and greater agility than the Mercedes.
As a result, the A5 feels like a punchy sports coupé. And although its numb steering remains a disappointment, the car is precise and responsive, and so more fun to drive.
You pay at the pumps, though, as the A5’s blend of four-wheel drive and a six-ratio automatic box – rather than a seven-speeder – gives 
the Merc a lead on economy. It returned 34.9mpg in our hands – that’s 4.7mpg more than the Audi. The A5 also loses out on emissions to the greener E-Class, but only by 3g/km.
Will these higher running costs undo all the good work Audi has done to give the A5 its sharper dynamics and more desirable styling? Or will its superior all-weather traction and classy cabin win through?

Details

WHY: Audi's comfortable coupe is the E-Class' natural rival

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