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Car group tests

Audi A5 Coupe

Can mid-life makeover keep two-door at top of its game?

You could easily miss the revised A5 in the endless barrage of new Audis. But the subtle changes are a compliment to a car that’s aged well over the last five years.

The smooth shoulder line and sweeping roof have been left unchanged, while the chunky haunches still provide an athletic appearance. Yet Audi has gently reshaped the bumpers, grille, bonnet and light clusters – and the changes are most noticeable on sporty S line models like ours, where the LED running lights surround the headlamp unit (this is an option on lesser versions).

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The S line also gets sports suspension, and when combined with our test model’s £1,270 optional 20-inch wheels, this gives the A5 an eye-catching look. There’s a trade-off, though, as ride comfort is compromised.

Audi claims revisions to the suspension are designed to enhance the ride, so it will be interesting to see if the difference on SE models is noticeable; you’ll be hard pressed to spot an improvement on the S line.

Fortunately, in other areas, the A5 is more cosseting. For starters, there’s less road noise than in the C-Class, plus the cabin is as superb as we’ve come to expect from Audi. Again, the changes inside are subtle – but as the original A5 had upmarket materials, a smart layout and top-notch quality, that’s hardly surprising.

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Tweaks include the introduction of a simplified MMI system, extra chrome detailing, gloss black trim and revised bezels on the instrument cluster and centre console. But all the basics are spot-on: the dash layout is attractive, the seats supportive and the driving position offers a wide range of adjustment.

Better still, the wraparound effect of the interior design keeps you at the heart of the action, while providing a sense of space.

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You won’t appreciate this if you’re sitting in the cramped back seats, but rear legroom is no worse than in the Mercedes. Plus, practicality hasn’t been completely overlooked as the boot offers a 455-litre capacity, while split-fold rear seats are included as standard. Headroom is better than in the Mercedes, too.

The Audi also has an advantage under the bonnet: its 3.0-litre V6 TDI engine has 40bhp more power than the four-cylinder Mercedes, at 241bhp. However, both cars have 500Nm of torque – and this was highlighted at the track, where the Audi was just a few tenths of a second ahead in our in-gear tests.

The A5 was much quicker in the sprint from 0-60mph, though – recording a time of 5.7 seconds – thanks to its quattro four-wheel-drive system. And crucially, on the road the bigger TDI engine delivers its performance effortlessly. It’s quieter and more refined at start-up, too, while the seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic gearbox shifts smoothly in manual and auto modes.

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By combining the excellent engine with a chassis that delivers sure-footed handling, plus weighty steering and taut body control, the A5 is reassuring and satisfying to drive in equal measure. Its steering could provide more in the way of feedback, but the Audi turns into corners more sharply than the C-Class.

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Our car was fitted with the £300 quattro rear sports differential, which transfers torque between the rear wheels, and you feel it helping you accelerate out of tight corners with little loss of traction. Keen drivers can also specify the £220 Audi Drive Select system, which allows you to fine-tune power-steering assistance, throttle response and gearshift points.

New to the revised car is an efficiency setting, which configures all the above functions, as well as the climate control, to optimise fuel economy. And it worked with the standard stop-start to help us return a solid 31mpg during the Audi’s time on test.

The A5 costs more to buy, but our experts predict it will hold on to its price better than the C-Class. So after three years, the amount you’ll lose to depreciation is much closer than you might think: less than £1,000.

It’s more of a polish than a rework, but the Audi was a top-class coupé to start with. So does it have the beating of the cheaper C250 CDI?

Details

Chart position: 1
WHY: The A5 has aged well since it went on sale in 2007, but Audi has smartened it up – and the car is ready to take on its rivals with renewed vigour.

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