Audi A5 Coupe (2016 - ) review
Audi has poured everything it learnt from the development of the excellent A4 saloon into the latest A5 Coupe. As such, it feels every bit the equal for – and in some areas, superior to – the BMW 4 Series and Mercedes C-Class Coupe.
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The Audi A5 was already one of the most handsome mid-size coupes available, so it’s no surprise that Audi decided not to wander too far from the look of the original when designing its replacement. That said, there are subtle differences to be spotted, such as a longer wheelbase, shorter overhangs and a wider, flatter grille, all of which give the latest car a lower, more muscular appearance. There’s also a fair bit of ergonomic thinking gone into the new look. Slimmer windscreen pillars and new door mounted mirrors help improve visibility and lend an increased sense of airiness to the cabin.
The A5’s interior is typically Audi: in other words, typically immaculate. Adorned with impeccable materials and assembled with zealous attention to detail, there are few – if any – mainstream coupes that can match the A5’s air of substance and quality. While the interior panels all match their counterpoints with millimetre precision, each switch and every control, including the MMI rotary controller, are weighted and balanced to communicate a sense of silky precision. Additionally, all the usual touch points are thickly padded and trimmed with plush materials, while the four-ringed embossed steering wheel and stubby gearstick look and feel reassuringly expensive. All of this is before you add in the option of Audi’s ‘virtual cockpit’, which replaces the conventional dials with a full-LED display, ultra high definition screen quality and iPhone-like configurability, to give a highly effective blend of technology and sophistication.
The A5’s relatively long wheelbase translates into plenty of leg- and elbow-room for four adults, but that plunging roofline means rear headroom isn’t quite so generous. Most passengers should be okay, but there’s every chance folk who are six-foot-plus will feel their hair brushing against the roof lining. A high transmission tunnel running down the centre of the car also eats into the amount of foot space for those travelling in the back. That said, getting in and out of the rear quarters is a simple enough exercise, and thankfully, the boot is capable of swallowing a very useful 465 litres of luggage. Unlike many rivals that charge extra for the added convenience, the A5 comes with a 40/20/40 split/fold rear seat as standard.
Ride and handling
The biggest disappointment about the old A5 was its harsh, uncomfortable ride, and thankfully, that’s an area in which its successor improves matters greatly. Granted, it’s not perfect – there’s slightly too much body shake detectable when encountering sharper low speed abrasions – but it’s far from intolerable and things get much better once you’re going a little faster.
Even though Audi’s svelte coupe is more of a cultured motorway express than an out and out B-road bruiser, it can still be encouraged to pick up its skirts and devour the odd twisty road at a fair old lick. Even the front-wheel drive diesel cars feel like they have unimpeachable levels of grip on dry roads, and with the awe-inspiring traction of a fully engaged Quattro four-wheel-drive system, the high-performance S5 version sacks off high-speed corners with real gusto. All versions constrain body roll pretty effectively, too, but there’s definitely room for improvement with the steering. It’s so devoid of feel that you’d swear it only communicates through lawyers.
Those with one eye on their tax bills will be encouraged to know that even the A5’s economy-focused 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine has more than enough thrust to cut it with the big boys. Supplementing its effortless punch, it’s also extremely smooth and refined, easily outshining similarly sized power units from BMW and Mercedes. There’s also a pair of 3.0-litre V6 diesels available, which deliver properly spirited performance and set the benchmark for six-cylinder diesel engines, both in terms of refinement and economy; the lower powered version posts fuel returns similar to a 2.0-litre engine. The four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine is also pretty immaculate – are you sensing a theme here? – being smooth and free revving. It may lack a wee bit of the mid-range flexibility that you get from the diesels, but it counters with superior outright performance and enhanced mechanical refinement. Make no mistake, the turbocharged V6 engine found in the S5 is a proper weapon. With an intense power delivery and a willingness to rev close to self destruction, it’ll have you giggling uncontrollably as you rag it repeatedly up to the red line.
This is yet another area where the A5 brings home the bacon. Its relatively light weight and aerodynamic shape help the cleanest front-wheel drive diesel, fitted with the seven-speed twin-clutch transmission, emit just 114g/km and return 68.9mpg, meaning very palatable bills for fuel and tax. Choose the more powerful 215bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel and your taxation implications only rise by a couple of percentage points.
The petrol engines do a decent job, too, with even the automatic four-wheel drive version of the 187bhp 2.0 TFSI still managing almost 50mpg. While servicing and other running costs such as insurance premiums will be on par with premium coupe rivals, A5s have traditionally strong residual values, so you should get back a good chunk of what you initially invest when the time comes to sell the car on.
It seems like a bizarre state of affairs – especially given the solid look and feel of its products – but as a brand, Audi has never fared particularly well in customer satisfaction or owner reliability surveys. Buyers often complain about the frequency of repairs, and at the cost of them, and as a result the brand sits well down the manufacturer rankings in the Warranty Direct Reliability Index. Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar all perform better, and the previous A5 put in a poor showing, with electric issues and engine trouble among the biggest complaints. Hopefully, with all-new oily bits, Audi can only improve on its patchy record. At the moment, though, it's too early to know if the A5 will buck the trend. Like almost every other brand in this class, Audi offers a standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty for the A5.
The A5 provides an extensive suite of technology to enhance safety and comfort, including a city safe system that autonomously brakes the car if it detects an impending collision. The car also comes with six airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control and a pop-up bonnet to help reduce the impact suffered by pedestrians or cyclists if a collision occurs. Reversing sensors are also fitted as standard to help reduce the likelihood of bumper-to-bumper parking scrapes. Although you can’t draw a direct correlation between the two cars, all this kit helped the A4 (on which the A5 is based) achieve a maximum five-star rating from Euro NCAP. If you want to go the extra mile, there’s also the option of stop and go traffic assist, which uses radar to stop and start the car in heavy traffic conditions while maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front. Traffic sign recognition, cross traffic assist and a head-up display are also options.
All A5s come reasonably well equipped, but they’re no more generous than major rivals from BMW and Mercedes. Three-zone climate-control, cruise control (complete with freewheeling mode), keyless go and Xenon headlights and LED running lights are standard on all models, as is a seven-inch infotainment screen, a three-spoke steering wheel and sports seats. The S-line upgrade adds leather and Alcantara trimmed pews, complete with embossed S-line signature and four-way lumbar adjustment. While SE and Sport models come on 17-inch alloy wheels, S-Line models feature bigger 18-inch wheels and sports suspension that is lowered by 20mm. Consequently, you’ll be well advised to take a test drive, to see if you are comfortable with the firmer set up before being seduced by the lowered, more aggressive stance.
The A5 is a stunning looking, beautifully appointed coupe. Regardless of your engine choice, it offers strong performance and predictable high-speed handling, but it’s real forte is as a refined, long-legged, high speed cruiser for discerning drivers who regularly devour high mileages. If that sounds like you, then an A5 could be right up your street.