Audi A5 (and S5) – First Drive

The first generation Audi A5 caused quite a stir when it appeared in 2007. But what does Chris Pickering make of the all-new model?

In a class where style is all-important the original A5’s rakish coupé lines won a lot of admirers. As a result, the basic design remained the same for the best part of a decade (albeit subject to a mild facelift in 2012). Now, though, there’s an all-new model ready to take the fight to the BMW 4 Series and the Mercedes C-Class Coupé.

It remains a good-looking car, although perhaps a tad more generic than before with Audi’s trademark styling cues very much in abundance. Inside, it takes its lead from the A4 saloon, with the familiar horizontal dashboard architecture. Materials are generally first rate (with the exception of the odd scratchy plastic surface on the steering wheel buttons and the automatic versions’ paddle shifters). There’s some clever tech too, including Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit system, which is well worth having as a £250 option.

The A5 is a comfortable place to sit – at least in the front where there’s a great driving position with bags of adjustment, plus an excellent blend of comfort and support from the deeply dished seats. You could cover serious mileage with ease. Less so in the back, admittedly, where head- and legroom are both quite tight due to the coupé layout.

There are other reasons to go for the driver’s seat if you can. The A5 still favours safe and secure over outright thrills, but it’s impressively agile for its size, with crisp, responsive steering. Even on the standard setup you can keep your hands planted in the same position on the wheel at all times. True, there’s not a great deal of feedback, but such is the way with most modern systems.

Out of town, the standard A5 rides with a good deal of finesse. You do get the occasional thump over low speed bumps, however, particularly in the sportier S-Line trim, which includes 18-inch alloys and a 20 mm drop in ride height.

There really isn’t a weak link in the engine choice. The 2-litre TDI, which starts at £33,050 OTR, is brisk and reasonably refined. The only other diesel at launch is a 3-litre V6, which is something of a Q-car with a 6.2 second 0-62 mph time and an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. It’s still good for a smidge over 60 mpg, while the 2-litre TDI returns a very impressive 70.6 mpg on the Combined Cycle.

In terms of petrol engines, the A5 comes with two versions of Audi’s 2-litre TFSI unit. We’ve yet to sample the entry-level 190 PS variant (or indeed the manual gearbox that goes with it) but the higher spec 252 PS engine is something of a gem. It’s a substantial step up in price at £39,575, but it feels every bit as strong as its 5.8-second 0 to 62 mph time would suggest. What’s more, the throttle response is excellent for a turbocharged engine and there’s virtually zero perceptible lag. It sounds good for a four-cylinder unit too, aided by a healthy appetite for revs.

There’s a range of drivetrain options. The 190 PS petrol is front-wheel drive only, while the 3-litre TDI and the higher output TFSI both come with Quattro four-wheel drive. If you go for the 2-litre TDI you can choose either drivetrain, although the Quattro models are only available with the 7-speed S Tronic dual clutch transmission.

Of course, there is another option. Stump up the necessary £47,000 and you could get your hands on the S5. This is the hottest model in the range for now (until the arrival of the inevitable RS5) and it combines a 3.0-litre, turbocharged petrol V6 with an 8-speed torque converter automatic and a recalibrated four-wheel drive system. There’s also the option of a torque-biasing rear differential, which helps to quell understeer.

Put your foot down and the S5 produces a suitably creamy V6 howl, which fades discreetly into the background the rest of the time. Despite packing over 100 PS more than the TFSI (at 354 PS), the step up to the S5 isn’t as dramatic as you might expect. It is noticeably sharper on turn-in, though, and the specially developed suspension asks very little in the way of compromise when it comes to ride comfort. There’s also a nice selection of styling tweaks and interior additions on the S5, including Nappa leather and an upgraded infotainment system with an 8.3-inch tablet-style display as standard. Those in search of the fully-caffeinated RS model will have to wait a little longer, however.

All coupé models share the same 465-litre boot capacity. On paper, this makes the A5/S5’s boot the most voluminous in class, although a low rear deck and a relatively narrow aperture do limit the objects you can fit in it. Early in 2017 there will also be a hatchback version (Sportback in Audi-speak) which promises easier access and a small increase in luggage capacity.

Overall then, the A5 is a handsome, comfortable and tolerably practical proposition. It’s a fine place to sit and a rapid tool for covering ground. Throw in the security of four-wheel drive and you have a very versatile coupé.