There’s no denying that the Audi A5’s a handsome, finely built and rounded car, but it’s getting old and struggles to make a case for itself behind the wheel over its German rivals. They’re sharper to drive, but regardless the A5’s not short of appeal, so long as you’re looking for a big, useful GT car. There’s a whiff of Bentley Continental GT in how it goes about its business in bigger engined, quattro four-wheel drive versions, while the fleet-friendly diesels and four-seat capability (at a push) mean you might be able to hoodwink your fleet manager into allowing you one over an ordinary saloon.
The S5 and RS 5 models might be the obvious evo choices, but really the A5 is best sampled when the engines aren’t asking more of the big Audi than it can deliver. The 2.0-litre TDI is a worthy daily driver, though the 3.0-litre V6 TDI gives even more pace along with fuel pump-avoiding ability, but stay away from it in front-wheel drive guise where it’s in a lesser 201bhp output and is mated to Audi’s Multitronic CVT gearbox. Opt for the quattro with its more convincing 241bhp, greater torque, traction and, significantly, a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission. It’s the fastest of the non-S or RS models too, thanks to its plentiful 369lb ft of torque, that better automatic and all-wheel drive security making it a very useful all-rounder.
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There are more convincing driver’s cars that you could pick over the Audi A5, but it remains a compelling choice so long as you’re not after the last word in sharpness and driver engagement. Its appeal runs a bit deeper; run an A5 for a while - so long as it’s not Multitronic equipped - and you’ll grow to appreciate its finely rounded character and wide breadth of ability. That it's so good looking undoubtedly helps its case, but so too does a cabin that’s more in the luxury category for fit, feel and finish than anything else in the executive class.
That formula seems to have worked for Audi, as the A5 is a hugely popular big coupé that, despite its two-door body, isn’t as impractical as some. For those after some more glamour the A5’s also offered in Cabriolet form. It loses a little rear seat space and boot capacity to the folding roof, but remains a relatively sensible drop-top regardless.
Performance and 0-60mph time > S5 and RS5 naturally top the performance tree, but other models are still brisk. Quickest is the 3.0 TDI, with a 5.8-second 0-62mph time.
Engine and gearbox > Wide range of power units should please just about everyone. Turbocharged petrol and diesel units are all strong and frugal, and S-tronic dual-clutch transmissions are smooth.
Ride and handling > The A5 has long been more about security than it has fun - you'll not find much steering feel or true agility, but there aren't many better coupes to be behind the wheel of when poor weather descends.
MPG and running costs > 2.0 TDI Ultra is the model to go for if low consumption and emissions are your goal, with 67.3mpg combined and 109g/km. 50mpg is more realistic, but most models are fairly frugal.
Prices, specs and rivals > BMW's 4-series and the new Mercedes-Benz C-class Coupe might tempt you away from the A5. The Mercedes is newest and out-Audis Audi for interior ambience; BMW's car is better to drive.
Interior and tech > There's a typically solid-feeling cabin and quality materials, but the A5's cabin is now beginning to date - particularly alongside the slick new A4's innards.
Design > A handsome car, despite its advancing years. Looks best in S-Line trim (and as an S5 or RS5), and it's hard to say that it's dating either - a credit to Audi's design team.