The expansion of the Audi A5 range has been a microcosm for the expansion of the Audi range as a whole over the past few years. Ignoring the TT (technically a coupe, in practice a two-seater), Audi has been without a proper 2+2 coupe since sales of the B4 Coupe, based on the third generation Audi 80, ceased in 1996.
Then the three-door, four-seat A5 arrived 2007. Should you be seeking explanation for Audi’s decision to produce the A5, consider the fact the coupe boosts BMW 3-series sales by half as much again, and when the 3-series saloon outsells the Ford Mondeo, that’s a significant market, and one in which Audi is keen to delve.
The A5 name was such a success as a coupe, it was used for the A5 Cabriolet two years later. Effectively, it’s an open-top version of the existing A5 coupé and, despite its numerically enhanced moniker, is a direct replacement for the previous A4 Cabriolet.
It doesn’t stop there with A5s. Arriving at a similar time as the A5 cabriolet was the A5 Sportback. Audi claims that the A5 Sportback is “unique, with no direct competitors...blending coupe style with saloon practicality...a contemporary embodiment of the Grand Turismo philosophy”. Audi also says the Sportback is the last model in the A5 line-up. Phew.
Before the A5, the Audi A4 scored around a quarter of sales in the compact premium class, but with this platform-and segment-sharing pair it has snared a third of the market, even if A4 sales have dropped slightly.
The A5 range is critical, partly as they’re the first ‘ordinary’ models of which Audi talks seriously about a ‘driver-oriented chassis. If there’s truth in Audi’s claims, it could be just the news BMW didn’t want to hear.