The Audi A5 is a classy coupé, hatchback and cabriolet, but are there talents beneath the pretty bodywork?
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What is it?
The entry-level version of Audi’s excellent A5 coupe range, the 1.8-litre TFSI.
This is the only version of the A5 that does without a six cylinder engine, and it also does without the Quattro four-wheel drive fitted to most of its more powerful sisters.
That means a (relative) bargain pricetag: the entry-level A5 is nearly four grand cheaper than the cheapest Mercedes CLK and barely more expensive than the considerably less exclusive BMW 320i coupe.
What’s it like?
Still very appealing. Indeed, despite its relative lack of cylinders and power, the 1.8 TFSI drives pretty much as well as the rest of the range.
The engine in this car plays a significant part in its success. A turbocharged 1.8-litre four-pot sounds, in prospect, a bit ordinary for a car like this, but it’s anything but. The headline power and torque outputs may be modest, but they’re so accessible. Bury the throttle and you get nothing but peak torque (184lb ft) from 1500- to 4800rpm; then, from 4800- to 6200rpm, the engine serves up a continuous 168bhp.
That translates into strong performance: an 8.4 second 0-62mph time and 142mph top speed are hardly tardy. Those figures are sharpened by the fact the most basic A5 weighs nearly 300kg less than a Tiptronic-equipped S5.
Few cars feel so refined for this money either. At idle you need to check the tacho to confirm the engine is running, and higher in the rev range you hear the motor’s pleasant rasp without ever feeling it's too loud. The absence of both road and wind noise is commendable to: the A5 is a superb motorway car.
The absence of four-wheel drive wasn’t too noticeable in our dry test conditions, proving that the A5’s precise and well-mannered dynamic character is as much as product of its meaty, incisive steering system and poised chassis as it is of Audi’s trademark Quattro.
Should I buy one?
If you’re in the market for an upmarket four-seater coupe at a good price, absolutely. The A5 makes the ageing Mercedes CLK look overpriced and – although it can’t quite match the BMW 3-Series on driving dynamics – it’s a smoother and more exclusive cruiser.
The 1.8 TFSI engine is impressively economical, too – turning in 35mpg at a motorway pace. With no four-cylinder diesel A5, this is probably the most fleet-friendly version in the range.
Just one word of warning: avoid the lower, stiffer Sport suspension. It feels misplaced on the most humble A5, and buyers can save nearly £1000 by opting for the more supple standard model.