Low-CO2 fleet special brings new appeal to already-appealing Audi coupe. Not much fun, but plenty going for it otherwise

What is it?

A little bit of temptation for your company car list. The Audi A5 TDI Ultra sits alongside the A4 and A6 Ultras as the desirable two-door inclusion in Audi’s new range of fleet-targetted, low-emissions economy diesels.

It’s offered in front-drive form only, with one gearbox, one set of wheels and in one trim level – all of which is uncharacteristically straightforward for a German premium car maker. It also means you can’t inadvertently add £100 to your annual benefit-in-kind tax bill by ticking the wrong box on your order form – which is nice.

Mercifully, every A5 Ultra that Audi sells will be rated at 109g/km of CO2, and save a 40-per cent income tax paying fleet driver £370-a-year in BIK relative to an identically priced BMW 420d.

Replacing Audi’s range of ‘TDIe’-branded low-CO2 specials, the Audi A4, A5 and A6 Ultras use longer ratios for the higher intermediate gears than regular TDIs.

More crucially, their engines benefit from new high-pressure fuel injection and exhaust gas recirculation systems that make a peak 161bhp available over a wider band of revs than before, as well as making more torque – 295lb ft versus 280 – all from as low as 1750rpm.

Audi charges an identical list price for the A5 Ultra as a standard 2.0 TDI SE. Economy and emissions are improved from a combined cycle 61.4mpg in the regular 174bhp car to 67.3-, and from 120g/km to 109-. Meantime, the 0-62mph acceleration claim suffers to the tune of one solitary tenth of a second.

What's it like?

Considering that this is about as plain and ordinary as an Audi A5 can get, it’s a classy, plush, handsome and very creditable car.

Seven years young now, it’s weathered its time very well indeed. To these eyes, and importantly for a traditional coupe, the A5 is still attractive – all the more so because of the purity of its classic coupe look – and remains even more impressive to admire inside the cabin.

The latest Mercedes C-class may have raised the bar on material quality and richness – but then the latest C-class isn’t available as a two-door yet. And by comparison, the A5’s mix of satin and chrome-finished trims, matt and gloss black plastics, soft and smooth mouldings and chunky, solid switchgear is far from outclassed.

The standard seats could perhaps be a touch less flat and short-squabbed, and the pedals are slightly offset to the right. Still, as a place in which to simply spend time, you’d pick this over a new 4-series as well as Mercedes’ old-soldier C-class Coupe.

Audi also clearly still better understands how to produce mechanical refinement from a four-cylinder diesel engine than either BMW or Mercedes-Benz. The ‘Ultra’ TDi engine starts with a distant shimmy through the body, but is smooth and well isolated at all other times.

Responsive enough, too – assuming you’re in the right gear. The taller gearing in the top half of the manual ‘box makes 4th gear the one for overtaking on country roads, and 6th best left for quiet motorways.

Pick too high a ratio and you can catch the engine off-boost, before the turbo spools up at just under 2000rpm. But it takes very little time to get used to picking the right cog, and when you do, the engine delivers plenty of thrust right when you ask for it, and will spin beyond 4000rpm quietly and willingly enough when the need arises.

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You’ll find it rarely does, though. Whereas Audi’s regular TDI feels more like a diesel that needs a few revs to work, the Ultra TDI is more obviously and unashamedly about mid-range torque.

Once the needle’s past 3000rpm and peak power’s been served, that torque is tailing off – and you’ll instinctively shift. It’s the kind of torque that swells obligingly, feels generous enough even at three-quarters throttle for most requests, and makes the A5 Ultra an unexpectedly calming, effortless car to cover distance in. And, of course, a frugal one. On a mixed 100-mile run in fairly heavy peak-time traffic, we bettered an indicated 60mpg.

That this isn’t a sports car is a point unlikely to be misunderstood – but important to note considering that Audi fits standard sports suspension, primarily to bring ride height down and reduce aerodynamic drag.

With steering that’s consistently paced and substantially weighted, and directional responses softened by a thin safety blanket of understeer that becomes decidedly thicker if you find a bend tight enough, the A5 does high-speed, straight-line stability and secure, relaxing cornering above and beyond all else. It doesn’t do darty and incisive at all.

The weight in the steering makes the car’s handling a bit leaden if you hurry it along, and while the suspension produces plenty of grip and a flat, controlled primary ride, it doesn’t soak up sharper lumps and bumps as fluently as the larger, gentler ones.

The A5’s ride is quiet and absorptive up to a point, but its chassis is not as well tuned for comfort as that of an E-class coupe – nor quite as good at poise and involvement as that of a BMW 4-series. The reassuring stability and security means it’s not entirely without character or appeal, though.

Should I buy one?

As a canny, glamorous alternative to a boring business saloon, we’d say yes – if you can get away with the compromise on practicality. Don’t expect to put adults in those back seats; they’re big enough for teenagers, but not with much room for comfort.

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For those with need of four doors, an A5 Ultra Sportback is coming along later this year. But for those who can justify two doors choosing an A5 Ultra may be the smartest decision you make in a long time.

This is a real-world coupe with obvious allure meant for high-mileage, not hard charging – and a proper premium product to boot. But between lease costs and company car tax, running one could currently cost you less per month than a VW Scirocco.

Audi A5 Ultra TDI

Price £31,470 0-62mph 8.3sec Top speed 140mph Economy 67.3mpg CO2 109g/km Kerb weight 1530kg Engine 4cyls, 1968cc, turbodiesel Power 161bhp at 3000rpm Torque 295lb ft at 1750-2750rpm Gearbox 6spd manual

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Rich boy spanners 12 July 2014

It's ok... Shame my company

It's ok... Shame my company car policy states no two door cars...
The Apprentice 12 July 2014

I would take a faster

I would take a faster (190bhp) Volvo at only 99g/km and pay even less tax. (plus people would like me)
typos1 11 July 2014

I dont care how welll made

I dont care how welll made the dashboard is, its, horrid, insipid, awful, theres no way I could sit behind that for long. Like understeer ? Like having no feedback from the wheel ? Hate driving ? Like bland, boring, same again looks ?/ Then get an A5 !
Shrub 12 July 2014


typos1 wrote:

I dont care how welll made the dashboard is, its, horrid, insipid, awful, theres no way I could sit behind that for long. Like understeer ? Like having no feedback from the wheel ? Hate driving ? Like bland, boring, same again looks ?/ Then get an A5 !

To be fair, I can't see this ever understeering off a motorway.