Considering that this is about as plain and ordinary as an 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.
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.