Audi A5 review
* Revised Audi A5 driven * Prices 25,540-45,895 * On sale September...
What is it? The A5 is always likely to be 'the other coupe' in Audi's line-up. However, it's a more practical and understated option than the iconic TT, and has spawned a cabriolet and a sleek five-door hatch (or Sportback) since its launch in 2007. Now, all three variants have received some mid-life updates.
The most obvious changes are at the front, where new bumpers, grilles, bonnets and lights give the three cars a look that's similar to the latest A6's. The most significant changes, though, are the ones you can't see.
To help maximise economy, Audi has made stop-start technology standard across the range, swapped hydraulic power steering for a more efficient electromechanical set-up, and replaced or revised most of the engines.
The entry-level 1.8-litre turbo petrol now produces an extra 10bhp (taking it up to 168bhp), yet its average fuel economy has risen by almost 10mpg.
The 2.0-litre diesel engine has also been updated and averages around 5mpg more..
Meanwhile, a new 3.0-litre diesel replaces the old 2.7 and slashes fuel consumption and CO2 emissions; in the front-wheel drive Coupe emissions drop from 167g/km to just 129g/km, which means company car drivers will be taxed on 18% of the car's value, instead of 26%.
A new 268bhp version of Audi's supercharged 3.0-litre petrol engine joins the range, too, replacing the old 3.2 in the Coupe and Cabriolet. All S5 models now get a 328bhp version of this engine previously the Coupe used a much thirstier 4.2-litre V8.
Revised suspension and an upgraded version of Audi's four-wheel-drive system complete the changes. The new quattro can send more torque to one rear wheel than the other to help the car turn into bends complete the mechanical changes.
What's it like to drive? Despite the suspension changes, the A5 still feels floaty over dips and crests, and unsettled on bumpy roads. The latter problem is at its worst in the Cabriolet its body isn't stiff enough, so the suspension struggles to do its job, and bumps send nasty shudders through the car.
All the A5s we drove had the optional Drive Select system, which lets you adjust the throttle responses, steering weighting and the speed of gearchanges (when an auto or semi-auto 'box is fitted) at the touch of a button. While the steering feels meatier when you select the Dynamic setting, it remains short on feedback and rather imprecise.
The new 3.0-litre diesel engine is far more impressive because it builds speed quickly and progressively, and is so smooth that you could almost mistake it for a petrol.
However, you needn't despair if your budget won't stretch to the 3.0-litre even the entry-level 1.8-litre petrol pulls strongly from low revs and delivers lively performance. In fact, it's only when climbing steep hills on the motorway that you find yourself wishing it had a little more go.
All three models let in a bit of wind noise at motorways speeds, but they're decent cruisers.
What's it like inside? As before, most of the cars' systems are controlled through Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI), which lets you scroll through on-screen menus using a single rotary dial and a cluster of buttons. However, Audi has reduced the number of buttons, so it's now easier to find the one you want.
A satellite-navigation system that incorporates Google Earth images is also offered as an option, while extra chrome detailing, a new steering wheel design and more tactile wiper and indicator stalks add to the cabin's classy feel.
The driving position is more of a concern, because right-hand drive A5s have traditionally had pedals that are badly offset to the right. Sadly, our test cars were left-hand drive, so we can't tell you whether this is still the case.
Previously, all A5 models had four seats, but Audi is now offering a fifth seat as an option on the Sportback.
The Coupe and Cabriolet remain strict four-seaters, and their rear seats are too cramped for tall adults, whereas the Sportback offers good head- and legroom throughout.
Should I buy one? The A5 is now up with the very best rivals for fuel economy and emissions. However, a BMW 3 Series Coupe is both more practical and better to drive than the equivalent A5.
The Coupe and Sportback variants are still worth considering if you're taken with the new looks. However, the Cabriolet remains too wobbly and compromised.
What Car? says
BMW 3 Series Coupe