New Audi A5 Coupe vs new Mercedes E-Class Coupe

Mercedes' new E-Class Coupé gives you a lot of style and luxury for around £40k, but is a better choice than the more powerful Audi A5 that you can have for the same money?...

New Audi A5 Coupe vs new Mercedes E-Class Coupe

The contenders

Audi A5 Coupé 3.0 TDI 218 quattro Sport

List price £39,885

Target Price £36,762

Even with a V6 engine and four-wheel drive, the A5 matches the four-cylinder E-Class’s efficiency.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé E 220 d AMG Line

List price £40,135

Target Price £38,193

With its S-Class-aping styling and spacious interior, the E-Class certainly has plenty of appeal.

So, summer is here, you’ve saved that Christmas bonus and you’re in the market for an upmarket coupé. Effortless performance, a luxurious interior and room for one passenger (or occasionally three) plus luggage are crucial requirements. But just because you’re opting for a coupé, that doesn’t mean you’re prepared to put up with poor fuel economy.

Now, that might sound like a tall order, but we’ve lined up two cars that should be more than up to the task. Both are packed with state-of-the-art infotainment gadgets, offer hot hatch levels of straight-line performance and are capable of at least 60mpg. Oh, and they both cost about £40,000.

However, despite their on-paper similarities, there are also differences. In the uber-luxurious corner is the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé. Thanks to a starting price that’s a fair amount cheaper than other luxury coupés (such as the BMW 6 Series), the E-Class in four-cylinder E 220 d form finds itself in the firing line of the smaller yet more powerful Audi A5 Coupé. With a plush interior, smooth V6 diesel engine and a confidence-inspiring four-wheel drive system, the A5 should make for tough opposition.

New Audi A5 Coupe vs new Mercedes E-Class Coupe

What are they like to drive?

With its S-Class-inspired styling and AMG body kit, the E-Class certainly seems the more glamorous of our duo. So it might come as something of a surprise to learn that the A5 offers far greater refinement at lower speeds.

Thumb the A5’s starter button and its 215bhp 3.0-litre diesel V6 stirs into life with a muted hum. Thanks to a smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic gearbox, the A5 gains speed effortlessly. Only a gentle squeeze of your right foot is required to breeze up to motorway speeds, but put your foot all the way down at a standstill and you’ll be doing 62mph in less than 6.5sec.

The 191bhp E-Class is far from sluggish but can’t whisk you up to speed as quickly as the A5 can, and its four-cylinder diesel engine sounds comparatively gruff – especially when you’re pottering around town. Thankfully, things improve once you pick up speed, with the engine quietening down and its nine-speed automatic gearbox doing a stellar job of blurring gearshifts, as long as you aren’t in a hurry.

New Audi A5 Coupe vs new Mercedes E-Class Coupe

You can try to take control of gearshifts using paddles on the back of the steering wheel, but there’s little benefit in doing so in the E-Class, because the car often overrides your commands. The A5’s gearbox, on the other hand, reacts more obediently to your requests, although it isn’t perfect, sometimes dithering when you ask for a quick getaway in automatic mode.

The A5 is the more agile car on twisty country roads, swaying about far less than the portlier E-Class. Neither demonstrates what you’d call entertaining handling, but the A5’s combination of accurate steering, tight body control and four-wheel drive traction makes it surprisingly quick point to point – whatever the weather. The E-Class, on the other hand, doesn’t appreciate being asked to change direction quickly and its more artificial-feeling steering – which gets quicker the more lock you apply – fails to fill you with confidence.

However, the E-Class claws back some points when it comes to ride comfort. On the standard Agility Control suspension set-up of our test car, it soaks up speed bumps and larger undulations very effectively, although expansion joints and potholes tend to send nasty shudders through the car. The A5 is always firmer (sports suspension is standard in Sport specification), so you feel more minor ripples as they pass beneath you, but actually it’s more controlled of the two over really beaten-up surfaces.

Next: What are they like inside? >