If you fancy an Audi A5 coupe but don't fancy paying over £30,000 for one of the six cylinder models, there is another option. Jonathan Crouch checks out the four cylinder 1.8TFSI 170PS model
Ten Second Review
If you accept that the main purpose of Audi's A5 coupe is to provide a welcome alternative to BMW's 4 Series Coupe, then the importance of the affordable 177PS 1.8 TFSI variant we're looking at here can hardly be stressed highly enough. The A5 range was originally launched without a four cylinder option and starting prices of over £30,000 made it look like a car you needed an understanding accountant to buy into. That's no longer the case thanks to the entry-level model we're looking at here.
Audi's A5 Coupe has been a major sales thorn in the side of BMW's 4 Series Coupe in the executive coupe sector. You can see why. Take the entry-level 177PS 1.8 TFSI petrol variant we're looking at here. At around £29,000, it's a good couple of thousand pounds less than an equivalent BMW 420i - and even more affordable than an equivalent Mercedes C-Class Coupe. Let's check it out.
The A5's engine is the familiar 1.8-litre TFSI petrol unit also used in A3, A4 and TT models. Performance-enhancing turbocharging and fuel-rationing FSI direct petrol injection combine in this unit to deliver a healthy 320Nm torque peak that remains available from 1,500rpm through to 4,000rpm. In other words, owners more used to six cylinder power shouldn't notice too much difference. It's reasonably quick too, the car passing the 62mph yardstick 7.9 seconds after take off, and continuing to a top speed of 143mph. All the while, this car is able to demonstrate a healthy dislike for petrol, with up to 49.6mpg possible according to the combined cycle test. Of course, if as a keen driver you choose to buy one of these over a 4 Series, your BMW-owning friends will likely come over all sniffy in the pub, droning on about the benefits of rear wheel drive for the true enthusiast. Let them have their say, then give them the 'front mid-engined concept' with both barrels. If you're not sure what that is, then you need to know that with this car, Audi's engineers have shifted the front axle as far forwards as possible and shunted the engine and gearbox as far back as they can. For years, chassis engineers have known that bringing weight to the centre of the car improves its responses and agility, which is why Formula 1 cars and all serious supercars have their engines mid-mounted. More recently, engineers have explored the concept of the 'front mid-engined' car, that is, a car with the engine ahead of the driver but behind the line of the front axle. It might sound techy but it offers real benefits. You'll experience these at the wheel of an A5. It may not be quite the driver's car that journalists expected after stepping out of Audi sports models like the R8 or the RS4 but it gets close enough to the 4 Series for most owners not to care about the difference.
Design and Build
The overall aesthetic look and feel of this car remains smart, the interesting mixture of straight lines, sweeping curves and convex surfaces gelling into a very good looking shape indeed. It's one that looks even better in the metal, the wavy beltline that runs from the headlights back to the taillights remaining the car's most distinctive feature. It's a practical shape too, a proper four-seater, with wide doors that make it easy to get in and out of the back. Once installed in the rear, you'll find more room than in equivalent BMW 4 Series and Mercedes C-Class Coupe rivals, though the sloping roofline means that those over six foot will want to bargain for a place upfront. The 455-litre boot is also the biggest in the class, though the boot aperture could be wider. Plus it can be extended to 829-litres by pushing forward the split-folding rear seats. And behind the wheel? Well, it's as beautifully finished you'd expect an Audi to be, tailored like a sleek-fitting suit, everything being clear and elegant.
Market and Model
Whichever trim level you decide upon for your A5 Coupe 1.8 TFSI, you should find your car to be decently equipped. Prices start at around £29,000 and all models get 17-inch alloys, an 8-speaker MP3-compatible CD stereo with aux-in point and SD memory card reader, front foglights, a leather-covered steering wheel, a category 1 alarm and an automatic opening boot. Personally, we'd avoid S line trim with its sharpened suspension that spoils the supple ride that's one of this car's nicest features. Still, that's up to you. Safety provision runs to all the expected airbags, anti-whiplash head restraints and isofix child seat fastenings, as well as electronic driver aids for braking, traction and stability control. Once nice feature that's standard across the range is a 'break recommendation' system that monitors your driving reactions and will prompt you to stop for a restorative coffee if necessary.
Cost of Ownership
The A5's size, its optional 4x4 transmission and its equipment-laden interior might lead you to fear for its fuel economy but there really is no need. The standard 177PS 1.8 TFSI car can return a creditable 51.4mpg. Emissions are 128g/km. This has been achieved thanks to a whole raft of high-efficiency engineering techniques, including across the range a more efficient electromechanical power steering set-up, an energy recuperation system and Start / Stop technology that cuts the engine when you don't need it, say when you're waiting at the lights or stuck in urban traffic. Choose the optional 'Audi drive select' set-up and there's the option of an 'efficiency' mode that'll focus all of the car's systems on driving eco-consciously.
For most buyers, most of the time, the 177PS 1.8 TFSI A5 Coupe will be all the car they actually need. Audi will go on selling plenty of the pokier 225PS 2.0 TFSI petrol models of course, but the next time you see an entry-level 1.8, mark the owner out: they've made a savvy choice.