Audi excels at cultivating its brand image but the cars aren't bad either. Jonathan Crouch looks at the 225PS A5 Coupe 2.0 TFSI quattro.
Ten Second Review
Audi's A5 is a great-looking car and the 2.0-litre TFSI could well be its best engine. The powerplant uses advanced technology to deliver strong performance with good economy, despite being mated to quattro 4WD. In the 225PS guise we look at here, it's good enough to make you question the need to climb further up the engine range.
A significant part of Audi's recent success has been built on factors that are hard to quantify. Desirability, exclusivity, prestige, cachet, cool: Audi has them and to the casual observer, it's not always entirely clear how it got them. Of course, it helps that the manufacturer seems as adept at engineering its products as it is at engineering its brand. The improved A5 Coupe with the 225PS 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine is a case in point on both fronts. Audi has been carefully nurturing a youthful and sporty image that's also less brash and overbearing than the marque's premium German rivals. Audi at its best keeps things low key, its products playing it cool while subtly emphasising their technological prowess and desirability. It's this approach that Audi customers have been buying into in their thousands and this 225PS A5 Coupe 2.0TFSI typifies it. The question is, once all the glossy advertising and marketing spin has been stripped away, how good is it?
The A5's 2.0-litre TFSI engine is the same as that used in the venerable Golf GTI and is mated only to quattro 4WD. Inevitably, the six cylinder 3.0 TFSI unit of the sportier S5 model has more power but for most, this pokey 2.0 TFSI unit will have enough. How much is enough? The engine produces 225PS at 4,300rpm but the stat that reveals most about this unit's character is its 350Nm maximum torque that's available all the way from 1,500rpm to 4,200rpm. This powerplant pulls strongly and seamlessly almost from the outset with an almost diesel-like surge of power through the mid range and no discernable turbo lag. It's achieved through the use of a variable geometry turbocharger and Audi's Valvelift technology which allows the combustion process to be precisely controlled and adapted instantaneously to the demands of the driver. The 0-60mph sprint takes 6.4s and the top speed is an artificially-limited 155mph. The A5 has you at a disadvantage as soon as you drop into the driver's seat. Unless you've had the foresight to approach it blindfolded or sneak up on it under cover of darkness, you've seen how the car looks and those delicately arching lines will already be pounding out a big soft spot in your heart as you thumb the starter button. On the move, the handling is fluid and engaging while falling short of being outright sporty. The suspension flows easily over even poor road surfaces, giving a reasonable level of feedback, though both this and the steering lack the edgy, responsiveness that the keenest of keen drivers will yearn for. Everyone else should be more than satisfied and when the A5 is sent on more mundane journeys, its smoothness and refinement really add to the enjoyment.
Design and Build
This A5 Coupe still offers a convincing piece of penmanship, with an 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 as you'd expect an Audi to be, tailored like a sleek-fitting suit, everything being clear and elegant.
Market and Model
The A5's key rival is the BMW 4 Series coupe and of all its engines, the 2.0-litre TFSI looks to have the best chance of putting one over on the equivalent BMW model. This 225PS A5 lines up against the 420i xDrive Coupe and it's fractionally faster than that Munich model. It's also more fuel efficient and offers more torque. All right, from a handling perspective, the BMW is a sportier prospect but the A5 is a larger more substantial-feeling car. The Audi is around £2,500 more to buy though, priced at around £34,000.
Cost of Ownership
The A5's size, its 4x4 transmission and its equipment-laden interior might lead you to fear for its fuel economy but there really is no need. The car can return a creditable 44.1mpg on the combined cycle, while the emssions figure is 149g/km. The Valvelift system used by the engine helps again here because as well as making more power available when called for, it can rein the engine back to same fuel when your just cruising along. 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.
The Audi A5 could be the marque's prettiest car and the 2.0-litre TFSI has a claim on being its cleverest engine. As a combination of beauty, brains and Audi's bullet-proof brand equity, this 225PS A5 2.0 TFSI quattro variant is a model that shows its manufacturer in a very flattering light. The 2.0-litre TFSI engine uses turbocharging and Audi's advanced Valvelift technology to offer up a seamless flow of power from the depths of the rev range. It makes for a great driving experience with fun when you want it and flexibility when you'd really rather not. The A5 covers the ground in effortless fashion but without the raw edge that some buyers in this sporty market sector might want. In general, it's an extremely competent and versatile coupe and it's an Audi which, these days, means image-conscious buyers will be only too eager to get one on their driveway.