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Audi A5 Coupe 3.0 TDI review (2011 onwards)
Model - Audi A5 Coupe 3.0 TDI 245 quattro
Bodystyle - two-door coupé
Engine - 3.0 V6 TDI quattro, 245hp @ 4,000-4,500rpm, 368lb ft @ 1,400-3,250rpm
Transmission - Seven-speed S tronic
Date of test - January 2012
Gallery: Audi A5 Coupe 3.0 TDI
Read more Audi car reviews
What is it?
The Audi A5 range has been facelifted, with another of Audi's understated nose jobs. When even its new cars look like the ones they're replacing, Audi model updates really are understated in the extreme. Here, it's new bumpers and headlights, new steering wheels inside, but apparently not much else.
But wait. The really big changes have happened beneath. The engine range has been overhauled with a zealous focus on economy. There is now a 60mpg Audi A5, for example, but the biggest eye-opener is the new 3.0-litre V6 diesel. Economical, swift, smooth, it seems to do it all: the old V6 petrols have gone, but the latest TDI diesel is so smooth, few will complain, particularly as it offers double the fuel economy.
In top-power 245hp guise, it comes with quattro four-wheel drive. This blends stronger performance with all-weather traction to create the most traditionally Audi-like driving experience of all mainstream A5s. It comes with a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch auto: the cheaper 204hp 3.0 TDI blends a fuel-saving CVT automatic and front-wheel drive.
As for choice, even before you consider the Convertible and Sportback alternatives, the A5 range is vast. The test 3.0 TDI 245 quattro is the performance cruiser of the range, sitting below the performance S5 range-topper. The test S line trim gives it a junior S5 appearance with a moodier interior and more sporting suspension than the cheaper SE.
Where does it fit?
Think of the A5 as the car BMW's 3 Series coupé always should have been: a more distinct and bespoke two-door alternative to the Audi A4 saloon whose underpinnings it shares. Indeed, with its next junior executive coupé, BMW is doing exactly what Audi has done - its rival to the A5 is to be called 4 Series.
Because this is a sector that likes diversity, Audi mimics BMW in offering an open-top alternative to the A5 coupé tested here. But it also offers a more practical A5 Sportback five-door, for those who like the sleek coupé looks but need a dose of extra practicality too. To ensure the coupé retains its prestigious air, the Sportback is actually cheaper...
Is it for you?
The previous A5 was a brilliantly conceived model that sold well but never quite drove as it should. To fix this, Audi has been hard at work updating the suspension, with new components and revised settings. Quattro models also get the enhanced four-wheel-drive system first seen in the S5, whose crown gear rear differential allows drive to be split between the rear wheels too, not just front to rear.
What remain more likely to sell it, though, are its good looks and lithe lines. These are enhanced particularly well in S line guise, which has big wheels, xenon headlights, sports front bumper and a complementary interior. To all intents and purposes, it's an S5, just one with a 50mpg diesel engine.
What does it do well?
The V6 TDI engine is superb. Creamy and quiet, it oozes elegance and is very swift and powerful. Boy, does it pack some shove, too. 368lb ft of torque is a full 50% up on the old 3.2-litre petrol, and it's spread across a staggering 1,850rpm rev range. So long as you have at least 1,400rpm reading on the rev counter, this A5 really surges. It's a muscle car without needing to use its muscles.
On the move, it has a very long-legged feel that's enhanced by a feeling of four-square security. It's a uniquely planted quality that's only achieved though combining a strong engine with four-wheel drive. On switchback British roads, lashed with rain, it makes the big, long Audi more tenacious and responsive than you might expect.
What doesn't it do well?
Behind the wheel and on the move, you need to be patient: it takes time driving the A5 to 'flow' with it. At first, it feels vague and distant. The new fuel-saving electric power steering is far too light and the chassis doesn't give much feedback. It does, eventually, feel pleasingly confident and secure, but it's not a driver's car.
The ride is also initially too stiff and jiggly in S line trim and there is too much tyre roar. This is a common Audi grumble but, at speed, it does fade. The suspension has the ability to soak up undulations and nasty-looking bumps with fair aplomb, meaning it's only around town where the A5 feels jittery.
What's it like to live with?
The gloomy S line interior (a dark colour scheme is part of this trim's appeal) can't live up to the elegance of the exterior. Outside, it's enhanced by new front lights with Audi's characteristic daylight running LED shape but new steering wheels and column stalks inside don't have the same effect.
The interior remains surprisingly bitty and, in places, cheap-looking as well. The button-laden centre console lacks the polish expected of an Audi and the screen between the deeply cowled dials seems dated. The shape of the dash itself is a bit blunt compared to newer Audis too.
As for space and comfort, there's ample up front and it's not bad in the rear either. It's not a genuine four-seat family car but the A4 underpinnings ensure there is at least more space than in a BMW 6 Series coupé. The 455-litre boot is very big too, and split rear seats extend it to 829 litres.
Really, it's the Audi's understated class that makes it so satisfying as a long-term proposition. Build quality and solidity are impeccable and, despite the ride and handling lacking ultimate polish, the depth of engineering felt behind the wheel is extremely reassuring.
How green is it?
It is greener than you'd credit. Despite four-wheel drive, V6 smoothness and searing shove to a floored right foot, the 3.0 V6 TDI 245 also averages nearly 50mpg. It's borderline implausible. CO2 emissions are equally creditable at 149g/km.
All new Audi A5s now feature engine stop-start as standard. In practice, this worked well - it switched off keenly and remained off even during long stationary spells at traffic lights. Restart was rapid too.
Would we buy it?
We've long been an admirer of the elegant Audi A5, if not a passionate advocate. It is a very pretty car and has lots of understated appeal, but the drive takes some time to grow on you and it still lacks the engagement of a BMW. The knobbly ride is ill-judged too - but give it time and its low-fuss, long-striding refinement shines through.
Combined with a superb new engine and the all-weather reassurance of quattro, it's a discreet package that won't thrill but will please in daily driving. It's a decent car that's more appealing as a long-term ownership proposition, particularly with its newfound economy.
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