New & Used Audi A5: In Depth
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The Audi A5 is the German automaker's mid-size two-door model line. It's available as either a convertible (dubbed the Cabriolet) or a hardtop coupe, and forms the basis of the sporty supercharged S5 as well as the RS 5, with its powered-up V-8 drivetrain.
The A5 and its variants are members of the family of vehicles that also includes the A4 and S4 sedans, as well as the Allroad wagon.
MORE: Read our 2015 Audi A5 review for pricing with options, specifications, and gas mileage ratings
The A5 was introduced to the U.S market for the 2008 model year and quickly became one of our favorites among luxury cars of its size—it's quick and a competent handler, not to mention a looker. To this day, the handsome design manages to endure, looking as modern and clean as it did when it first appeared.
The Audi A5 and S5 coupe were introduced with a distinct division of power. The A5 two-door hardtops received a 265-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6 with direct injection and a choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. This edition also had standard quattro all-wheel drive, which gave it substantial curb weight--but not as much of a performance penalty as expected, as Audi estimated 0–60 mph times of about 6 seconds. Our editors praised the A5's ride, refinement and ravishing looks, but took note of the A5's cramped back seat, and the relative lack of steering feel. An optional S-line package firms up handling somewhat, and a "Drive Select" option allows drivers to choose settings for the electronically controlled suspension, steering, transmission, and throttle, with mixed results.
The S5 coupe originally came with a rev-happy 4.2-liter V-8 making 354 horsepower, a cousin of the V-8 used in Audi's R8 supercar. S5 models also get stiffer suspension setups as well as some interior and exterior changes. The engine let the car hit 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and reach a limited top speed of 155 mph, putting it within striking distance of BMW's venerated M3.
For the 2010 model year, Audi added several new options to the lineup. Both the A5 and S5 arrived in handsome Cabriolet form, with a power-folding fabric roof. The S5 Cabriolet brought with it a 333-hp supercharged V-6 shared with the Audi A6 and S4, teamed to a superior seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The Audi S5 coupes retained their V-8 engines at that time. Cabriolets adopted optional Drive Select, while the quattro all-wheel-drive system on the S5 coupe and cabriolet was tuned for a rear power bias.
As for the A5 coupe and cabriolet, things became more complex as well. The base coupe got a new turbocharged four-cylinder with 211 hp (now the only A5 engine), all-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission, with an option for a six-speed automatic. The base Cabriolet arrived with front-drive and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) mated to the same turbo four; all-wheel drive was optional on the Cabrio and packaged with the conventional six-speed automatic.
Both the S5 coupe and Cabriolet now come with the 333-hp supercharged V-6. Coupes have a choice of a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, while Cabriolets come only with the dual-clutch gearbox. A limited-slip differential is standard on both, and Drive Select is available on both as well.
For the RS 5, Audi fits a 450-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 derived from the ten-cylinder unit that powers some versions of its R8 sportscar. (For a taste of the most powerful model, see our first drive of the RS 5 on California's Sonoma Raceway.) Coupled to all-wheel drive and a dual-clutch transmission, the engine propels the RS 5 to 60 mph in an estimated 4.5 seconds, and to a top speed governed to 174 mph. With a limited-slip differential and a torque-vectoring differential between the rear wheels, the RS5 has the ability to move power around for excellent traction. Drive Select is standard, but does not control the suspension--it has specially tuned springs and shocks--but Dynamic Steering is an option. An Audi RS 5 Cabriolet convertible was added a short time after the coupe and is also available.
Across the entire Audi A5 lineup, coupe and cabriolet models now offer only the turbo four with 211 hp; all-wheel drive is standard, and Drive Select is an option. Coupes come with a choice of a six-speed manual or a new eight-speed automatic; cabriolets offer only the automatic.
Audi has fitted its most advanced telematics and infotainment features to the A5 (and S5 as well as the RS 5), including Audi Connect, which adds 3G connectivity and turns the car into a rolling wireless hotspot. The navigation system offered as an option renders maps with Google Earth and Google Street View data to gorgeous effect. A Bang & Olufsen audio system is available, as is adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a complete stop if it detects an obstacle at speeds of up to 19 mph.
A new generation of the A5 is expected for the 2016 model year. First reports indicate an effort to cut down on weight in the lineup, while adding (likely optional) hybrid technology to increase fuel economy. A twin-turbo V-8 (likely Audi's 4.0-liter) is expected to replace today's naturally aspirated unit in the RS 5, while an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission will be added to the mix. The new A5 will be unveiled after a new lineup of A4 sedans and Avant wagons, likely sometime in the 2015 calendar year.