New & Used Audi A5: In Depth
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The Audi A5 is the German automaker's entry-level two-door vehicle. As either a convertible (dubbed the Cabriolet) or as a hardtop coupe, the A5 gets truly interesting when it's supercharged into S5 form, or tuned to RS5 standards with a rippling V-8 drivetrain.
The A5 is a member of the family of vehicles that also includes the A4 and S4 sedans, and more loosely, the Allroad wagon.MORE: Read our 2015 Audi A5 review for pricing with options, specifications, and gas mileage ratings
The A5 first was introduced in the U.S. for the 2008 model year, and quickly became some of our highest-rated luxury vehicles, thanks to good handling and swift acceleration. Of course, good looks don't hurt: after several years on the market, the A5 and S5 cars still appear fresh and contemporary.
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 firmed up handling somewhat, and a "Drive Select" option allowed drivers to choose settings for the electronically controlled suspension, steering, transmission and throttle, with mixed results.
In the S5 coupe, however, a blazing-fast 354-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8 took the place of the pleasant V-6. With bigger tires, tighter suspension tuning and aggressive cosmetic details, the S5 became an instant rival for the BMW M3 and the like, with a promised 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.
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. Cabriolets adopted optional Drive Select, while the quattro all-wheel-drive system on 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; with the Cabrio's optional all-wheel drive, it adopted a 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 coupe version of the RS5, 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 RS5 on California's Sonoma Raceway.) Coupled to all-wheel drive and a dual-clutch transmission, the engine propels the RS5 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 RS5 Cabriolet convertible 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 eight-speed automatic; cabriolets offer the CVT or the automatic.
Audi also has fitted its most advanced telematics and infotainment features to the A5 (and S5 as well as the RS5), 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 hybrid technology to increase fuel economy. A twin-turbo V-8 is said to replace today's naturally aspirated unit, while an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission will be added to the mix. The new A5 will arrive after a new lineup of A4 sedans and Avant wagons, sometime in the 2015 calendar year.