The Car Connection Audi A5 Overview
The Audi A5 first hit the U.S. market in 2008, and came in coupe and convertible ("Cabriolet") models. It enters its second generation for 2018 with a complete redesign and the addition of a four-door hatchback body style that Audi calls Sportback. The A5 Sportback is a smaller take-off on the sleek A7.
The second-generation A5 is built on the same lighter, leaner platform as the new A4 sedan. The A5 comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that puts out 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, up 32 hp and 15 lb-ft from last year. Transmission choices consist of a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox for all models and a 6-speed manual that is exclusive to the coupe. All models come with all-wheel drive that Audi markets as Quattro.
Also offered are the S5, with a 354-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6, and the RS 5, with a 450-hp twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6. All three body styles are available as the S5, while only the coupe comes as the RS 5.
MORE: Read our 2018 Audi A5 review
Rivals for the A5 include the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Cadillac ATS, Lexus RC, Infiniti Q60, and BMW 4-Series.
The new Audi A5
With 20 percent more power on tap and about 100 pounds of weight savings due to a trim new platform, the 2018 Audi A5 is quicker than the outgoing model, accelerating from 0-60 mph in as little as 5.7 seconds, and it's also decidedly sportier. The S5 cuts that time to 4.5 seconds, and the RS 5 promises to be considerably quicker while also offering real track capability. Audi also includes a "Drive Select" system that lets drivers choose the parameters for the steering, throttle, transmission, and when properly equipped, adaptive suspension. Opt for the Dynamic settings, and it's even sportier. Ride, however, doesn't suffer. The A5 retains its mission as a comfortable grand tourer.
Audi didn't mess with the A5's sleek styling, making it an evolution of the proven original. The lines are a little sharper, but the silhouette is very much the same, and the seductive look is basically unchanged. The Sportback rides the longer A4 wheelbase but effectively stretches the coupe's roofline into a sleek hatchback profile.
The interior, however, is much different, and it's highlighted by the newly available Audi virtual cockpit digital instrument cluster. This 12.3-inch cluster offers various screens that show trip, navigation, and other infotainment information. It also gets an updated version of Audi's MMI (Multi-Media Interface) with hand-writing recognition.
The Sportback's longer wheelbase gives it a roomier rear seat, and the hatchback body style adds real cargo utility.
New safety features include collision warnings with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, active lane control, and automatic high beams.
Fuel economy for the A5 is improved at 27 mpg combined for all body styles.
Audi A5 history
The Audi A5 and S5 coupe were introduced in the 2008 model year 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 6-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.
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 employed stiffer suspension setups and received some interior and exterior changes. Thanks to the engine, the S5 hit 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and could 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 7-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 received a new turbocharged 4-cylinder with 211 hp (now the only A5 engine), all-wheel drive, and a 6-speed manual transmission, with an option for a 6-speed automatic. The base Cabriolet arrived with front-drive and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) mated to the same turbo-4; all-wheel drive was optional on the Cabrio and was packaged with the conventional 6-speed automatic.
As the lineup evolved, both the S5 coupe and Cabriolet adopted Audi's 333-hp supercharged V-6. Coupes got a choice of a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, while Cabriolets came only with the dual-clutch gearbox. A limited-slip differential was standard, and Drive Select was available on both as well.
For the RS 5, Audi fit a 450-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 derived from the 10-cylinder unit in some versions of its R8. Coupled to all-wheel drive and a dual-clutch transmission, the engine propelled the RS 5 up 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 RS 5 had the ability to move power around for excellent traction. Drive Select was standard, but did not control the suspension—it had specially tuned springs and shocks—but Dynamic Steering was an option. An Audi RS 5 Cabriolet was added a short time.
For the 2014 model year, Audi increased power fro the A5's turbo-4 from 211 to 220 hp. All-wheel drive was standard, and Drive Select was an option. Coupes came with a choice of a 6-speed manual or a new 8-speed automatic; Cabriolets offered only the automatic.
Audi also fitted its most advanced telematics and infotainment features to the A5 (and S5 as well as the RS 5), including Audi Connect, which added 3G connectivity to turn the car into a rolling wireless hotspot. The navigation system added the ability to render maps with Google Earth and Google Street View data to gorgeous effect. A Bang & Olufsen audio system was available, as was adaptive cruise control that could bring the car to a complete stop if it detected an obstacle at speeds of up to 19 mph.
Changes for the 2016 model year were limited to standard and optional equipment adjustments. The S line exterior package became standard, and Audi Connect became part of the Navigation Plus package. Premium Plus models came with a Bang & Olufsen sound system. For 2017, the A5 lineup was carried over with no changes.