The 2014 Audi A5 range encompasses a broad scope of performance, thanks to its wide range of available engines in A5, S5 and RS5 forms. The basic breakdown follows the number of cylinders: the A5 packs a four-cylinder turbocharged engine; the S5 gets a supercharged V-6; and the potent RS5 features a normally aspirated V-8.
Starting with the A5, a 2.0-liter turbocharged in-line four-cylinder is standard. Upgraded for the 2014 model year with nine more horsepower, the 220-horsepower four-cylinder provides a peppy, fun-to-drive nature, though it doesn't quite rise to the realm of high-performance. Thanks to its 258 pound-feet of torque, however, in-gear and low-speed acceleration feels strong. Throttle response is crisp, and while the engine can sound a bit buzzy or gritty near the top of its rev range, it's generally quiet and smooth, comparing well with competitive offerings from Cadillac, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.
Depending on the body style you choose, you'll have a varied range of transmission options in the A5. Coupe models offer a choice of an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. Both suit the A5's character well, though when paired with quattro all-wheel drive, the eight-speed automatic's extra range helps deliver better in-gear acceleration at a range of speeds. The automatic is also quick-shifting, making it a valid choice for the enthusiast, even compared to the manual. Audi estimates 0-60 mph times for the automatic-equipped A5 at 6.6 seconds, while the manual is still a touch quicker at 6.4 seconds.
Cabriolet A5s get Audi's continuously variable transmission (CVT), and while it's not exactly unwelcome thanks to its good gas mileage, it's sluggish to respond and noisier than the eight-speed automatic in the Coupe. The A5 Cabriolet with the CVT is also the only A5 offered without quattro all-wheel drive, and it's the slowest in the A5 range at an Audi-estimated 7.5 seconds to 60 mph. With quattro all-wheel drive added to the mix, the A5 Cabriolet gets the excellent eight-speed automatic, cutting 0-60 mph times to 7.2 seconds. Ride and handling are biased toward comfort rather than performance in the base specification, but the optional Drive Select system offers the driver the ability to adjust suspension, steering, transmission, and throttle response calibrations to suit their preferences. While it's an interesting feature, it's one we'd just as soon skip, as Audi's base calibrations are better coordinated than any driver-selected hodge-podge.
The base suspension specification is quite capable, too, despite the comfort-biased setup. The A5 is well-composed and capable even over choppy pavement, cornering with confidence and control. If you'd prefer a stiffer, slightly sharper-handling A5, opt for the S line package.
Steering response is generally good, too, despite the electric-assist power steering, with better on-center feel than some brands. The electric power steering system also enables Dynamic Steering, an optional feature which varies the ratio and responsiveness with speed and circumstance among other factors.
In the S5, performance grows considerably thanks to a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 rated at 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. The extra 113 horses help the S5 accelerate to 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds, according to Audi. A stiffer suspension tune and better brakes improve sport driving characteristics, and Audi's fantastic seven-speed dual-clutch transmission provides crisp, lightning-quick shifts both up and down the gear range.
The S5 also comes with quattro all-wheel drive standard, with 18-inch wheels and grippy high-performance summer tires. The power split between the front and rear wheels is a rear-biased 40:60 ratio, and an available sport differential helps improve traction on the rear axle for even better performance. While the electric power steering isn't objectionable in the softer A5, in the S5, it feels a bit numb in comparison to the rest of the car, which is lively and engaging. That ride can turn harsh and stiff on some road surfaces, however.
For the ultimate performance in the A5 range, look to the RS5. Powered by a throaty, potent 4.2-liter V-8, the RS5's 450-horsepower rating thrusts to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, and on to a top speed of 174 mph, roughly on par with the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and BMW M3. With the RS5, the sport rear differential is standard equipment, as are 19-inch wheels and Drive Select, though the Drive Select system in the RS5 doesn't control damper settings, as they are conventional, non-adjustable units in this high-performance model. Carbon ceramic brakes are available to better handle the stresses of track use for those so inclined. .