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The Audi A5 is a classy coupé, hatchback and cabriolet, but should you take the second-hand plunge?

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For some years, the original Audi A5 Coupé of 2007 to 2016 has been sliding down the social scale, such that it is now appreciated only by those who wrap the paint, remove the chrome and fit black alloys.

An exaggeration, but it’s a shame just how many of these large, handsome cars have fallen into bad company. Fortunately, sufficient numbers of unmolested examples remain to make shopping for one a far from fruitless endeavour.

The Audi A5 is a big seller in an increasingly important market

It will be well worth the effort. In our original review, we praised the A5 – Audi’s first proper 2+2 since the Coupé (B4) bowed out in 1996 – for its desirability inside and out and Audi for overcoming the dynamic frustrations that had always kept the BMW 3 Series out of reach.

We also cast our eyes over the soft-top A5 Cabriolet and the five-door A5 Sportback, but it was the two-door that impressed us most.

The A5 shares its platform with the A4 saloon and estate. It was launched with a choice of engines that included 187bhp 2.7-litre and 237bhp 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6s (TDI), a 261bhp 3.2-litre turbo petrol V6 (TSI) and a 349bhp 4.2-litre atmo petrol V8 (FSI) in the flagship S5.

In late 2007, a 168bhp 1.8-litre TFSI was added; then in 2008 the 208bhp 2.0 TFSI arrived, followed shortly after by a detuned 178bhp version that replaced the 1.8 TFSI.

Although A5s were mostly front-driven, there were also Quattro four-wheel-drive versions of the 2.0 TDI, 2.0 TFSI and 3.0 TDI. A 168bhp 2.0 TDI arrived early in 2009, and in the same year all of the engines gained a stop-start system.

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In 2010, a new range-topper came in the beefy shape of the RS5, which had a 444bhp version of the 4.2-litre V8 and a host of extras, including a new centre differential, torque vectoring and dynamic dampers.

All the petrol and diesel engines were uprated come the 2011 facelift, which also brought a sharper look, thanks to new front and rear lights, new LED daytime-running lights, restyled bumpers and a new grille. Meanwhile, the S5 switched to a supercharged 3.0-litre petrol V6.

An even more frugal variant of the 2.0 TDI, the Ultra, came in 2014. Our favourite petrols are the 1.8, whose performance is surprisingly strong, and that blown 3.0-litre V6.

Among the diesels, we like the 175bhp 2.0 for its usable spread of power and the 3.0 for its effortless performance and great refinement.

Given their once favourable tax ratings, diesels heavily outnumber petrols on the used market. Their economy and cruising comfort are attractive, but only the final cohort (from 2016) are Euro 6 - and therefore ULEZ-compliant.

The front of the A5’s cabin is roomy, but the driving position is spoiled by a clutch pedal set too far to the right. The infotainment screen may look a bit dated now, but it’s easily controlled by a dial and buttons on the centre console.

The A5 looks and feels classy as standard. Yes, even in basic SE trim, with its 17in alloys and leather seats, although it’s more special still in S Line trim (18in alloys, sports suspension, nappa leather and a bodykit) or as a Black Edition (19in alloys and a Bang & Olufsen stereo). Naturally, the S and RS versions are on other levels entirely. 

Just don’t wrap yours – whether in vinyl or around a tree.

Audi A5 2007-2016 common problems

Engine: Early versions of the 1.8 TFSI and 2.0 TFSI suffered high oil consumption, related to the piston rings. Audi allows for one litre per 1242 miles, but 600 miles isn’t unknown.

There’s no dipstick, so you’re reliant on the MMI system working. Most of the diesels have a timing belt rated for around 120,000 miles or five years but are cursed with weak plastic tensioners (petrols have a chain). Let the engine warm up and listen for it rattling. 

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Gearbox: The A5 has a light clutch, so a stiff pedal spells trouble. The gearbox is also light, but it’s easy to mess up changes, so check for unusual noises. Problems with the Multitronic CVT range from total failure to shuddering and jerking, as well as overheating. 

Suspension: The stiffer springing of Sport and S Line models make the ride firmer, unpleasantly so for some people, and larger wheels exacerbate the issue.

Brakes: Brake fluid changes every two years are essential.

Interior: Be sure you are comfortable with the offset clutch pedal position. Squeaks and rattles from the dashboard and parcel shelf are common.

Body and wheels: The edges of the long doors are easily marked and the larger alloys are easily kerbed.

DESIGN & STYLING

Audi A5 rear

When it launched, the A5 marked a departure for Audi, whose usual designs at the time reflected constant radius curves and unambiguous design. Mixing straight lines, swathing curves and concave surfaces, viewed close up, the individual details can appear cluttered, but from a distance and especially on the move, gel cohesively.

Visually, from the front bumper as far back as the windscreen pillar, coupé and cabriolet are effectively identical. S-line versions added some visual bling in the form of a reasonably discreet bodykit and Audi’s trademark ultra-bright LED running lights, integrated below the xenon headlamps.

The A5 coupé is a particularly elegant car

The cabriolet keeps the muscular contours of the coupé’s rear flanks, and Audi’s decision to stick with a folding fabric roof rather than a bulkier collapsible hard-top means that the design team was able to keep the height of the rear deck low; with roof up or down, it’s a handsome car.

The five-door Sportback version is Germany’s Rover Vitesse. It is 36mm lower, 28mm wider and 6mm shorter than the then Audi A4. Audi admitted space was compromised slightly in the five-door.

The A5’s architecture is entirely conventional and familiar from its application across the Volkswagen Group; a steel unibody with a mix of petrol and diesel engines channelled through either front or quattro all-wheel drive. What’s clever about the platform is how far forward the axle line is, meaning the A5’s mass is distributed more uniformly across both axles, and the longer wheelbase benefits ride quality.

The front suspension is a five-link affair for better control, each link constructed from aluminium (also good for ride) and mounted directly to a sub frame. Furthermore there’s electromechanical steering to improve feel and response, as well as economy.

The 2017 model retains the Sportback profile and shape, but is 17mm longer, which affords 11mm extra shoulder room and 24mm more rear knee room, which make clambering in and out of the back easier. Upfront there was range of 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, along with a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine to choose from, while the S5 gets a 3.0-litre V6 TFSI engine producing 349bhp.

INTERIOR

Audi A5 interior

The A5 is an Audi, which means a top-notch interior is expected, and in this case, it’s delivered. For Audi regulars, the cabin design is instantly familiar, yet also sufficiently unique. The design detail is more indulgent in feel than many other Audis of the period.

With the exception of the clutch pedal (set too far to the right), the controls are well-placed and driving position excellent.

Audi builds some of the best interiors in the business

Access to the rear is good on all models, although egress more awkward. Legroom is sufficient for all but the longest of leg, but the sloping roofline does mean anyone approaching six feet will be squeezed against the headlining. No question, the A5 is capable of transporting four full height adults, but a cross-continent cruiser it isn’t.

The coupe's 445-litre boot is a fraction larger than that of the BMW 3 Series, and boosted by folding rear seats, but the marginally narrow boot aperture could frustrate for more awkward loads.

On the Cabriolet some rear seat space was sacrificed to find room for the roof mechanism, but it is still big enough to be considered a genuine four-seater rather than a ‘plus two’.

The roof features one-touch power operation and Audi was justifiably proud of the mechanism’s speed. Collapsing the hood takes just 15 seconds, raising it takes just 17, and it can be operated while driving at low speeds – perfect for the vagaries of the British summer.

S-Line and S5 convertibles got an ‘acoustic’ hood to reduce noise levels in the cabin. It was available as an option on lesser versions and really helps to boost cruising refinement.

Despite the sloping roof line, the Sportback gives away just 5mm in rear headroom to the Audi A4 saloon. Under the lengthy tailgate, the Sportback has the same luggage space as the A4 four door. The boot is admirably flat-sided and when the rear seats are folded, the impressively long load bay is nearly flat. Another neat touch if the 70-30 split luggage cover. 

If you are desperate to get hold of a first generation Audi A5 you have predominantly three trims to choose from - S line, Black Edition and S5. The S line trim is hardly an entry-level model, so expect a host of equipment such as - 18in alloys, 6.5in MMI infotainment system with sat nav, DAB and Bluetooth, front and rear parking sensors, xenon headlights, auto lights and wipers, Nappa leather seats, heated front seats and an aggressive S line bodykit.

The Black Edition models got a black styling kit and Audi's music interface, along with 19in alloys and a Bang & Olfsen speaker system. The S5 is a different animal to the standard A5s, with a more aggressive bodykit, an electronic limited slip differential, cruise control, a chrome twin exhaust system. But the headline addition to the S5 is the turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine.

The 2017 models were available in four trims - SE, Sport, S line and S5. The entry-level SE trim comes with 17in alloys, the latest 7in MMI infotainment system with DAB and two USB ports. It was also be equipped with leather upholstery, three-zone climate control and heated front seats. Opt for the mid-range Sport spec and you will receive sat nav and electrically adjustable front seats, while the range-topping S line trim gets sports suspension and an aggressive bodykit.

The hot S5 gets 19in alloys, a sportier bodykit and suspension, 8.3in MMI infotainment system with 3D mapping, massaging front seats and quad-exhaust system. New to the Audi A5 range at the time was a range of new safety technology including Audi Pre Sense City, which included a collision warning system and pedestrian protection system.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

Audi A5 fast cornering

As in any Audi, the A5’s engine range is extensive. The entry-level model for all A5s was a four-cylinder petrol 1.8 TFSI with 168bhp. Other petrol motors include a 211bhp 2.0 TFSI and a 268bhp supercharged 3.0 TFSI V6. S5 models got a 328bhp supercharged 3.0-litre V6.

The 175bhp 2.0 TDI was the entry-level diesel. Two V6 engines complete the A5’s diesel line-up; a 3.0 TDI was available with either 201bhp or 242bhp.

The 3.0 TDI feels particularly well suited to the car, delivering appropriately effortless performance and impressive refinement

Despite being the entry-level option, the 1.8 TFSI isn’t found wanting in any department; the 236lb ft of torque means there’s impressive low-end shove for a petrol unit and a 0-62mph sprint of 7.9sec means acceleration is perfectly adequate for most real-world driving situations.

The 2.0 TFSI is best avoided if it is specced with the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and quattro all-wheel drive. Right from the off the (somewhat droning) engine never felt anything like delivering the promised punch at lower revs, though when properly provoked for an overtaking manoeuvre it does come alive.

A supercharged six is an esoteric engine in this type of car but it’s easily one of the best things about the S5, especially when paired to the DSG ’box. It’s lusty and linear right up to the red line and provides explosive overtaking potential from pretty much any speed. No, it doesn’t sound quite as spirited as the V8 that used to power the S-badged Audis. But it’s hardly shy and retiring at full chat, either, and there are clear fuel economy and emissions advantages.

The base common-rail 175bhp 2.0 TDI unit’s spread of usable power is relatively wide, too. And although it’s the least powerful version in the range, it strolls along at a reasonable gait and is still responsive at motorway speeds.

The pair of 3.0 TDI engines feel particularly well suited to the car, delivering appropriately effortless performance and impressive refinement.

RIDE & HANDLING

Audi A5 cornering

The first pothole you take is enough to show that there’s been something of a revelation in Audi’s ride department at the time. The A5 coupé’s long wheelbase and improved weight distribution gives it an impressive secondary ride quality. The second discovery is the A5’s agility; the A5 is very eager to change direction.

The truth is that for all the A5’s advancements it still just trails the then BMW 3 Series in driver enjoyment terms if nothing else. Equally the A5’s ride quality was much better than we’ve come to expect from Audis of the period, but on the most demanding of B-roads the A5 can’t match the 3-series’ supple primary ride and taught body control.

S-line models look great, but it comes with a compromise in ride quality

As the A5 cabriolet shares all of its major suspension components with the A5 coupé, you would be justified in expecting the drop-top to put in a similarly composed dynamic performance. The problem, as so often in open-top cars, is torsional rigidity.

The body can be felt flexing over bumps and undulations, with noticeable scuttle shake manifesting itself as vibrations in the steering column and a trembling rear-view mirror. It’s a problem at low speeds in town and over uneven country lanes, and it’s bad enough to become the car’s defining dynamic characteristic on most surfaces.

Most frustrating in the bigger and heavier Sportback is a ride that sometimes manages to feel both inelastic and overdamped despite softenings of dampers and anti-roll bars. This, coupled to the A5’s dull reluctance to slice through tight bends, produces a chassis that falls well short of its BMW and Mercedes-Benz opposition. 

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Audi A5

While BMW might have been leading the way in offering more power and performance from its engines at the time, while still lowering CO2 emissions and improving fuel economy, Audi is not very far behind. Recent revisions to the A5 have ensured it remains very competitive.

The changes meant CO2 emissions were down by as much as 22 per cent in some models, and fuel consumption has fallen by 11 per cent on average.

Drive Select switch looks surprisingly low rent for an Audi interior

The entry-level 2.0 TDI coupé returns a remarkable 60.1mpg and emits 122g/km of CO2 when mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. The 168bhp 1.8 TFSI is also impressively frugal in the A5 coupé, economy being rated at 49.6mpg (up from 39.8mpg) and CO2 emissions 134g/km (down from 164g/km at the start of its life).

The 1.8 TFSI A5 Sportback was the cheapest model in the A5 range at the time, and its size and style puts it directly up against the BMW 3 Series GT4 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé. The same engine is similarly cost-effective in the coupé and cabriolet. Again, there are no real rivals from the opposition.

Generally, the A5 range was better equipped as standard than equivalent BMWs.

VERDICT

Audi A5 rear quarter

That the A5 is an exceptionally competent and beautifully finished car comes as no real surprise; for Audi to produce anything but would be an absolute shocker.

The A5’s revelation is just how comprehensively Audi has nailed the coupé desirability factor, both inside and out. BMW may still have the edge, but in coupé guise at least the A5 is no longer burdened with the remote and frustrating drive of old Audis.

Audi A5 is a fine coupe model, but cabriolet and Sportback are not as well dynamically executed

In short, the A5 coupé is good enough for even an enthusiast to consider it as a credible rival to the genre-defining 4 Series coupé, and it therefore gave BMW a reason to worry.

As for the A5 cabriolet, it is a fine car that is worthy of serious consideration for those in need of a stylish, practical convertible, except for one significant flaw. In our experience the S-line’s excessively stiff springs ask structural questions that the car’s body isn’t up to answering on rough British roads, so we’d heartily recommend steering clear of it and opt for cars with softer SE springs instead.

The Sportback, too, suffers similar dynamic shortcomings; it’s undoubtedly a desirable machine, but while its dynamic shortfalls remain unaddressed it’s left well adrift of its domestic rivals.

Generally with A5 models then, less is more. The four-wheel-drive variants may provide better headline-grabbing performance figures, but the entry-level versions offer a sensible all-round proposition at a competitive price – and a much more compelling dynamic proposition to match the desirability.

Audi A5 2007-2016 First drives