- No unsuitably slow engines offered
- One absurdly fast option available
- All versions are satisfyingly capable
The initial two choices here revolved around a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged motor, with either 190hp or 252hp – the latter available with Quattro all-wheel drive. With 320Nm of torque available, the lower-power output version takes 7.3 seconds to complete the 0-62mph benchmark, while the more potent engine has 370Nm of torque and cracks the sprint in 5.8 seconds.
The 252hp unit has a meaty soundtrack in Dynamic mode but in ordinary day-to-day driving it lacks visceral drama. It’s quick but doesn’t feel as flexible as its diesel counterparts, all of which have more torque available. Expanding the range from early 2018 was the 1.4-litre TFSI producing 150hp and 250Nm of torque from 1,500rpm. Despite it being the entry-point of the A5 range, its performance is more than acceptable, with a 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds.
From the entry-level 2.0-litre to the pair of 3.0-litre V6 units, the TDI diesel line-up really suits the character of the A5 Coupe with strong in-gear acceleration. Unlike the A4 range, there’s no 150hp version of the 2.0-litre TDI, but there is a 190hp example, which we prefer. This makes relaxed progress with 400Nm of torque and a 0-62mph time of 7.2 seconds - a tenth faster than its similarly powerful petrol equivalent.
Topping the TDI diesel range is a 3.0-litre V6 with two power outputs - either 218hp or 286hp. The first matches the 2.0-litre’s torque with 400Nm, while the more powerful V6 packs 620Nm of pulling power. The result is the 286hp motor requires 5.2 seconds to complete the 0-62mph dash, a second less than the 218hp version.
The 286hp 3.0 TDI feels very fast, pushing you into the back of your seat with stout acceleration, while all the time humming away quietly under the bonnet.
Audi S5 Coupe
The next rung up in the performance stakes is the S5 Coupe, which is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine. This produces 354hp and 500Nm of torque, good for a 0-62mph time of just 4.7 seconds, two tenths quicker than the previous-generation S5.
Power is very spontaneous, especially at higher revs where any movement of your right foot is met by a jerking motion forwards or backwards. It’s easier to drive more smoothly with the gearbox left in its normal D (Drive) mode than the more responsive S (Sport) setting. Sadly the same quick reactions are not mirrored by the eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is a bit ponderous compared with the seven-speed dual-clutch S Tronic ‘box. It’s better when you commandeer the paddles behind the wheel and manage the gearshifts yourself, but still not as razor sharp as we’d like in a performance car.
You also get Quattro all-wheel drive and a racy soundtrack that makes itself heard in the cabin even at relatively low speeds. Luckily it’s a good-sounding thing with a nice warble at low revs building to a high-pitched bellow at the redline.
RS 5 Coupe
Where the S5 is quick, the RS 5 Coupe is, frankly, ridiculous. The twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 TFSI has been tuned to produce 450hp and 600Nm, the latter from 1,900rpm. Like the S5, the gearbox is the traditional-technology eight-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual override. It also features torque-sensing Quattro four-wheel drive with a rear-end bias that is readily felt when driving - there's no hint of understeer.
Performance on the RS 5 is intoxicating; 0-62mph is dealt with in 3.9 seconds with no drama or apparent effort, just a distant bark from the adjustable exhaust. For drivers used to the instant flick of the tachometer with a dual-clutch transmission, the slightly analogue feel of the RS 5 gearbox might feel slow, but it provides a welcome dose of normality in a car which relentlessly exceeds performance expectations.
Manual override holds gears as long as you want, eliciting somewhat artificially induced pops and crackles from the tailpipes. Overtaking is never a question of power, only opportunity, the engine and gearbox responding immediately to demands. It falls to the stop-start system to let the side down, causing an occasionally frustrating delay at junctions where the power and traction should allow safe progress; your environmental conscience does come with a price.
That same system also contributes to rather erratic progress in traffic. Switch it off, and trade economy for calmly crawling along at idle, something that's particularly easy with the optional Traffic Jam Assist enabled.
- Quattro models have astonishing traction
- Ride comfort suitable for long journeys
- Falls short of true sports-car involvement
Unsurprisingly, the Audi A5 Coupe shares similar handling characteristics to the A4 range on which it is based – that is to say it is a marked improvement over its predecessor. While the previous-generation model’s steering was numb, this version delivers much more feedback and a well-weighted, linear action. It feels more tied-down too, useful when combined with the huge cornering traction enabled by the Quattro all-wheel drive system.
You can set things up exactly how you want them with the Audi Drive Select system, taking in five modes called Comfort, Auto, Efficiency, Dynamic and Individual, the latter allowing you to mix the settings up. Optional adaptive dampers give a good balance of agility and comfort, with a cosseting ride over broken tarmac and a firmer setting for faster cornering.
It still feels more like an A4 than we’d like though; given its Coupe designation it would be more satisfying if the handling reflected this with a sportier nature.
Taking it up a notch: the Audi RS 5 Coupe
Increasing the power and turning the focus to ultimate performance, the RS 5 Coupe should avoid accusations of being too soft when discussing the handling. There are a couple of choices when specifying the RS 5's suspension, a full active RS Sport system with Dynamic Ride Control, and a standard adaptive damper setup; the latter system has Comfort and Dynamic modes as well as an option to automatically switch between.
Both settings are impressively able to isolate road imperfections, passing information to the driver without being disruptive. Comfort floats over dips and ripples in the road, and is absolutely perfect for legal, sensible progress in British conditions. Dynamic stiffens the body control without losing ultimate compliance, tracking the road surface, yet absorbing unexpected jolts without fuss. The skittish feeling of a firmly-damped car on mid-bend ruts is also very well controlled, partly through damping, and partly through incredible traction and electronic responses.
If you're uncomfortable with a little body roll on rapid bends, the firmer setting inspires confidence, but the RS 5 is so well within its abilities on any road you can enjoy the comfort and still have absolute faith in the car; Drive Select is all about taste and mood, not capability here.
The rear-biased Quattro system does give a bit of excitement in weight transfer and low-speed, high power cornering - again, it's an entirely safe package, with more traction than you should ever need. On wet roads, the all-wheel drive system is almost essential given the performance available.
For enthusiasts the track potential of the RS 5 is undeniable, and Audi offers dynamic steering, dynamic ride control and carbon ceramic brakes, as well as a cost option to remove the limiter. As you'd expect from a car as technically accomplished as the RS 5, the steering is flawless. There's a degree of isolation that might upset drivers looking for a hard-edged track car; it would be at odds with the rest of the package however.