First drive: Facelifted Audi A5

  • Audi’s upmarket A5 gets a minor refresh
  • New entry-level 1.8-litre TFSI petrol option
  • Available to order now from £25,540

Audi’s A5 range has received a subtle redesign and a range of updated engines and technologies.

Headlining these changes is a new entry-level engine in the form of a 1.8-litre turbocharged TFSI petrol. This, which replaces the older 2.0-litre TFSI engine, produces 168bhp and 320Nm of torque. That's only 10bhp less than the engine it replaces.

You’re probably thinking that a 1.8-litre engine is too small for something like an A5. Thanks to a clever use of technology such as turbocharging, however, the 1.8-litre engine never feels strained or flustered.

The engine’s performance is, in fact, remarkable. The A5 accelerates with ease, even in top gear. Some overtakes may require you to drop down a gear, in order to pass quickly, but overall the engine is flexible, smooth and potent. It allows the coupe-styled Sportback to accelerate from 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds, while its top speed is 142mph.

These technologies have also helped to improve the A5’s efficiency. Average fuel consumption is claimed to be 49mpg, an improvement of 5mpg compared to the previous engine. Emissions have fallen from 152g/km of CO2 to 134g/km of CO2, resulting in road tax of £115 a year, showroom tax of £115 and low company car tax.

On the road the A5, regardless of derivative, rides comfortably and feels composed, although it can become unsettled on rough roads. Unfortunately the Audi's well-weighted steering lacks feel, despite claims of increased precision, and doesn't inspire much confidence during high-speed cornering. The company has replaced the hydraulic power steering system with a new electronic system, designed to cut engine load and improve economy. You'd be hard pressed to tell the difference compared to the previous generation, the steering feel is much the same.

Four-cylinder versions, however, are lighter and feel more positive and reassured when driven hard. Either way, the A5 definitely feels more of a GT car than an out-and-out sports coupe, even in high-performance S5 specification.

Other engine changes include a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 with 268bhp, already found in the coupe and cabriolet, which replaces the existing naturally-aspirated 3.2-litre V6 petrol. The 2.0-litre TFSI engine is still available in 208bhp specification, returning 44.1mpg and 149g/km of CO2.

The diesel line-up has also been updated. The 2.7-litre TDI has been replaced with a more economical 3.0-litre TDI which delivers almost 58mpg, while its emissions - in the front-wheel drive coupe - are a relatively low 129g/km of CO2. The 3.0-litre TDI that's standard on Quattro models remains, although output has been boosted from 236bhp to 242bhp. It’s an impressive engine that’s satisfyingly punchy, with an aggressive exhaust note, and in some respects more engaging to drive than the 3.0-litre petrol version.

Most buyers will probably head straight for the default choice of the 2.0-litre diesel. Heavily modified, Audi claims that it can now deliver up to 60mpg while emissions have been cut to 122g/km of CO2. That's a considerable improvement from the 53mpg average and 140g/km of the older engine. That means yearly road tax of £95 and no showroom tax. Despite being a diesel it’s a quiet and smooth engine, although you can hear a little of the stereotypical diesel noise at low speeds.

There’s also a new powerplant for the range-topping S5 Coupe. Gone is the 4.2-litre V8 of old, replaced with a supercharged 3.0-litre petrol V6 generating 329bhp. This allows it to accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds, 0.2 seconds faster than the V8 model. Fuel economy is claimed to average 34.9mpg, a significant increase compared to the previous model’s best of 26.4mpg.

Externally, you’d be hard pressed to spot the differences between the old and new model. Changes include gently redesigned lights, bumpers, grille, and bonnet. S Line models also get LED daytime running lights at the front and new LED strip lights at the rear.

Inside, the changes are equally minor, with a new steering wheel and column stalks and some tweaks to the control layouts. Refinement is good, with little wind noise and minimal intrusion to the cabin, even at high speeds. One negative point is that the six-speed manual transmission has a rather long throw, which clashes with the sometimes sporting nature of the car.

Buyers can also now pick from a larger range of upholstery and inlay options, as well as a Google Earth overlay available for the sat-nav system which displays satellite imagery to help make navigation easier. 

The updated Audi A5 range is available to order now, with prices starting at £25,540 for the 1.8-litre TFSI Sportback, stretching to £42,790 for the S5 Coupe.

Also consider:

BMW 3-Series Saloon:

The popular choice, BMW's 3-Series is great to drive, well-built, comfortable and refined. Its premium badge matches that of the Audi's.

Volkswagen Passat CC:

Practical and well equipped, the Passat CC is an interesting alternative. The only drawback is that it's not particularly cheap, given the badge.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class saloon:

The C-Class benefits from an excellent range of engines, much like the A5. It isn't quite as stylish, or as well finished, but it's just as upmarket and refined.