With fuel economy topping many drivers’ priority lists, diesel engines are making their way into ever more sporty cars.
The Audi A5 Coupe may have had diesel versions on offer for years, but the German car has recently gained an economy focused variant – the ultra – which is claimed to be capable of 67.3mpg – outstripping its most economical rivals from BMW and Mercedes on paper. The Audi also undercuts its competitors in terms of price too.
The A5 Coupe is a style-focused two-door model that sits between the sensible Audi A4 and A6 saloons and alongside the sleek A5 Sportback hatchback.
A wide range of engines are available from the economical ultra 2.0-litre diesel, tested here, to the rapid four-wheel drive RS5 performance model, which competes with sports cars including the BMW M4.
Trim levels start with SE and rise to sporty S line and range-topping Black Edition. All cars include three-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, a 10-speaker sound system with digital radio, leather upholstery and heated front seats.
The A5 Coupe offers a mostly smooth ride on the road – when on the standard-fit 17-inch alloy wheels – and performs well enough around corners. The steering is reasonably weighted, getting heavier around bends, which gives the driver a good level of confidence, while the engine provides plenty of punch at most engine speeds and requires just 8.3 seconds to accelerate to 62mph.
Other parts of the A5 driving experience, however, aren’t so rosy. The gearstick doesn’t slot into gear as cleanly as rivals, while the footrest gets in the way when depressing the clutch. Additionally, we found Audi’s ‘active lane assist’ a huge irritation. This system actively steers to keep you in your lane – unless you’re indicating to change lane.
We found that the active lane assist corrected steering inputs quite abruptly if you strayed close to the edge of the lane and, frustratingly, it didn’t seem possible to switch it off. Once or twice it did also tug the wheel out of the blue, even at the lowest sensitivity level, which was a real annoyance and could hinder safety, rather than aid it.
The engine pulls strongly, though, providing a wide spread of power. The motor does sound like a diesel, but is smooth and relatively refined. Overall refinement levels are pretty high, with little wind or road noise getting into the cabin.
The auto handbrake feature also works well. If you stop for a few seconds at traffic lights, for instance, the car automatically puts the handbrake on, with a small green icon appearing on the dials. Go to pull off and seamlessly releases by itself, making hill starts easy.
The interior lives up to Audi standards for quality, with a strong feeling of solidity and the use of tactile materials. The dashboard feels built to last, while the leather on the doors and seats are high quality.
However, the layout of controls doesn’t live up to the same standards. Some of the knobs and buttons are scattered haphazardly around the cabin, with many of the buttons for the media system clustered in front of the base of the gearstick. These buttons provide access to most of the car’s functions, however, due to the mass of similarly-sized buttons, it’s tricky to discern which one you’re using on the move by touch. As a result the driver is forced to look away from the road, which can be very distracting.
Other controls, such as the buttons for the air conditioning also didn’t seem as intuitive as they could be, while music blares out every time you start the car, even if the audio system was switched off when you turned the car off.
The A5 is very practical in some areas, but below par in others. We found the front seats both comfortable over long journeys and supportive around bends. The boot is also very large for this type of car. Getting in and out from the front seats is also relatively easy, as the seats aren’t too low.
However, space for the rear passengers is very limited considering the size of car. Anyone over 5’ 8” or so will find their head touching the roof and legroom is quite limited too, though the rear seat padding is quite comfortable. Access to the back seats additionally requires a reasonable amount of dexterity.
Visibility could also be better, with large rear pillars and a high boot limiting the rearwards view, though front and rear parking sensors fitted to our car did prove very handy. The wing mirrors are also usefully large.
This car ticks a lot of coupe boxes, with sleek styling, a comfortable interior – for those in the front at least – a punchy, but economical engine plus a large boot. However, it is neither the most comfortable nor the sharpest handling vehicle on the market, with the BMW 4 Series offering a more sporting driving experience.
Rivals from BMW and Mercedes can’t match the A5 ultra’s claimed economy figure or its list price though, although our car was loaded with £6,000 of optional equipment, and we struggled to get anywhere near the official fuel economy figure of 67.3mpg.
On balance, those looking for a sleek coupe which offers a relaxed drive and reasonable economy, along with good value for money, should find a lot to like in the A5 Coupe ultra.
Don’t want to buy new? You can browse for a used Audi A5 in our classifieds here.
Audi A5 Coupe ultra 2.0 TDI
List price: £30,825
Engine: 2.0-litre, four cylinder turbocharged diesel
Top speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Fuel economy: 56.5mpg (urban), 74.3mpg (extra-urban) 67.3mpg (combined)
Emissions: 109g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Not yet tested
October 22, 2014