The 2013 Audi A5 and Audi S5 get leaner, sleeker and more muscular. That's physically true, with a new nose, and true to the line, with the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 bumping the 4.2-liter V8 out of the S5.
With the new V6, the 2013 Audi S5 accelerates as quickly as last year's V8 version and gets better fuel mileage. But the game isn't over for the V8: The V8 stays on top of the performance pile by bumping itself to 450 horsepower for use in the 2013 Audi RS5.
Audi has the engine line down. The 2013 Audi A5 comes with the venerable silky 211-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, which has long been the king of four-cylinder engines. While the 246-horsepower BMW, 247-horsepower Ford, and 220-horsepower Hyundai, all 2.0-liter turbo fours, have been letting Audi know the reign is over, Audi's 2.0 is still a great base engine for the A5.
And Audi quattro all-wheel drive is at the top of its class, adept and experienced in snow, mud and wet or icy streets. It seems a same to buy an Audi with front-wheel drive and miss out on quattro.
It's hard to find a direct statistical competitor to the four-seat A5 or S5, considered a grand touring coupe or cabriolet. The Infiniti G37 Coupe is quite similar, but after that you'll find differences in the number of doors or seats. The Mercedes C-Class or BMW 3 Series coupe or convertible with all-wheel drive (both with 5 seats) might be cross-shopped, or the Nissan Maxima (4 seats, 4 doors). When all is said and done, we'd say the Mercedes C250, if similarly equipped, most closely compares to the Audi A5 in size, powertrain and price. If you were to consider leaving the realm of grand touring to look at cars of a similar size, you'd find a bewildering long list of sedans including Lexus ES, Acura TL, Buick LaCrosse, Hyundai Sonata, Volkswagen Passat, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Avalon, Chrysler 200, Honda Accord, Chevrolet Impala, Ford Fusion, and even the Audi A4. All of them priced lower than the A5.
Worth considering, however, is that Kelley Blue Book announced the 2012 cars with best resale value, and Audi A5 won the luxury class, going away. According to KBB.com, the 2012 A5 is worth 64.7 percent of its new cost after 36 months, and 41 percent of its cost after 60 months. Second place after 60 months was the Mercedes SLK, way down at 34 percent.
The A5 is subtly beautiful. Its clean contours eliminate the need for stylists to tack on character lines as with many other cars. We think Audi is better looking than BMW here.
The A5 and S5 got a facelift for 2013, and it's a lovely job. The grille is rounded at the upper edges and narrowed at the bottom, to make it more shapely and less aggressive. New headlamps are sleek, small, and artful, with available LED running lights tracing a line around their dancing sharp edges.
Welcome changes to the 2013 A5 also include streamlining of the MMI Navigation system and controls, reducing the number of buttons from eight to four. The three-zone climate control system has also been slightly simplified. There's also more connectivity, with available Audi Connect, including Google Earth for navigation and Wi-Fi for surfing.
The cabin is sophisticated but simple, and nicely functional. A choice of leather is available along with different types of wood, carbon fiber, aluminum or stainless steel trim. Without exception, the materials are pleasant. The standard A5 leather seats are excellent, a nice level of firmness and bolstering. However heated seats, navigation, and rearview camera are all optional equipment, an extra bite on top of the healthy luxury price.
The instruments are clean and clear, including a trip information display that's easily scrolled through. A big clear white digital speed number can be displayed there. The leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel is tidy, with grips at the right places and thumbwheel controls on each side spoke. It tilts and telescopes for drivers of different sizes and preferences.
At night the cabin is pretty, with deep amber illumination, smoked-lens lamps mounted in the roof, and shaded map lights. However in direct sunlight, the display screen at the top of the center stack is unreadable, even with its shade. In our Cabriolet with the top down, we couldn't tune the radio because we couldn't read the orange numbers on the screen.
Rear passengers are catered to, with a wide armrest that folds down over central storage trays, reading lights, two speakers per side, coat hooks, outboard storage pockets, cupholders, and a pair of vents with adjustable temperature control. Legroom is in short supply but better than that of the Infiniti G Coupe.
Trunk space is relatively small, but larger than that of the G37 Coupe or Mercedes C-Class coupe. The A5 rear seat folds, allowing access to the trunk, although not in the Cabriolet, whose trunk loses 2 cubic feet of space with the top down and folded.
The MMI (multi-media interface) controls many of the car's functions with a central control knob, somewhat like BMW iDrive and Mercedes COMAND systems, only MMI is quicker because it demands fewer clicks. The screen at the top center of the dashboard displays audio information and the optional navigation and rear camera. But having driven BMWs with 10-inch screens that can display navigation and audio at the same time, we now like them big. With Audi Connect, the navigation can be overlayed on Google Earth mapping.
The strength of the A5 is its smoothness at speed. The overachieving 2.0-liter turbocharged engine feels fastest from 50 to 70 mph, where you need it; that's part due to the excellent Tiptronic 8-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode. The engine delivers strong torque over a wide range from 1500 to 4200 rpm, to propel the car from intersections and up hills. It accelerates from 0 to 60 in 6.2 seconds.
Fuel economy is an EPA-rated 20/30 mpg City/Highway for an A5 Coupe with quattro and 8-speed automatic, or 22/32 mpg with 6-speed manual. The A5 Cabriolet is rated 24/31 mpg. The A5 models all require Premium gasoline.
The A5 chassis and suspension are an excellent package, perfectly comfortable around town on patchy pavement, while being totally capable on winding roads, and we can't say that about many cars. The handling is responsive and firm, when pushed to the reasonable limit. The A5 is one of the best in this area. And there are options and upgrades to make the handling even better in the curves. Audi Drive Select allows programmable modes of performance.
The Audi S5 is another animal. It's powered by a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 producing 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. It's fueled by direct injection and breathes through a two-stage intake manifold. It's mated to a 7-speed twin-clutch transmission that shifts in .2 seconds. It accelerates from 0 to 60 in 4.9 seconds. S8 gets an EPA-rated 18/28 mpg with automatic, 17/26 mpg with manual. An optional active rear differential overdrives the outside rear tire in corners, forcing the front end to turn in more quickly. It also communicates with the vehicle's Drive Select system and stability control to help maintain control in emergency maneuvers.
And there's nothing quite like the Audi RS5 with the lusty torque from its powerful V8 engine. It's EPA-rated at 16/23 mpg.