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.
The 2013 A5 comes in Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels.
The 2013 Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T Premium ($37,850) uses the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine, quattro all-wheel drive, and 6-speed manual gearbox or 8-speed automatic with sport and manual modes ($39,050).
The 2013 Audi A5 Cabriolet comes standard with front-wheel drive and CVT ($43,300), or quattro all-wheel drive with 8-speed Tiptronic ($45,500).
Premium trim comes standard and includes leather seating surfaces, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shifter, 3-zone climate control, 8-way power front seats, 50/50 split-fold rear seat with pass-through, tilt/telescoping steering column, aluminum cabin trim and doorsills, moonroof, trip computer, AM/FM/XM/CD 180-watt 10-speaker stereo, fog lights, heated windshield washers, cruise control, halogen headlamps, 18-inch alloy wheels and power windows/locks/heated mirrors. The Cabriolet Premium version adds the fabric folding top with heated glass rear window and wind blocker, and keeps the split folding rear seat. Premium options include Bluetooth/HomeLink/iPod cabling, heated front seats, Milano leather, wood trim, and metallic paint.
Premium Plus ($41,400) upgrades with heated front seats, plus a convenience package with things like iPod interface, Bluetooth, HomeLink, and heated mirrors; and a lighting package including bi-Xenon headlamps with LED running lights and tail lamps. Premium Plus options include HDD-navigation with DVD player and HD radio, Sport package with three-spoke steering wheel, sport seats with lumbar, sports suspension; Bang & Olufsen sound system, 19-inch wheels, advanced key, rear park sensors, and walnut wood trim. Cabriolets also offer a Comfort package with heated and ventilated Milano leather sport seats with lumbar and a neck-level heating system.
Prestige trim ($47,300) adds Audi MMI control including navigation with voice control, color-information screen, rear park sensors and rearview camera, advanced key system, adaptive headlamps, blind spot warning and a Bang & Olufsen 14-speaker, 505-watt sound system. Prestige options are the 18-inch wheel sport package, S line package with 19-inch wheels/performance tires, black leather/Alcantara sport seats, S line specific cabin trim and bodywork; Audi drive select; adaptive cruise control and collision-mitigation braking, power rear window sunshade, wood trim; and the Cabriolet Comfort package.
Audi S5 Coupe uses the 3.0-liter supercharged engine with 6-speed manual gearbox ($50,900) or 7-speed S tronic dual clutch ($52,300). There is an S5 exterior kit, while larger brakes, firmer suspension and high-performance tires are among the mechanical upgrades for the high-performance S models. Premium Plus is the standard S5 spec (equipped as the A5), with Alcantara leather. Options include MMI control with navigation; sports rear differential ($1100); wheels; Alcantara seat inserts; Bang & Olufsen sound system; and cabin trim of carbon atlas, gray birch, stainless mesh and piano black lacquer.
S5 Prestige ($57,550) adds the features outlined in A5 coupe Prestige. Also available for S5 Prestige: Audi driver select with adaptive damping, dynamic steering, sports rear differential; Audi side assist; adaptive cruise control; and power rear sunshade.
Audi S5 Cabriolet Premium Plus ($59,300) and Prestige ($65,950) are fitted with the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 and 7-speed S tronic transmission. The S5 Cabriolet is equipped much like the S5 coupe with the Convertible's extras.
Audi RS5 coupe ($68,900) keeps the 4.2-liter V8, while blowing it way up to 450 horsepower for 2013 (from 354 hp last year). The 2013 RS5 uses the 7-speed S tronic transmission. It's equipped with an RS exterior kit and badging, Nappa leather sport seats, 3-spoke flat-bottom steering wheel with paddles, 19-inch 10-spoke forged wheels with 265/35 summer tires, Audi drive select controls, music interface with iPod cable, speed-activated rear spoiler, concert radio (one CD) with XM, matte alu-optic grille and mirrors, bi-xenon front lighting with LED daytime running lights and taillights, auto-dimming interior mirror with compass, RS suspension and brakes, heated, 12-way power front seats with driver memory, sunroof, Bluetooth, sports differential, adaptive headlights with washers, advanced key, and last but not least a 174-mph top speed limiter.
Safety gear that comes standard on all A5 and S5 models consists of two-stage driver and adaptive passenger frontal airbags, front knee airbags, front side-impact airbags, active headrests, electronic stability control, ABS, EBD and tire-pressure monitors. All except one A5 Cabriolet come with all-wheel drive. The coupes also have side-curtain airbags and LATCH child-seat anchors in back. An optional rearview camera can help drivers spot a child behind the car when backing up.