Redesigned, the 2018 Audi A5 and S5 models get new platforms, engines, styling, technology, and safety features. And there is a new model, a sexy Sportback that’s been available in Europe for some time. Actually, make that two models, because the Sportback comes as a high-performance S5 as well.
That makes three body styles available: two-door Coupe, four-door Sportback hatch, and sporty two-door Cabriolet convertible. Each comes in A5 and S5 tune.
The A5 improves on all levels, especially power, handling, and looks. It’s the best A5 ever, as any redesigned model should be. It presents a comfortable ride, balanced handling, and a strong engine having a subdued note.
The A5 is built on platforms and running gear of the A4 sedan and Q5 crossover. Every A5 has the bombproof and totally refined Quattro all-wheel drive, with the coupe getting Quattro Ultra that improves fuel mileage by cutting drive to the rear wheels.
The A5 uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo making 252 horsepower teamed with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, or a six-speed manual in coupes. It hits zero to sixty in 5.7 seconds and gets an EPA Combined 27 miles per gallon. Every A5 has a Drive Select system with modes to relax the dynamics or sharpen the edge.
The S5 with its 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 accelerates from zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds, and gets 24 miles per gallon Combined. It uses an eight-speed twin-clutch transmission.
The redesigned platform has moved the engine farther back in the chassis to improve the balance, and lost some weight to improve the handling. It’s sportier than before, although the true sports sedan and hatch is the S5. Or take the big leap to the track-ready RS 5.
For 2018 Audi A5 adds safety technology, with forward collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alerts, and active lane control.
Audi A5 comes as a coupe, convertible and the new Sportback. Standard equipment includes leather seats, automatic climate control, MMI infotainment system, and ambient interior lighting. Options include navigation, a Bang & Olufsen sound system, Audi’s high-tech virtual cockpit digital instrument cluster, adaptive dampers, and 4G LTE data services with WiFi hotspot.
The S5 comes in the same models, in Premium Plus and Prestige trim. Premium Plus includes S sport seats with a diamond-quilted pattern, front seat massagers, automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, 18-inch wheels with summer 245/40 summer tires, LED headlights, leather seating with Alcantara inserts on the doors, a 7.0-inch driver information screen, and 7.0-inch infotainment screen.
Eight airbags are standard, along with a rearview camera and parking sensors. Also standard is Audi’s active safety suite called Pre sense city, which can slow or stop the car if a head-on crash is imminent.
The A5 coupe styling is elegant, understated and sleek, with muscular haunches. It sets the styling benchmark for coupes. The 2018 redesign doesn’t change its looks much at all, maybe just sharpens the edges.
The devastating lines of the new Sportback flow like those of the gorgeous A7. Its wheelbase is a bit longer than the coupe or convertible. The roof is low like the coupe’s, but stretched into a hatchback, sleeker than the BMW 3 Series GT. The Sportback skips the chrome frame around the windows, a plus in our book.
The S5 fastback sedan has been restyled and sharpened from nose to tail, on the same measurements. The nose is lower and the headlamps higher, creating a look like a furrowed brow. The hood gets more demonstrative creases. The character line along the side of the car gets some starch. In direct light, it casts a shadow that makes the body look longer.
The classy A5 cabin has horizontal lines and uses low-gloss black plastics with the wood or metal trim. Paddle-shifters for the transmission are standard, but they’re small and disappointingly made of plastic. One competitor for the S5 Sportback might be the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio, which has big beautiful metal paddles.
The tech features are added in a cohesive manner, not confusing or futuristic. The rotary dial for MMI interface with center screen is something Audi owners are used to, blessed buttons instead of a touchscreen. The MMI is fairly easy to use, but connecting an iPhone is more difficult without a touchscreen.
There’s an optional 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster Audi calls a virtual cockpit. It gives the cabin a look of state of the art.
In the S5 coupe, one of our tall testers couldn’t get his head low enough for comfortable visibility, given the tall driver’s seat and low roof; rearward visibility was worse, with the thick C-pillars creating big blind spots. Blind-spot monitors are optional but would be useful in all models.
We haven’t had a chance for seat time in the A5 sedan, but in the coupe at least, the rear passengers will be squeezed with only 32.7 inches of legroom.
The coupe has an adequate 11.6 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk, less in the convertible of course because of mechanism: 9.3 cubic feet with the roof down. If it’s cargo space you need, the Sportback brings you 17 cubic feet.
The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is new, making 252 horsepower which is 30 more than before. It’s mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic manual transmission that’s the best in the business, with shifts that are smooth and quick. With the coupe, a six-speed manual is available.
The engine has sharp throttle response, being absent of turbo lag or drama, and accelerates from zero to sixty in a satisfying 5.7 seconds.
The A5’s Drive Select offers Comfort, Normal, Dynamic, and Individual (custom) modes for the for the steering, suspension, transmission, and throttle. In the appropriate mode, the steering is sharp and direct, and the handling is balanced. The ride is comfortable and composed. It’s sporty and fun to drive, although its mission is meant to be more sedate than that; the adrenaline is saved for the S5, which adds torque vectoring to help the car rotate in turns.
The turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 in the S5 makes a whumping 354 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, to drive the car to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. It’s a twin-scroll turbo designed to reduce lag and deliver a broad torque band. The torque comes on strong at 1350 stays there to 4500 rpm. It’s a fantastic passing machine on two-lanes.
The eight-speed automatic is quick and tight, and the Quattro all-wheel drive splits the torque 60/40 rear/front. New in 2018 is an available rear differential that moves the torque from side to side, as needed in cornering.
Some of the weight loss in the 2018 comes from the use of aluminum components in the five-link rear suspension.
A sport package lowers the car by nearly one inch. It includes adjustable dampers, the new rear differential, and red brake calibers. It can be set from Comfort to Dynamic, with an Auto mode making it easy for the driver. Even in Dynamic mode, the S5 doesn’t feel harsh or high-strung.
The 2018 A5 succeeds as redesigns are supposed to, with better looks, more power, and sharper handling. The new Sportback model is a very welcome addition; it brings the line alive. The S5, with its powerful twin-scroll V6 turbo, succeeds as a grand touring machine all the way.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.