2018 Audi A5 S-Line: Driven
It's crazy how different Audi's two coupes (TT & A5) can be...
I recently took my 2012 Audi TTRS in for its 35,000 mile service, which includes the Haldex fluid flush and new spark plugs among many other things, so the dealership needed to keep my car a few days to wait for the parts to come in. While I could have gotten the service at an independent mechanic for cheaper, I keep all of my maintenance records and like to be able to show that I went to a dealership so that no one can question the quality of the service…but another upside of dealer service is the loaner vehicles. As I was getting setup with a loaner, the clerk asked “Is a 2-door alright?” to which I gleefully replied yes, of course. Moments later I was given the keys to this 2018 Audi A5 that had just a few thousand miles on it. This gave me the perfect chance to really get to know the car, and I insisted on driving it everywhere that my wife & I went…I ended up really enjoying my time with the car, but was also surprised at just how different it was than the 2018 TT(RS) I drove recently in so many ways. As an outsider observer I always wondered how Audi justified having 2 different two door coupes, but after spending some quality time behind the seat, it makes perfect sense.
I always like to start any car review by focusing on the styling; to most people, I think this is what they look at first and immediately start to rule out any car that they don’t like the appearance of. With so many great cars on the market, if you think one is ugly, it’s pretty easy to pass on that car and start narrowing down your options to the other luxury coupes on the market, of which there are plenty – BMW 4 Series, Infiniti Q60, Mercedes C-Class, Lexus RC, and so-on (all of which are pretty nice looking, IMHO). When the redesigned A5 came out in 2017, I have to admit I was disappointed. The previous generation A5 was one of the most handsome and classic designs I’ve seen in quite some time, which makes it hard to top, but even if the previous A5 hadn’t been so beautiful this design is still quite polarizing. It reminds me if you take someone who has a pretty face, then cover it in saran wrap and pull on it to compress and stretch their face into weird angles – it has the makings of something nice, but it looks distorted. Like any design that is a radical departure from the familiar (modern psychology says we’ll always prefer the familiar, which is why most movies are sequels these days), it takes some time to adjust. I will say that the styling of this car has grown on me since originally introduced, and after driving it for almost a week it’s grown on me even more. Personally I think it looks best from the side or rear, and it’s on the front grille and headlights that still seem a little funky – but now they’re more of a modern and cool funky, as opposed to my previous opinion that they were just a funky, funky. Ultimately they styling isn’t a deal breaker on this car, but I certainly wouldn’t give it the same accolades and high praise of it’s predecessor.
A5 Interior & Comfort
Audi’s main marketing focus is on the high-tech, and that’s where this car does deliver. The virtual cockpit is really enjoyable, and pretty much renders the center screen obsolete (or at the very least, redundant). The bluetooth works way better than my car, the electronics as a whole are light years ahead, and the interior looks really sharp. If I had to pick a car to be stuck in traffic in, it would definitely be this one. The start/stop feature saves gas (and you get used to that feature pretty quick), the infotainment is top notch, and the seats are pretty comfortable for a base model. Audi has always done a really good job at nailing the ergonomics, and the seating position and layout on this car is no exception. If you spend a lot of time in your car and want a car that is going to be really comfortable to sit in, this car deserves your consideration. Compared to the TT, the back seat is MUCH bigger, there is a lot more headroom, foot room, and my 6’1″ frame fit very comfortably with plenty of room for someone taller or wider to fit. In the TT, the cockpit is a bit smaller and more crammed, and lacks the creature comforts of the A5, making these two cars very different experiences especially if you’re a passenger.
A5 Driving Experience
The driving dynamics is where this car and the TT (RS) really separate from each other. The TT is designed as a sports car first, and a commuter second. The A5 is the opposite, it’s a luxury commuter car that happens to have two doors. Rather than being a sports car, think of it as a 2-door A4 (which is what it really is, anyway). This is not meant as a negative statement, it’s just important context to understand why you’d pick one over the other. The ride of the A5 is soft (especially in Comfort mode), the car is whisper quiet (even when romping on it), and everything is pleasant. I kept picturing myself as an venture capital executive leaving the board room to go play a few rounds of golf when driving around in this thing (rather than feeling like a kid in a go-kart in my TT). It’s much bigger and doesn’t handle nearly as well in high speed turns, but it’s also much more enjoyable for freeway and city driving when you’re not trying to get thrills but instead trying to get from A-to-B. Sadly I spend most of my time in my car going back and forth to work, so I found myself liking the A5 a lot more than I should – if I’m honest with myself, it’s a better fit for my needs 99% of the time, even if it feels a bit boring a times. It is worth reiterating how much bigger this car is – it was a tight squeeze in my garage both in terms of length and width compared to my TT, or even my B7 S4 that I had before it. Yes this is a coupe, but it’s a BIG coupe. The A5 wins the comfort game hands-down, but sacrifices the nimbleness and handling the TT benefits from.
Should you get the A5 or S5?
Over the course of my time with the car, I put on roughly 300 miles and got around 28 mpg on average (mostly freeway driving). The fuel economy was actually pretty great, and I spent a decent amount of time in dynamic mode and wide open throttle for the sake of testing/science. The car has more than enough “get up and go” for the majority of buyers, and much like my recommendation on buying the A4 versus S4, I’d say the A5 has plenty of horsepower for most buyers, even enthusiasts (especially when chipped). Even more disappointingly, the S5 is barely differentiated from the exterior styling from the A5, especially the one I was given which had the S-line package. For me, one of the main reasons I advocate getting the S package cars is that by the time you spend all of the money trying to upgrade the A cars exterior appearance to look cooler, you’ve spent more than a S5 would cost – but since the A5 S-line looks nearly identical (and you can get aftermarket wheels that look way better than the OEM S5 wheels for much cheaper), the biggest difference is the extra power of the V6TT engine which is lost on most people – and keep in mind this car is big and heavy, so if you are an enthusiast seeking the extra thrill, I’d recommend you go test drive the TT (S or RS) instead, as that’s a much better choice for thrill seeking.. The rare use case for the S5 is if you’re someone like me who spends most of their time commuting (and thus the TT is too impractical), need a little extra space, but still want the ability to occasionally romp on it…but even then, I’d say pocket the $15 grand and get a tune, aftermarket wheels, and some lowering springs for ~$5k, and spend $10k on something more fun (like a vacation, or several dozen track days).
TL;DR – The A5 is a luxury car, while the TT is a sports car. Other than the number of doors, they share little in common otherwise. Get the A5 if you want an excellent commuter, and get the TT if you want a fun weekend/track toy. Skip the S5 and get the TTS/RS if performance is your priority.