First drive: Audi A5/ S5

After four years and 330,000 cars sold, Audi's popular A5 range has been under the knife to receive its mid-life refresh with the emphasis on efficiency.

Key in making the A5/S5 more efficient is the introduction of two new engines and the fitment of start/stop as standard across the range.
A 201bhp 3.0-litre V6 TDI replaces the previous 187bhp 2.7-litre. Already proven in the A6, A7 and A8 saloon, it's capable of 57.6mpg and has CO2 emissions of just 129g/km when fitted into the two-wheel drive version of the A5 Coupe.

At the other end of the range, there's a new 268bhp version of the 3.0 TFSI petrol engine. The existing 328bhp version of this engine that already powers the S5 Sportback and Cabriolet, also replaces the previous 4.2-litre V8 in the S5 Coupe.

Exterior changes for the Audi A5/S5 are hardly radical, but are most obvious at the front with the A6-like nose. The bumper, grille, headlamps and bonnet are all-new, but in profile you'd be hard pressed to spot any differences between this and the outgoing car.

S-Line models do however get distinctive new versions of Audi's trademark LED driving lights.

Changes for face-lifted A5/SE models are harder to spot at the back, but there are new rear taillights.

Move inside and the changes are even harder to spot, look closer and there are gloss black interior trim highlights, a simplifed version of Audi's MMI infotainment system with joystick and a revised gearlever on automatic models.

Audi has fitted a new electromechanical power steering system to the face-lifted A5/S5 range. Designed to improve feedback and save fuel, I must admit that I couldn't tell any difference from the previous model.

Still, it was light and acurate enough on all the models that I drove, even if it didn't feel particularly engaging or sporty. At it's worse on Quattro models, it's almost as though the four-wheel drive seems to dull the steering responses further.

Of all the A5's I drove on the, the 2.0TFSI and 2.0TDi versions on standard rubber rode best. Go for a sportier set up with bigger wheels and expect both the road noise and vibrations to increase.

This is probably shown at its worst with the A5 Cabriolet, with obvious shudder making its way into the cabin.

Smooth and refined probably best sum up the 201- and 242bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesels, but I'd rather have the smaller 175bhp 2.0-litre, which was the most impressive of the diesel A5's I drove.

Okay, so it's a bit of a chugger compared with the refinement of the V6 diesels, but there's enough performance and the economy figures are impressive enough to make it my pick of the oil-burners.

In my view the pick of the petrol choices were the smallest 1.8- and 2.0-litre TFSI engines with 168- and 207bhp. They might not sound as interesting as the bigger 3.0-litre V6's, but feel more willing and involving to drive.

I got a brief drive in the performance flagship (well until the face-lifted RS5 comes along!), the S5. It sounds great and feels quick, but I fear like the last S5 I drove, it lacks the involvement of rivals.

So to sum up, Audi has cleverly updated the A5/S5 range by not moving away from a winning formula. No driver's car, the A5 is probably at its best in basic front-wheel drive with either 2.0 TDI or 1.8 TFSI engines. These smaller, lighter engines worked so much better with the A5 giving more nimble handling than the heavier V6's.

Check out this gallery of Audi A5 images from the launch:

Audi A5/ S5
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First drive: Audi A5/ S5
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