AS THE self-styled king of niche markets, recent years have seen Audis model range and sales figures soar. Its no coincidence; the German firm has discovered a winning formula in the way it can identify potential in new model sectors. And far from reaching saturation point, growth remains a regular discussion topic with the company executives.
A case in point is the firms A5 line-up. Initially sold as a two-door coupe, the range has expanded to include a convertible, high performance models and a four-door fastback. Audi already has a compact saloon with the A4, but its a testament to the firms ability to target its models at specific customer profiles that the two cars happily coexist in the Audi universe.
And with sales having broken through the million barrier in 2010, the company is clearly doing something right. It keeps doing it too, with regular model updates. This time its the turn of the A5 range, with a refresh programme spanning cosmetic, interior and mechanical improvements.
In the case of the A5 Coupe, the main focus has been the engine range. Lower fuel consumption and emissions ratings do much to keep the car competitive in a world where economy and CO2 are often the driving factors come purchase time.
A redesigned entry-level 1.8 TFSI petrol motor now boasts 170 horsepower (up by 10), the potential to achieve 49.6mpg and emit only 134g/km CO2. As such, in a perfect example of downsizing it effectively replaces the A5s 180 horsepower 2.0-litre petrol motor.
There have also been changes in the diesel line-up, with Audis familiar 2.7-litre unit now replaced by a 204 horsepower 3.0-litre motor promising 57.6mpg and just 129g/km CO2. Completing the changes is a reworked 177 horsepower 2.0-litre diesel with headline-grabbing 122g/km CO2 and 60.1mph figures.
Even the flagship S5 hasnt escaped, with its V8 petrol motor now swapped for a more frugal but no less capable forced induction 3.0-litre V6. Fuel economy jumps almost ten points to 34.9mpg while its also a fraction quicker to 62mph too.
Audis newfound green zeal isnt at the expense of driver enjoyment, though. Keen drivers can still enjoy Audis switchable suspension, throttle and steering modes. Incidentally, the cars steering is now electromechanical and not hydraulic - a further step to reducing fuel consumption.
Out on the road and the A5 Coupe displays a level of refinement and competence thats hard to match elsewhere in the market. In newly uprated 2.0 TDI guise, the car proves quick enough on the straight bits to make overtaking safe and packs enough low down torque to make light work of the urban crawl. Overall, its easy to see this car as a frugal urban tool during the week and a brisk grant tourer at the weekends.
Even if you dont touch the cars drive select system, its steering and engine behaviour is entirely predictable. There are more driver-focused cars out there but the A5 delivers a rounded and more mature experience with little hint of any compromise.
Move up to a car with Audis quattro all-wheel rive system and the subtle improvement in stability and the ease at which the car can change direction is noticeable. Based on the technology underpinning the flagship RS5, its now more responsive to changes in road conditions, while an optional rear sport differential can be fine tuned by those drivers seeking an even more thrilling experience.
Although always a stylish car inside and out, Audis refresh programme for the A5 Coupe has also included a few visual enhancements. Subtle tweaks to bumpers, bonnet and light clusters should help differentiate new from old, while inside the cabin there are changes to the design of the steering wheel, gear level, column stalks plus, minor controls plus a new selection of trim and upholstery options.
Whether youre after a modestly powerful A5 Coupe or a fuel-sipping, tax-friendly company car, as is always the case with Audi theres no shortage of choice. And, now more than ever, purchasing something like an A5 is as guilt-free as it gets. With its new range of low consumption and emitting engines both your heart and your head can rest easy knowing that you made the right choice for all the right reasons.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
?Model: Audi A5 2.0 TDI SE Coupe, from £30,545 on the road.?
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel unit developing 177bhp.?
Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission as standard, driving the front wheels.?Performance: Maximum speed 143mph, 0-62mph 8.2 seconds.?
CO2 Rating: 122g/km.