By P. Maric
The Audi A5 TFSI and Lexus RC200t are to cars that look like the real thing from a distance, but in actual fact they’re softer versions of their respective performance siblings, the RS5 and RC F.
But that doesn’t have to be such a bad thing. At the end of the day, the major difference is probably performance; but you’ll definitely look good driving either.
Both the Audi A5 and Lexus RC are predominantly purchased by “young” professionals without families. They’re aspirational vehicles that come off as style statements that set a precedent for the life you lead.
While the old Audi A5 was getting quite dated, this new one sets a new benchmark for technology and build quality for Audi. It makes the Lexus RC look and feel much older than it is, making the price difference even harder to justify for the Japanese brand.
We pitted both of these cars head-to-head to determine which most deserves our your hard-earned money.
PRICING AND SPECIFICATIONS
With a starting price of US $48,900 before options and taxes, the Audi A5 model range starts off with the A5 TFSI, a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder front-wheel drive coupe. The range runs all the way through to the S5 Coupe, which retails at an eye-watering price of US $73,800 before options and taxes.
The vehicle you see here (A5 TFSI quattro) is available for US $57,500. At that price point, it’s loaded with features that make the price quite justifiable.
Standard features include: 10-speaker stereo, 19-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone climate control, pollen filter, USB and auxiliary audio input, blind-spot monitoring, active pedestrian bonnet protection, rear-view camera, low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, and forward and rear collision alert.
More standard features included front and rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, Virtual Cockpit LCD display, front electric seats, electronic differential lock, LED headlights, a cooled glovebox, keyless entry and start, auto dimming rear vision mirror and wing mirrors, automatic windscreen wipers, DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and wireless hotspot.
Unlike Audis of past, the options list isn’t extensive or overly expensive. It includes things like wireless charging (US $300), through to the most expensive option, the Technik Package (US $4000), which includes premium sound, matrix LED headlights and a head-up display.
With the Lexus, the RC200t offers a more affordable entry price, kicking off from US $45,400 before options and taxes, moving all the way through to the eye-watering US $111,000 RC F Carbon.
The car you see here (the RC200t F Sport) begins from US $51,700, which is about 10 per cent, cheaper than the A5 TFSI quattro, with the key difference being the two-wheel drive setup of the RC200t in comparison to the all-wheel drive (quattro) offered by the Audi.
Standard equipment is impressive and includes: 17-speaker stereo, 19-inch alloy wheels, power steering column adjustment, dual-zone climate control, USB and auxiliary infotainment input, blind-spot monitoring, pedestrian active bonnet protection, rear-view camera, keyless entry and start, low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, and front and rear parking sensors.
When you take into account that the following: radar cruise control, LED daytime running lights, LCD instrument display, driver and front passenger electric seats, satellite navigation, LED headlights, limited slip differential, auto dimming rear-vision and wing mirrors, DAB+ digital radio, and heated and ventilated front row seats; come as standard, then you can see the Lexus wants for little.
In typical Lexus fashion, there are only a handful of options to choose from, including an Enhancement Pack (priced at US $2450), which includes a sunroof, auto dipping lights, lane departure warning and keyless card remote entry, along with Premium Paint that retails for US $1050.
When it comes to the interior styling, these two vehicles are worlds apart. The A5; in true Audi fashion, offers a smart interior that is somewhat clinical, but executed with precision. The lines are straight and to the point, while the infotainment controls and switchgear are all easy to use and have an upmarket, spring-loaded tactile feel to them.
The seating position is also perfectly in line with the flat-bottomed steering wheel sitting perfectly in hand, with paddle-shifters an easy pull away on either side of it.
Every material around the cabin has been well thought out with a premium goal in mind. Door trims are soft to the touch, while the reflective brushed aluminium surfaces are textured, with ‘quattro’ insignia proudly displayed on the passenger side.
There’s plenty of storage up front with two decent cupholders with spring-loaded side mounts, a generous glove box, along with ample storage within door pockets. While your rear seat passengers are barely going to stretch out for a long commute, it’s a space big enough for short trips.
Tri-zone climate control, plus LED map lights even make the second row a comfortable place if you plan on hauling kids over long distances on occasions. The second row also folds in a 40/20/40 fashion with a central port to allow easy access to the boot.
Measuring in at 465 litres, the boot is big enough for a set of golf clubs and features a space saver spare tyre beneath the load floor.
Back inside, Audi’s new 8.3-inch infotainment system is an absolute gem to live with. It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with Google Maps overlay via GSM and Audi’s huge 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit information screen ahead of the driver.
The screen in front of the driver can be customised to display a number of functions, even using almost its entire space to display navigation information. This is matched with an equally impressive head-up display.
When it comes to technology, Audi has really started to take huge strides that are way ahead of most of the competition.
There’s an oncoming traffic warning that’s activated when you open the driver or front passenger doors. Using sensors within the rear of the car, it can detect whether a cyclist or vehicle is approaching as you open the door.
If there is, it will flash a bright LED light rapidly around the handle surrounds to ensure you are notified and don’t accidentally open the door into them. It’s great technology that really should be featured on all new cars.
The sound system is excellent and I found the voice recognition system good most of the time, but it struggled with commands relating to stopping navigation, meaning time needed to be taken to manually change settings using the infotainment system. It’s not quite as sharp as the system featured in BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
Step into the Lexus RC and it’s almost like stepping back in time. The interior has dated badly and is a prime example of poor design and functionality.
The first issue is the litany of buttons strewn throughout the cabin. There are stacks below the air vents, more buttons next to the gear lever, and even more buttons to control the infotainment system. One thing we also noticed on a few occasions is that if you have a drink in the front cupholder, it makes it hard to change drive modes. Makes you wonder whether everyday scenarios play a part in testing by some manufacturers!!!
The steering wheel feels huge in comparison to the Audi, and it too features a maze of buttons that can be confusing to decipher while on the move. The glovebox is tiny and there’s limited storage within the door pockets.
While there are air vents in the second row, the space is very cramped in comparison to the Audi. There’s limited leg-, knee- and headroom. But it does partially make up for it with map lights and 60/40 split-folding seats. The seats fold to a cargo hold with 423 litres of capacity, which is less than the A5’s 465 litres.
Arguably though, the biggest let down within the cabin is the 7.0-inch infotainment system. It’s one of the poorest and hardest to use infotainment units on the market. The mouse system is clumsy, rarely accurate and settings are buried in hard to find menus.
The voice recognition system is difficult to use and commands aren’t natural or logical when it’s called upon. One of the only redeeming features is the sound system, which is pretty good for a cabin this size.
Fit and finish is very good, but the mixture of materials throughout the cabin is a little confusing, as is the continued use of the archaic foot-operated park brake.
Of the two, the Audi easily takes the win on interior execution.
ON THE ROAD
To keep things consistent, we use the same road combinations for comparisons. The route includes a stretch of urban driving (city roads and highways), some up-country roads, some all-weather/gravel roads and finally, some corners.
In the urban environment both cars showed excellent body control despite riding on reasonably sporty tyres and wheels.
The Audi uses 255mm wide tyres all round, riding on 19-inch alloy wheels and 35 profile tyres. The Lexus, on the other hand, rides on 235mm wide tyres at the front and 265mm wide tyres at rear, both ends using 19-inch alloy wheels with 40 profile rubber at the front and 35 at the rear.
Steering effort on both cars was quite easy, with the Audi also featuring a very clear and sharp rear-view camera. The RC’s camera was good, but lacked clarity, especially at night.
At low speeds, the Audi was a little frustrating due to the hesitation delivered by the dual-clutch transmission. There were times when you needed to get the foot stuck into it for the car to move without hesitation. The Lexus was better, but was mainly affected by lag from the engine, which didn’t do much before receiving turbocharger assistance.
Under the bonnet of the Audi, is a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces 185kW of power and 370Nm of torque, consuming 6.5L/100km on the combined cycle, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Audi claims a 0-100km/h time of 5.8 seconds, which we managed to beat by 0.1sec, coming in at 5.7 seconds.
The Lexus on the other hand, is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 180kW of power and 350Nm of torque, using a claimed 7.3L/100km on the combined cycle with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Lexus claims a 0-100km/h time of 7.5 seconds, which in reality was closer to 7.7 seconds.
Despite featuring an all-wheel drive system (quattro), the Audi weighs 40kg less than the Lexus, tipping the scales at 1645kg, compared with 1685kg with the Lexus.
At highway speeds, both cars measured identical cabin noise readings, at 69.9dB. But, during acceleration from standstill to 100km/h, it was the Audi allowing the most sound to penetrate into the cabin, clocking 70.5dB in comparison to the Lexus at 69.9dB.
Our first dynamic test showed just how much extra traction is on offer from Audi’s renowned quattro all-wheel drive system. The engine is incredibly eager and ready to punch out of a corner with extra throttle never unsettling the balance.
We clocked a maximum speed of 70km/h in the Audi through tight corners, noting the impressive steering feel and a very sporting character without any signs of hesitation or stability control intervention.
The Lexus could only manage around 60km/h through the same set of corners with the rear not being stable and the throttle unresponsive, even in the vehicle’s sharpest setting. It too had limited stability control intervention, which is something of a rarity in Lexus and Toyota products.
We then delved into country roads, where the corners offered faster entry speeds with sweeping exits.
It’s on these roads where the Audi didn’t feel as resolved as the Lexus. Where the Audi would be a little firmer and sometimes crash over continuous undulations and corrugated sections of road, the Lexus offered softer damping and excellent body control over continuous wrinkles in the roads.
It also proved to offer the most communicative steering as we navigated roads that featured mid-corner bumps that could provide kickback through the Audi’s steering wheel at times.
But while the Lexus excelled with body control and steering, it was positively slow until it began winding on torque thanks to its forced induction. The gearbox also regularly hunted for gears, not wanting to hold a gear and use the engine’s torque, instead opting to kick down.
The Audi’s gearbox on the other hand is well resolved and offered incredibly quick shifts and even held onto gears and blipped the throttle when the transmission was locked into its sport mode.
Both cars offer a range of driver-selectable modes to tailor the experience. Audi uses a drive select system that moves between comfort, auto, dynamic and eco. Drivers can option adaptive suspension for the A5, which links with the drive select system to further adjust ride quality, depending on the mode selected. We’d be ticking this box, given the added flexibility it adds to ride quality and comfort when cruising.
Lexus uses a rotary dial to transition between drive modes that include eco, normal, sport and sport+. Like the Audi, they each vary the vehicle’s characteristics, including steering feel and shift quality. Unlike the Audi, the Lexus RC comes with electronic damper control as standard, meaning the sport modes adjust ride quality too.
While it all looks and feels like fun, flicking the dial across to sport+ doesn’t improve the Lexus’s engine response. Despite throttle response being sharper, it doesn’t feel any quicker, meaning that all you get is heavy steering and a firmer ride. The Torsen limited-slip differential helps keep things in check, but it’s never really changed with this powertrain.
At the end of our drive, the Audi clocked in with a fuel consumption of 11.8L/100km and the Lexus at 12.9L/100km. These figures are much higher than quoted claims, but there was a great deal of spirited driving involved, including performance testing.
When I was handed these two vehicles, I went into this comparison thinking it would be a lot closer than it was.
The all-new Audi A5 has really pushed the game forward. The level of technology on offer is tremendous and the quality of the interior is unlike anything else in the segment. It makes a whole lot of sense in all-wheel drive trim. It offers enough performance to keep most drivers happy and delivers fuel efficient motoring if driven on a daily basis.
Despite the Lexus being different enough on the outside to appeal to its own demographic, it’s let down by mediocre performance and an interior that struggles to excel.
But, there’s a big price difference between the two. You really need to ask yourself whether all-wheel drive performance is necessary. If it’s not, the entry-level front-wheel drive A5 certainly fits the bill in terms of price, but won’t feel anywhere near as lively as the rear-wheel driven Lexus RC.
From me, it has to be the Audi, because the new A5 is worth every cent.
Audi A5 TFSI Quattro:
- Performance & Economy – 8.5
- Cabin Space & Comfort – 9
- Technology & Connectivity – 9.5
- Price & Features – 8
- Ride & Handling – 8
- Performance & Economy – 7
- Cabin Space & Comfort – 7.5
- Technology & Connectivity – 7.5
- Price & Features – 8
- Ride & Handling – 7.5
- Unfortunately, Lexus; which is a luxury vehicle manufacturer owned by Toyota, does not have an exclusive, official or sole distributor of their new vehicles in Kenya; however, there are a number of international car importation companies and local dealers who bring in Lexus models by themselves or on request.
- This lack of an official local dealer for Lexus means that after sales service for Lexus owners is dependent on relying on credible garages or mechanics that are familiar with Lexus or such luxury vehicles.
- Unfortunately, Audi does not have an exclusive, official or sole distributor of their new vehicles in Kenya; however, there are a number of international car importation companies and local dealers who bring in Audi models by themselves or on request.
- This lack of an official local dealer for Audi means that after sales service for Audi owners is dependent on relying on credible garages or mechanics that are familiar with Audis or such luxury vehicles.