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2015 Lexus RC vs. 2015 Audi A5: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro June 2015

If you're interested in a new car that combines sports-car styling and performance with luxury-car appointments, two of today's top new models are the 2015 Audi A5 and the all-new 2015 Lexus RC. Both offer 2-door body styles that tout sports-car-like styling, and both offer many of the latest high-tech gadgets and highly luxurious features. So which one is better? We've created a close comparison of both models to find out, but first let's see what's new with the A5 and the RC for the 2015 model year.

2015 Lexus RC

The RC is a completely new model for 2015. Offered only as a coupe and based on the IS sedan, the RC touts two models -- a base-level RC 350 and a high-performance RC F -- along with rear- or all-wheel drive and a lot of cutting-edge features and equipment.

2015 Audi A5

The Audi A5 loses its front-wheel-drive Cabriolet version for 2015, meaning that all A5 models now come standard with all-wheel drive. Other changes involve a minor reshuffling of option packages and standard features.

Reliability

The Lexus RC is too new for reliability ratings from experts at J.D. Power. However, the IS sedan on which it's based earned a promising four circles in the firm's Power Circle Ratings, indicating better-than-average reliability. We hope the RC follows suit. The A5, meanwhile, earned only average ratings from J.D. Power.

When it comes to warranty length, the RC offers a slight advantage over the A5. While both cars tout 4 years or 50,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage, only the Lexus adds 6 years or 70,000 miles of powertrain protection. Although we'd change our minds if the Lexus earned a mediocre J.D. Power score, we think the RC has a slight edge compared to the A5 in this category.

Fuel Economy

The Lexus RC offers two engines. Base-level RC 350 models use a 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that's mated to either an 8-speed (rear-wheel drive) or 6-speed (all-wheel drive) automatic transmission. Fuel economy reaches as high as 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. Meanwhile, the high-performance RC F touts 467 hp and up to 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.

Base-level A5 models, meanwhile, use a 220-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder mated to manual or automatic transmissions if you choose the coupe or solely an automatic if you opt for the Cabriolet model. Fuel economy reaches up to 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy. The high-performance S5 boasts a 333-hp supercharged V6, which offers up to 18 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.

Though the A5 is the winner here, it also lags far behind the RC in terms of power and performance, so if you're looking for fuel economy with your 2-door luxury car, we suggest the A5 by a few mpg. In terms of engine power, however, the RC has a major advantage.

Safety

The federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not yet tested the RC or the A5. While the RC earned an excellent Top Safety Pick+ score from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Audi A5 has also not yet been tested by that firm for a crash-test safety rating.

When it comes to safety features, though, the RC offers some advantages over its older Audi rival. The Lexus boasts available rear cross-traffic alert -- not available in the Audi -- and a more advanced forward-collision alert system with improved automatic braking capabilities. Lexus' excellent Enform Safety Connect system also offers some unique advantages, such as a stolen-vehicle locator system and roadside assistance.

Between those safety benefits and the excellent IIHS crash-test score, we think the RC beats out the A5 in terms of safety, though we'd struggle to call either car unsafe because of their high-quality engineering and long lists of standard safety features.

Technology

If you're interested in technology, the Lexus offers some clear benefits over the Audi. We've covered a few of them above in the safety section, including the Lexus' unique Enform Safety Connect system, its improved forward-collision alert system and rear cross-traffic alert.

But it's not only safety where the Lexus has an advantage. The RC also touts some other technological benefits over the Audi, including an infotainment system with smartphone app integration, Lexus' excellent Enform Remote smartphone app and a lot more standard features such as keyless ignition and entry, a backup camera and LED headlights. This one's a no-brainer: If you like technology, you'll like the Lexus, and you probably won't be especially impressed with the aging Audi.

Value

If you've read this far, you might be wondering why we even bothered to compare the Lexus RC to the Audi A5. The Lexus offers far more power, far more technology, better reliability and a big advantage in terms of safety. It's almost like these cars are in different segments.

Or are they? When you check pricing, our comparison starts to make more sense: The RC starts around $43,700 with shipping, while the A5 starts at $41,000. But the RC has more standard stuff, and if you add enough options to the A5 so that it offers the same level of equipment as the RC, these two cars are priced about evenly. But even then, the RC still offers a lot of inherent advantages, making it our pick when it comes to value.

Autotrader's Advice

We think the 2015 Audi A5 is an excellent, well-built sporty car, and we've admired its appearance since the day it first went on sale for the 2008 model year. But the simple truth is that the luxury 2-door segment appears to be passing the A5 by, as it hasn't seen a major redesign since going on sale.

The RC offers more technology, more safety features, more power, and frankly, a more modern interior and exterior design, along with stronger reliability and a longer warranty. This one's a no-brainer: When given the choice between the A5 and the RC, we'd pick the RC. Unless, of course, we really wanted a convertible -- in which case the A5 is the only way to go. We'll cross our fingers that Lexus changes that sometime soon.

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2015 Lexus RC vs. 2015 Audi A5: Which Is Better? - Autotrader