• Jul 14th 2010 at 11:58AM
  • 65
2010 Audi A5 – click above for high-res image gallery

With the introduction of the A5 for 2008, Audi launched itself into a vehicle segment it had never competed in – one which has waned significantly over the past two decades. Not so long ago, the personal luxury coupe was one of the top selling segments in the U.S., but for a wide variety of reasons, the overall sales picture left it behind.

Now you might ask yourself, "How is an A5 in any way similar to the likes of a 1970s-era Chevrolet Monte Carlo or Ford Thunderbird?" At first glance, the A5 is something completely different, but when you dig below the surface, there are more similarities than one might think – particularly when considering the 2.0T model. Except for a few NASCAR-inspired specials, PLCs of the 1970s weren't typically performance machines anyway – they focused more on style and creature comforts. And it's here where the A5 delivers.

Photos by Sam Abuelsamid / Max Abuelsamid / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Over the past two decades, Audi has been steadily climbing the ranks to become one of the preeminent automotive design houses. Concepts through the 1990s and the 2000s included the original TT and Nuvolari showed that Audi was capable of delivering more than bland German executive lunchboxes. The real explosion began when the first-generation TT entered production, and ever since, Audi's lineup has grown bolder with each successive model. The birth of the A5 brought mainstream Audi design to a whole new level, and it's fair to say that not only is this coupe is among the most attractive Audis in existence, it's probably one of the best looking coupes we've seen in decades.

While the high-powered S5 coupe and cabrio balance sophistication with performance, the reality is most A5s are powered by a much milder 2.0-liter TFSI inline-four. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Larger coupes have almost always been more about style than substance, but all vehicle segments evolve over time, and the coupe market has proven no different. Over the years, mass-market brands looking to flesh out their lineups have embraced coupes as a way to add new variants of existing models without ballooning costs. The result was a proliferation of "coupes" that were often little more than two-door sedans that sacrificed ease of rear access without adding any real style. Worse yet, American personal luxury coupes became baroque and grotesque, and ultimately, a lack of substance contributed to their eventual demise.

We've become quite familiar with the A5's shape over the last several years and it's holding up incredibly well. Sharing the same mid-sized B8 platform as the A4 sedan/wagon and Q5 crossover, the A5 is clearly a modern Audi. However, the A5 has unique dimensions and proportions from its siblings, being lower, longer and wider than the A4 sedan, while riding on a shorter wheelbase. Combined with the 19-inch wheels, the overall effect is a more voluptuous effect than its sedan sibling.

The interior of the A5 will be instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with contemporary Audis. Two large primary gauges flank a central information display where the driver can page through an array of data. Everything from fuel economy to iPod tracks are directly in front to minimize looking away from the road. Our A5 tester was blessed with the Sport Package's optional front chairs, and their enhanced lateral bolstering and manually extendable thigh bolsters were more than welcome. The thick-rimmed steering wheel is grippy and adjustable for both reach and rake.

The racier roofline of the A5 means that the driver's hip point is commensurately lower. It's still nowhere near as sunken as the perches of most sports cars, but the A5 may not be ideal for those with mobility issues. As you might expect, access and accommodations in the rear seats aren't exactly commodious, although rear headroom is adequate (we managed to stuff a six-footer in back), anyone with longer-than-average legs may have an issue fitting comfortably in the back. At least there's a switch that motors the entire front seat forward, allowing rear passengers some latitude to control their own limited leg room.

While we are generally loathe to turn down more power, it makes sense to us that the best-selling member of the A5 family – by far – is powered by the Volkswagen Group's sweet 2.0-liter TFSI inline-four, putting out 211 horsepower and 256 pound-feet of torque. In this application, Audi's TFSI system includes a turbocharger and direct fuel injection, the latter of which allows the use of higher compression ratios and boost pressures without triggering piston-destroying knock. As a result, the relatively small engine can generate some serious torque over a broad rpm range, delivering power levels that would normally necessitate the application of a larger and less efficient engine.

A normally aspirated and direct-injected 3.2-liter V6 is also available, but while it produces 265 hp, it's down on torque to the inline-four with just 243 lb-ft. Further, the beefier powertrain adds an extra 200 pounds of heft, so you gain nothing over the four-cylinder model in performance and consume more fuel at the same time. With the extra weight hung out over the front axle, you also don't net anything in driver engagement, especially in North America, where V6 is paired exclusively with six-speed automatic transmission. The bottom line? Both models accelerate to 60 miles per hour in 6.4 seconds and you stand to have more fun getting there in the 2.0T, though one could certainly argue that the V6 makes a more appealing noise.

The best driver-oriented combination in the A5 family is also the least expensive – the four-pot paired with Audi's six-speed manual gearbox. The manual remains one of our favorites 'boxes thanks to its slick action and short throws. The clutch travel is smooth and predictable, making it easy to manage in stop-and-go traffic. Combined with the 2.0T's surprisingly robust torque curve, this combination provides some flexibility to drive in traffic without constantly rowing through the gears. The four-cylinder A5 may not win any drag races against some other sports coupes, but the DI turbo has more than enough grunt to instantly carry out passing maneuvers on a two-lane road without triggering any undue anxiety.

Another benefit of the entry-level drivetrain is its more desirable weight distribution. Along with the 40/60 front-rear torque split of the latest Quattro all-wheel-drive, there's remarkably little understeer compared to past Audis. Unlike the S4, the A5 doesn't feature Audi's trick torque vectoring rear differential, but buyers looking to push their coupe hard enough to notice will probably opt for the higher-performance model anyway. One thing every driver will notice, however, is the electro-hydraulic power steering assist. It's a tad light at low speeds, but firms up beautifully as speeds increase and has no disconcerting on-center dead zone.

Our A5 tester wasn't equipped with Audi's Drive Select, a system that includes variable damping and steering ratios, but it wasn't missed. On this model, the balance of spring and damping rates made trudging along the rough pavement of mid-Michigan a pleasure, without sacrificing dynamic responsiveness in the process. At 3,583 pounds, the A5 isn't a featherweight by any means, but Audi seems to have used the mass effectively to ensure it has built a solid structure. Even over the worst roads, the coupe remained tight and rattle-free.

With its graceful lines and classic proportions, the 2.0-liter A5 coupe really is the modern incarnation of the personal luxury coupe, albeit without the indulgent proportions, consumption and garishness of its 1970s antecedents. The A5 provides a great-looking ride for a couple while accommodating two more in a pinch. Its performance would have humbled pure sports cars not too long ago, and despite its small engine, even in moderately aggressive driving, it never feels like it's breathing hard. Even with little consideration for economy, our 2.0T-powered A5 returned a very respectable 25 miles per gallon in mixed driving.

As of mid-2010, Audi remains the only premium European brand offering four-cylinder engines in the U.S. market, and its consistent growth over the last several years indicates it may be on to something. Mercedes-Benz and BMW have both indicated that they will bring four-cylinder (and in BMW's case maybe even three-cylinder) engines back to their respective lineups in the coming years. You might think that a premium car with a four-banger might be just a loss-leader special, but Audi is showing it doesn't have to be so. At $44,750 including Premium, Sport and Navigation packages, the A5 is not inexpensive, but it's an attractive alternative to six-cylinder coupes like the BMW 3-Series, Cadillac CTS, Mercedes-Benz E350 and Infiniti G37, while providing better fuel economy to boot.

Photos by Sam Abuelsamid / Max Abuelsamid / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Cross shopped an A5 with a G37 coupe last year and bought the G37. The A5 optioned out the same as the G37 was $6000 more and the G37's engine is more inspiring.
        • 5 Years Ago
        yup, if engine is all you care about, it's hard to fault the g37, i'd take it over the 335i. it's engine is every bit as good as it's interior is bad... pretty much the antithesis of the a5 and an easy choice for someone who's primary overarching priority beyond anything is engine performance and noise, if you're in love it's easy to look past that interior et-al, and nice to save out over the a5 or 3 series.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Is this premium or premium plus? I don't see the sport package available on just the premium
      • 5 Years Ago
      Just saw one of these during the commute home yesterday. From the back, this thing looks astounding, even Aston Martinesque. The front doesn't have near as much Wow, but at least it's not overdone.

      On the whole personal Luxury Coupes topic, when they're done well, they're wonderful daily drivers. You can't help but think, "Damn, I look good in this car." Yes, that's silly, and yes, this is not a particularly practical form factor, but it's still true.

      I had an 89 Benz E Class coupe, called the 300CE back when MB badging had direct translations ("3.0 liter, Coupe, Fuel Injected"), and it had such a different presence from the 4-door E Class.

      The only other big thing the A5 is missing (or not missing) is the pillarless window opening. Convertibles use it, but it sure is nice on hardtops to be able to roll down the front and back side windows.

      Would the CTS Coupe be a loser if they had called it the Eldorado?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Once the e-class coupe becomes common on American roads, this car will become an also-ran in my opinion.

      I love the a5 and considered buying one since it's so much cheaper than you'd expect but I went on a business trip to Spain and saw an all white e-class coupe on the highway.

      I had to slow down and give the guy a thumbs up. That car is a thing of beauty.

      Like someone above said, this car becomes very bland after you've seen the e.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Good looking car.... somehow this looks more fitting then the more powerful models with they blown up body parts and huge rims.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Front end's bad, rear is by far the most perfect variant of the '5 yet.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You're right. The base models look better, much cleaner, sleeker, and more dignified.
        • 5 Years Ago
        S5 is much better looking than A5 or RS5. The white thing in the front of RS5 is hideous.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I miss the personal luxury coupe market... I wish Lincoln and Cadillac would come back to it and compete with the Mark series and Eldarado once again...
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's the rims. The way they kind of turn with the wheel, denoting speed at rest, the way the spokes split as they approach the rim, the slightly-gray color: Audi really got it right here. The A6 has a similar wheel design this year, but it looks odd and not as well executed. The S5 just has somewhat standard looking 5 spokes. which look a little skinny for some reason.

        Just my 2 p.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Should be noted the 2.0T can be chipped to get a nice hp and huge torque gains for $500.

        The 5 is so sexy. One co-worker has the V6 A5, another has the A5 convertible turbo and my boss has the s5 so I get to see them all every day (I drive an A4).
        • 5 Years Ago
        Agreed, I especially like the S5 and RS5 version of it. Sweet car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        with their*
        • 5 Years Ago
        Definitely one of the most iconic cars on the road today. Maybe even an instant classic.

        Too bad there isn't a slightly larger version built off the A6 platform. The A5/S5 is a little small for my needs, otherwise I would probably be driving the S5.
        • 5 Years Ago
        My vote is for the euro Sportback version - WHICH MY WIFE WOULD BUY IMMEDIATELY IF THEY SOLD IN IN THE US!!!! Audi?? Please?
        • 5 Years Ago
        i'll agree to disagree, the RS5 is by far the greatest looking RS car audi's ever built and easily the best looking model in the a5 family.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I like it all. Front, back, side, inside. It's all a great design. I drove the S5 6-speed and while fun, the steering feel wasn't as tight as my lowly E90. Shame, that....really, since this is such a beautiful machine!
      • 5 Years Ago
      This car suffers from a big problem.

      Driveline choice. Which may at first blush seem an odd thing.

      The 2.0T is ok, and it is available with a manual, but not DSG...

      But If you step up to the expensive A5 3.2 V6, you get automatic only. No manual OR DSG, and it starts over 40-grand.

      Stepping up to the S5, you start to get a really nice car... but it is $$$$$$$, and still no DSG, but at least it has a manual option.

      RS5 FINALLY gets you a DSG, but at nearly 100K. At that price, I'd rather have an R8, even a bit used, but there again, R-tronic isn't well favored there, no DSG. Thankfully the 6MT is offered in the R8.

      And for the A5 coupe's sleek looks, it isn't as modest of weight as it could be, and doesn't have a liftback like A5 Sportback. I am getting a bit sick of cars that could easily have liftbacks, but instead have tiny little trunk-lid openings that serve as cargo-size bottle necks... the trunk can hold more than the trunk lid opening will allow, in some cases.

      Also... I kinda wish the A5 had the A4's headlights, with the non-flat bottom edge. Just a bit more sophisticated looking, but that is a very minor thing.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This is spot on. The 2.0T has good low/mid torque, but it is not enjoyable to rev, it's not as smooth as any inline 6 and it does not sound or feel sporting -- all it has going for it is efficiecy, but people buying $40-50K coupes usually want more than efficiency.

        The 3.2 V6 is just not a competitive engine -- not particularly smooth, not quick reving, not efficient and not available with a manual transmission or DSG. It's no wonder Audi sells very few V6 A5s and they no longer offer the 3.2 V6 on the A4 at all.

        One new midrange engine and the option of DSG could make the A5 very competitive, but the current drivetrains are a big letdown if you have any sporting desire.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think this is the most beautiful non-exotic car on the road today. I'll be making a purchase in the next 6-8 months, and am really tempted by the A5. If I can find a used A5 (heard it's tough), I'll definitely consider it since I want to buy and not lease.

      Only thing holding me back is Audi reliability. Recent Audi/VW owners, do you think this is a consideration? I plan to keep the car for a good amount of time (i.e. over five years), and don't want to be killed by maintenance costs. But it's just such a hot car....
      • 5 Years Ago
      Stunning. Want.
      • 5 Years Ago
      There are three A5's in my neighborhood now. I just love watching them come down the street with the "evil eyes" all aglow. Very cool!
      • 5 Years Ago
      No question, the A5 is a real looker and a nice luxo-coupe, but it's lacking the tools to be a more sporting vehicle. I test drove a A5 2.0T manual with the Sports Package (basically the car used in this review) and it was immediately clear that it was no match for a 3 Series Coupe in terms of driving dynamics.

      The 2.0T engine had a highly uneven throttle response with the familar "is it on or off boil?" feeling that's common to many turbocharged engines that rely too much on boost to create power. It felt like my old MazdaSpeed 6 in this regard -- flat down low, followed by a huge boost plateau, followed by flat up high. I'd rather have the 328i engine -- even though it's down a bit on torque to the 2.0T, at least it's linear and smooth, much more fun to drive.

      The steering was too light and lacked feel.

      The handling was OK, but a bit ponderous -- the mass of the car was very evident.

      The worst part was the flinty ride. I've owned a few Audis and VWs with sporting pretentions and they all suffered from the same issue: springs that were too soft and shocks that were too firm for the U.S. market. The end result is a sometimes crashy, boomy ride like a firm sports car, but still too much body roll and slop -- the worst of both worlds and a poor tradeoff. The 19" rims on the A5 felt extremely heavy and they loudly divebombed into normal pavement imperfections and regular rain gutters at minor intersections. I don't know how much unsprung weight is represented by the 19" wheels and tires, but I can say that the suspension was not equipped to handle them. maybe the regular wheels/tires would be better, but thn you give up the sports seats and other goodies.

      As much as I wanted to get an A5 -- it was my first choice -- I only found two advantages: styling (again, best in class right now IMO) and true Torsen Quattro (which I love). Unfortunately, driving the A5 pushed me into a 335i Coupe and I have no regrets.

      Also, keep in mind that if you lease cars, Audis still don't offer lease deals that compete with BMW dollar for dollar, largely because BMW sets such high residuals for their most popular cars. It's not unheard of for a $45K Audi to lease for the same or slightly more than a $50K BMW, so keep that in mind when comparing prices between an A4/A5 and a 3 Series.

      I really wish Audi offered a sports model in between the A5 2.0T and the S5 with its big, gas-guzzling V8, but the A5 3.2 V6 is not competitive at all and it offers no manual transmission. Because the A5 3.2 V6 is so lacking and the S5 starts at $54K, Audi is allowing BMW to really own the $40K-50K market with the 335i.

      I'm a big Audi fan and I wish the A5 were more sports, less luxury, but I know everyone is different.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I understand the technical thinking that you have to compare a 328xi to the A5 Quattro to make them as even as possible, but that's not how the marketplace works 95% of the time. Audi only offers the A5 Coupe with AWD in the U.S. and BMW sells very few AWD coupes, so reality dictates that one compare a 328i Coupe and a 335i Coupe to an A5 Quattro Coupe because that's what people will find when they walk into dealer showrooms.

        Either way, the BMW wins dynamically and that's my larger point. Believe me when I saw I'm a huge Audi fan -- I've had 4 of them -- but I found that the A5 was neither more sporty nor more luxurious nor less expensive than a 3 Series Coupe when equally configured. I keep hearing about how Audi interiors are more refined, etc. but I just don't see it or feel it. The A5 I drove was no more refined or luxurious than a 3 Series Coupe and in some ways, it's actually less refined (especially ride quality and rear seat accomodations).

        So if it the A5 is not more luxurious or more sporting, what's the point of differentiation? The A5 may win on style and taste to some eyes, and that I understand, but that can happen with any car -- excellent design can gloss over a lot of shortcomings.

        Empirically, the only advantage the A5 may have is standard Quattro if you really need it (most people don't) and possibly better fuel economy, though I'm not convinced an A5 2.0T will get much better mileage than a 328i in real world driving.

        Also, I'm not sure what you mean when you say the A5 will "actual speed better," but a 328i is at least as fast as an A5 2.0T, possibly faster.

        Lastly, I don't think you can discount the lease price factor -- I've never seen any data to suggest people buy Audis at a much higher rate than they buy BMWs. In the $40K+ U.S. luxury car market, leasing is very common across the board.
        • 5 Years Ago

        I drove an A4 during the same visit when I drove the A5, though the A4 was an automatic (all the dealer had at the time). The steering on the A4 was so quick and electronic feeling that I barely took the car around the block and returned straight to the dealer saying "no way." I felt like I was playing a video game.

        The steering on the A5 was better, but still not as good as the 3 Series or, oddly, our last Audi, a 2006 A4 Avant 3.2.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "This car will be finding its way back onto the dealers lot as soon as I can decide on something else to buy."

        There are good deals on Cadlillac CTS coupes if you hurry!

        As for me, I'll take the A5 and get the APR flash upgrade for the 2.0T.
        • 5 Years Ago
        woah, best reply I've seen in ages, enjoy the 3 series coupe, it's a looker :D
        • 5 Years Ago
        "so reality dictates that one compare a 328i Coupe and a 335i Coupe to an A5 Quattro Coupe because that's what people will find when they walk into dealer showrooms."

        Not in these parts. They're all AWD. (New England)
      • 5 Years Ago
      PURE BEAUTY!!!!! Simply perfect!!!!
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