What's New for 2008
The 2008 Audi A5 is an all-new midsize luxury sport coupe. Based on the Audi A4 sedan, the A5 promises more engaging handling than any recent mainstream Audi and comes wrapped in seductive sheet metal.
Passion over practicality? When one is shopping in the luxury sport coupe segment, most definitely. Luxury sport sedans provide virtually identical performance and comfort plus extra practicality, but sometimes the passionate pull of a coupe's swanky body style is too strong to resist. And when it comes to style, not much else in this class can match the 2008 Audi A5 coupe.
All-new for this year, the A5 (as well as its high-performance sibling, the S5) is instantly desirable thanks to its curvaceous sheet metal, which performs the rare task of being both elegant and muscular. Backing up this bionic Jaime Sommers-like bod is Audi's direct-injected V6 that makes 265 horsepower, a six-speed transmission (manual or automatic) and Quattro all-wheel drive.
Although much of the A5's platform is shared with the A4 sedan, there are a few key differences that further the coupe's sporting intentions. Among those tweaks are a new front suspension design, a longer wheelbase and a repackaging of the engine, transmission and steering rack. The result is improved weight distribution and handling, for more precise steering feel and action. These upgrades are slated to make it on the next-generation A4 sedan as well.
A key advantage for those who live with slippery weather conditions is the A5's AWD, a feature shared only with BMW's 328xi and 335xi coupes. With a 40/60-percent front-to-rear power split, the Quattro system provides a rear-wheel-drive car's crisp handling dynamics along with the extra grip of AWD. Other Audi assets include an expectedly handsome cabin filled with luxury features such as triple-zone climate control and finely finished leather and wood trim.
The 2008 Audi A5 faces some tough competition, however, in the form of the BMW 328i and 335i coupes, Infiniti G37 and Mercedes-Benz CLK350. The G37 is the bargain of the group, with its class-leading power and low price tag, though it can't match the warm cabin and overall polished demeanor of the A5. The Benz offers little beyond prestige, starting out at six grand more than the A5 while lacking the Audi's engaging character. The BMW siblings are the Audi's most direct competition, boasting superior driving dynamics along with reasonable pricing -- the 328i is considerably cheaper than the A5, and the 335i is only marginally more expensive, though adding AWD does bump up the Bimmers' prices. Really, there's not a bad one in the bunch. Just as long as you know you're choosing passion over practicality.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Audi A5 is an entry-level luxury coupe. There is only one trim level. Standard feature highlights include 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, tri-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic tilt-up sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, eight-way power front seats, leather upholstery and a 10-speaker audio system with CD changer and satellite radio.
Options include 19-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, auto-dimming mirrors, a self-opening trunk lid, Bluetooth, keyless ignition, heated seats, parking assist (with rearview camera), a navigation system with an iPod interface and a 505-watt Bang & Olufsen premium audio system. There is also the "S-line" package that includes a sport suspension with 19-inch alloy wheels, unique front and rear fascias, sport seats (with more aggressive side bolsters), paddle shifters (for Tiptronic-equipped cars) and aluminum interior accents.
Powertrains and Performance
A 3.2-liter V6 with direct-injection technology powers the 2008 A5. Output stands at 265 hp and 243 pound-feet of torque. The V6 comes matched to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox ("Tiptronic") with manual shift control. Audi claims the manual-transmission A5 will run from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. Our best time with an automatic-equipped A5 was 6.4 seconds.
Antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags all come standard.
Interior Design and Special Features
Typically Audi, the A5's cabin impresses with finely stitched leather, impeccable fit and finish and real wood trim (aluminum with the S-line package). The company's MMI (Multi Media Interface) multifunction controller works the audio, climate and (if equipped) navigation systems. Unlike its German rivals, however, Audi's controller is mostly intuitive and easy to use once you clear the still-steep learning curve.
The multiadjusting front seats offer all-day touring comfort, although lateral support for spirited driving is lacking unless you opt for the S-line's upgraded sport seats. The rear compartment offers seating for two, though taller folks will find under-thigh support and legroom somewhat lacking. The trunk offers 16.1 cubic feet of cargo capacity (large for a sedan, let alone a coupe) and the rear seat flips down to accommodate more, if need be.
With its longer wheelbase (compared to the A4), the 2008 Audi A5 has less mass hanging out over the front tires, which translates into more responsive steering and crisper turn-in. The wheel's effort is a bit light at lower speeds, but its precise action inspires confidence when unraveling a favorite twisty road.
The spirited V6 provides likewise eager response, while the manual transmission's shifter has somewhat long, but light-effort throws with firm engagement. Though at first they may seem touchy, the A5's brakes are strong and linear once you acclimate to them.