Outstanding performance, Euro-chic sheet metal, good fuel economy, handsome cabin, standard all-wheel drive.
Multi Media Interface can be tedious and confusing to operate, cramped rear seat.
Typically, less is not more in the luxury car segment. As such, Audi's decision to give the 2010 Audi A5 a less powerful standard engine than its predecessor was initially a bit of a head-scratcher. Last year's 3.2-liter V6 is out, replaced with the more modest 2.0-liter turbocharged-4 seen in the A4 (note that the V6 is still available as an option, albeit only with the automatic transmission).
After driving the coupe -- and gassing it up at the pump -- the logic behind Audi's decision has become more apparent. Delivering unfailingly brisk acceleration, the torquey 2.0-liter offers enough juice to satisfy most drivers, with the added benefit of improved fuel economy.
This segment is thick with worthy contenders. The Mercedes-Benz E350 coupe offers superb performance and a poised, comfortable ride sweetened with a stunning cabin. BMW's 328i coupe rewards you with athletic handling and brisk acceleration. Infiniti's G37 coupe is another competent jock to consider.
However, none of these cars is as drop-dead gorgeous as the luscious A5 2.0T, and none comes with a more affordable price tag -- or better fuel economy. Fun to drive, relatively frugal and a pleasure to behold, the A5 2.0T coupe continues Audi's tradition of delivering a seductive blend of high style and solid value.
Offering a mediocre 211 ponies (you'll find more muscle in rivals like the 268-hp E350 and the 230-hp 328i), the A5's standard 2.0-liter turbo-4 is relatively light on horsepower. However, it's no slouch when it comes to torque: Its 258 pound-feet of thrust ensure that there's never a power deficit, regardless of the circumstance.
At the track, the A5 made the 0-60-mph sprint in 6.6 seconds. That's reasonably quick, but there are quicker choices available; the G37, for example, completed this run in just 5.7 seconds. At 3,625 pounds, our A5 wasn't a bantamweight. Still, it felt quite tossable on the road, with no hint of sluggishness or heaviness in its handling.
Shifts from the six-speed manual transmission were smooth and crisp. Braking was outstanding, with the A5 stopping from 60 mph in just 108 feet -- a distance that stands as one of the most impressive in this class, ahead of the stopping distance achieved by choices like the G37 (110 feet). Pedal feel remained consistent throughout all runs. Steering was pleasantly light, but not too light so as to be uncommunicative.
The A5 whipped through the slalom at a very impressive 70 mph, navigating the cones with quick response times and excellent manners. Thanks to its superlative performance, our test drivers bestowed the car with a "Very Good" handling rating -- the top rating available. Still, if performance is your priority, keep in mind that the quick and endlessly nimble 328i will make a more entertaining companion.
Pull up to the pump and the A5's unassuming 2.0-liter really pays off. With EPA ratings of 22 city/30 highway mpg and 25 mpg combined, this Audi boasts fuel economy that's pretty impressive for this segment. It's the most frugal choice available in this class, well ahead of competitors like the G37 (19/27) and E350 (17/26). We averaged 23 mpg in mainly city driving.
Ride quality is as comfortable as a pair of lived-in chinos. Though the A5 has sharp reflexes and glides over asphalt with the confidence of a kaiser, its performance prowess never translates into harshness or brittleness on the road. It's comparable to the E350 in this respect, and perhaps a shade gentler than the 328i.
Our test car was equipped with the optional sport seats, and they proved to be a comfortable fit for our editors; unlike other sport seats, their bolstering isn't overly aggressive, and we imagine that they'd be accommodating even to those of wider girth. Front-row legroom and headroom were adequate, and the cabin did a good job of keeping road and wind noise at bay. Clamber into the backseat and you'll find that there's barely enough room for even a small child. Adults will do OK back there on short trips, but don't plan on seating grown-ups in the rear on long journeys.
The A5 features Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI); our test car's system is governed by a knob and four surrounding buttons, located on the center console. Using the MMI was at best tedious, and at worst, frustrating. Multiple clicks through multiple menus were required for basic tasks like tuning the radio and managing iPod selections. As far as the nav system is concerned, the MMI made executing simple tasks like map zoom a challenge. Still, in the MMI's defense, one of our editors who has had extensive experience with the interface reports that usage becomes easier and more hassle-free with time.
Despite the coupe's rising beltline and fairly significant C-pillar, visibility is excellent. Helping matters are a rearview camera and rear parking sensors, which come as part of the optional Navigation package. The sensors aren't overly sensitive, and as a result, they provide the kind of feedback that you're likely to trust, rather than ignore.
Door openings are quite wide, and this provides lots of room for passengers to make their way into and out of the coupe. The downside to this is that the doors themselves are quite long; this can serve to hinder entry and exit in tight parking spaces.
Thanks to its wide door openings, the A5 is more child-seat-friendly than most coupes. Getting the seat into the car is a breeze; still, limited legroom in back makes a rear-facing child seat a tight fit with taller (over 6 feet or so) front passengers.
Pop the trunk and you'll find a perfectly respectable 12 cubic feet of storage room. This makes the A5's trunk roomier than the G37's (7.4 cubic feet), but less spacious than the E350's (15.9 cubic feet). This Audi's trunk was able to handle golf clubs and a suitcase with zero drama.
Appearance really is the A5's strong suit. German luxury cars are typically distinguished by their chilly, angular aesthetic, but this Audi breaks that mold, with sheet metal sculpted in sensual curves that are immediately luscious and warmly inviting. This car has the sort of beauty that most people tend to get right away, and it proved to be a universal head-turner.
Inside the cabin, the look is one of muted elegance. Materials quality is superb, controls are well-weighted and the gauge and dash illumination is gentle and soothing. Our test car's build quality all around was impeccable.
The A5 is a top-notch choice for singles and couples seeking a luxury coupe offering glamour that's firmly rooted in practicality. It looks great and performs quite well, and comes with a relatively affordable price tag and good fuel economy. However, those seeking the best performer in the segment will want to bypass this Audi in favor of a more muscular and athletic choice, like the BMW 328i. Speed demons who like the look of this Audi may also want to take a look at the more expensive S5, which offers the same sheet metal as the A5 with a more performance-oriented powertrain.