Thumbs Up: Arguably one of the best-looking cars on the road today
Thumbs Down: No insulated cover for the sunroof
Buy This Car If: You’re looking for style with a reasonable dose of performance and handling
As jaded auto journalists, it’s easy for us to find fault with nearly every car we’re given the keys to. Many strike us as underpowered, some have cramped interiors and others fail to deliver a driving experience on par with expectations. Every once in a while a car comes along that surprises us by exceeding our preconceived notions in almost every possible way. Such is the case with the slightly-restyled-for-2013 Audi A5 Coupe.
While this is completely subjective, we find the A5 (and its S5 and RS5 brothers) to be among the best looking cars on the road today, and perhaps the most visually appealing car in Audi’s current lineup. We’d call the car’s lines “timeless,” and we’re absolutely certain it will look as good in 10 or even 20 years as it does today. While some may find its lines to be a bit too conservative, we’d gladly take that over the in-your-face aggressive styling that seems to populate automotive design these days.
From the front, Audi’s distinctive and oversized grille is hard to miss. It’s offset by narrow headlights, enhanced with LED daytime running lights, and by lower fascia vents that also house thin, rectangular driving lights. Both grille and vents are finished in black, which provided a striking contrast on our white coupe.
We see a hint of the old Coupe quattro in the A5’s profile, especially in the C-pillar. Though the car carries a fairly high beltline and small daylight opening (trimmed with a narrow chrome strip), outward visibility is excellent, and these design features enhance the car’s already-sporty appearance. Even the 18-inch wheels, in a split-five-spoke design sprayed in silver, look great on the car.
Our favorite view, though, has to be the rear three-quarter view. Here, it’s easy to see the car’s gently sloping roof and narrow C-pillar. You can visually follow the upper character line, which runs from the taillights, across the fenders and door to the headlights; or the lower line, which sweeps gently upward from the front fender, across the door, to the rear fender. We’d argue that the A5 Coupe doesn’t have a bad angle, but in terms of styling detail, the rear side view is what we find most interesting.
Inside, shoppers will find that the A5’s cabin is up to Audi’s usual standards of excellence. The dash and center stack are wrapped in pebble grain, soft-touch vinyl, trimmed with metallic accents. Controls and instruments are shrouded, giving the driver a cockpit-like feel while gracing the passenger with his own neatly-defined space. Complaints here are minor indeed – the steering wheel could be a bit thicker for our tastes, and the audio system’s controls took a bit of trial and error learning to master.
Instrumentation is well laid out, with the tachometer and speedometer split by a large information display. Like all Volkswagen Group products, this delivers an impressive amount of information in clear fashion, making us wonder why few other automakers embrace this design. It’s also worth noting that the speedometer is easy to read at a glance, thanks to the narrowly-spaced gradations above 100 mph. In the United States, the difference between 110 mph and 120 mph is largely academic, since both will result in hefty fines and numerous points on your license. Providing easy-to acquire markings between 30 and 80 mph is far more important, as this is where most drivers spend the bulk of their time. It’s a minor point, but we think it speaks to Audi’s attention to detail.
Front seats are wrapped in sturdy leather (on seating surfaces, anyway), trimmed with ornamental stitching. While the seats in our Premium Plus package A5 lacked significant hip or side bolsters, we can’t complain about their comfort or adjustability. Sport seats (with bolstering for spirited driving) are included as part of the available $750 Sport Package or $2,800 S-Line package, giving buyers options depending upon needs, budget and trim level selected.
Rear seats offer up reasonable head room and leg room for average-sized adults. There are only accommodations for two second-row passengers, but those of average dimensions won’t object to sitting in the back. As with most coupes, the low roofline and limited rear-seat access can make entry and exit a challenge for those with limited mobility, so think about who you’ll be transporting on a regular basis before you take delivery.
One issue that residents of hot-weather states will need to overcome is radiant heat through the panoramic sunroof. The inside cover is uninsulated fabric, and we noticed that cabin temps got quite high when parked in the Florida sun. It’s a minor point, but buyers in Southern states may want to find a way to shade the sunroof when parking outside in summer.
Power comes exclusively from Audi’s 2.0-liter TFSI engine, seemingly ubiquitous throughout Audi’s product line these days. Though rated at 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the four-cylinder turbo feels even stronger, and can propel eight-speed Tiptronic transmission-equipped cars from 0-60 mph in just 6.2 seconds (6.4 with the six-speed manual). All A5 coupes also come with the sure-footed traction of Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system, which gives drivers added peace of mind in inclement weather. Despite the AWD, the EPA says to expect 20 mpg from the A5 in city driving, and 30 mpg on the highway. Our 26.1 mpg, achieved with a mix of city and highway miles (and mostly in Sport transmission mode) seems to back up these claims.
Rather that using a push button or keyed ignition, the A5 starts by inserting the key all the way into the dashboard slot with your foot on the brake pedal. One the engine fires up, drivers of Tiptronic-equipped models need to choose between “Drive” and “Sport” modes, which differ primarily in how long the transmission holds a gear. Either is fine for general driving, but as the the name implies, Sport delivers better acceleration at the expense of fuel economy.
Audi has done a superb job with engine tuning. Unlike Volkswagen’s 2.0-liter turbos, there is no stumble off-idle, just smooth and linear acceleration to near redline. Gear changes, whether performed by the car or driver, are fairly quick, adding to the sporting feel of the A5. While some may complain that a V-6 engine isn’t an available option, the four-cylinder turbo is good enough that most drivers won’t miss the added cylinders. Besides, a V-6 is available in the S5, and a V8 is your only engine choice in the RS5.
The 2013 A5 gets electric steering, but effort feels just about perfect and the front tires still deliver quite a bit of feedback to the driver. Turn-in is quick enough, and there’s little body roll in corners to speak of – in fact, you’ll reach the limit of the tires before you reach the limit of the suspension. That said, the A5 isn’t really a sports car, and it probably wouldn’t deliver that much entertainment value on the track (which is why Audi also builds the higher-performance S5 and RS5 models). As a daily driver, however, we found the A5 to be ideally suited to our driving style and expectations, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend shopping it against other luxury coupes.
Audi supplied the A5 for the purpose of our evaluation, and our Tiptronic-transmission equipped model had a starting price of $39,945, including the $895 delivery charge. Options on our coupe included the $3,550 Premium Plus package (auto dimming rearview mirror with compass; auto dimming, heated outside mirrors; Audi music interface with iPod cable; Bluetooth phone integration; heated front seats with driver’s seat memory; Homelink garage door opener; HID headlights; LED daytime running lights and LED taillights) and the $140 Polished Exhaust Tips for a total sticker price of $43,645.
For comparison, a similarly-equipped BMW 328i xDrive coupe would sticker at $45,745, while a comparable (but more powerful) Mercedes-Benz C350 4Matic would price at $49,145.