Audi A5

By Design Front

1. This substantial body-side indent with its upsweeping highlight provides drama and improves the visual stance, making one thinnk the body is nose-down.

2. There's not a lot to say about the generic "nice coupe" upper structure. There are no flaws, but there is neither innovation nor specific character.

3. The key line of the whole design, and probably the cause for de'Silva's satisfaction with the beauty of the A5, is this undulating crisp separation of the top and the sides of the body.

4. Not all the simple rectangles they appear to be at first glance, the headlamps are subtly artful in their curved edges, included placement, adn internal detailing.

5. The huge four-ring badge is superfluous. The large shield grille makes marque identity unmistakable, even from half a mile away.

6. Paint is not an ideal bumper facing, and one is obliged to wonder how well the whole front end will stand up to rough-and-tumble daily driving.

By Design Rear

7. The rear lamps are disappointingly ordinary. They carry the crisp side line across their width, but in general, they lack inspiration.

8. Notice all the hard lines sculpted into the lower part of the rear bumper fascia. They work to keep the strike face above relatively slim and lead downward and forward to the black panel around the exhaust pipes.

9. Coming off the upper forward point of the rear lamp cluster is a hard line that acts as an aerodynamic cutoff and helps increase luggage volume. Rear body surfacing is elegantly done.

By Design Interior

10. The backrest side bolsters are quite dramatic, recalling the seats of numerous 1950s Ferrari luxury GTs.

11. The steering wheel is frankly too sedanlike for this car. Something a lot more dramatic but equally safe and practical would have been a welcome addition.

12. The tunnels around the two main dials terminate in a complex, almost grotesque, perimeter. Not up to usual Audi stylistic standards, although flawlessly made and installed.

13. The glare shield starts at the floor, then sweeps up and forward before turning across the car and over the gauges, providing shade for the nav screen along the way.

Horizontal Red Line

I like and respect Walter Maria de'Silva, one of the best design leaders working today, but I don't always agree with him. I frankly disliked his Lamborghini Miura Concept last year, and his recent statement that the Audi A5 coupe is "the most beautiful car I have ever designed" definitely put us on separate tracks. It is a very nice car, make no mistake about it, but to me, it is neither as beautiful nor as groundbreaking as the decade-old Alfa Romeo 156 sedans and Sportwagons that de'Silva created. Those cars brought the venerable Milanese firm back to stylistic respectability after the horrors of the broken-back Milano and other misbegotten objects awkwardly carrying the badge that has graced innumerable Mille Miglia, Le Mans, and grand prix winners from the pre-Fiat era.

Never mind. Most beautiful or not, de'Silva indeed created a beautiful car, one that is clearly in the Grand Touring--rather than sport coupe--tradition. I wouldn't want to ride very far in its low-headroom rear seats, but the luxurious cabin is well-finished to Audi standards--that is, better than almost anything costing less than $100,000, whatever its provenance.

Concerning aspects of this design that I do agree with and think important, look at what de'Silva has done with form with respect to the wheels. Audi cars--all but the racers--have for ages had a single-form lower body, a "pontoon" conceptually equivalent to (among others) a 1947 Kaiser, one of Howard "Dutch" Darrin's least-pleasing projects. Wheel and grille openings were cut into that bar-of-soap shape, but the overall form in no way reflected the roundness of wheels. That's true of many cars and explains why there are so many cases of "fenders" being applied to the sides of modern cars such as the Mercedes-Benz S-class.

One reason many people love T-series MGs or Jaguar SS100s is that their fender shapes are obviously derived from their wheels. Pontoon Ferraris that people love almost always have voluptuous organic forms over and around the wheels. De'Silva has brought that sensibility to Audi, first with some creases along the sides of the A3, now adding a sinuous line that moves up and aft from the slightly slanted headlamps' outer corners then drops through the doors and rises over the rear wheels. An ascending wedge line cut into the door gives dynamism to what otherwise would be bland, almost pudgy, body sides. Like most recent Audis, in fact.

European pedestrian safety requirements have caused central nose sections to rise and be rounded, as we see here. What de'Silva has done is make a soft dome of the area behind the grille, then drop the surfaces via a little joggle, then taper them outward and downward to that sinuous line. It all works well to keep the car looking rather lithe, when in fact it is not.

Not lithe, not the most beautiful car de'Silva has ever designed, but still a magnificent object that will satisfy thousands. Including me.

By Design Detail

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