2008 Audi A5 and S5

Behold Audi‘s first coupes in over a decade. And unlike the previous Audi coupes, the A5 isn’t a hatchback. Designer Walter de’Silva declares this to be his most beautiful car yet, and we’re not inclined to disagree. The A5 debuts a new design direction for Audi, and though its wavy character line might have garnered some initial controversy, we think the coupe is stunning in person.

The A5 is based on an entirely new platform, called B8, upon which the new A4 sedan will be based. Unlike previous Audi platforms, which were designed with only one segment in mind, the B8 is a design matrix that allows it to be stretched in both width and length. In other words, look for this architecture to be used on other Audi models, both bigger and smaller.

The A5 uses the same trick that the A8 uses – mounting the front differential in front of the clutch, the engine can be positioned considerably farther towards the back of the car. (The previous B7 platform had the entire engine ahead of the front axle, which results in poor weight distribution and, ultimately, lazy turn-in and lackluster handling.) In addition, the A5’s all-new aluminum suspension and relocated steering gear should improve handling and steering feel.

The A5 is coming to the U.S. with only one engine and transmission initially – a six-speed manual mated to a new 3.2-liter direct-injection V-6 with variable valve timing and lift. With 265 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque, the A5 hits 100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.1 seconds, and top speed is limited to 155 mph.

An automatic transmission is not available at launch. While the European Market A5s with front-wheel drive are available with Audi’s Multitronic CVT, U.S.-bound cars are Quattro all-wheel drive only. Audi currently has no automatic transmission that works with Quattro and the new B8 platform. We expect a dual-clutch “s tronic” transmission will be available later in the model year.

The A5’s interior is as beautiful as its sculpted exterior, and features Audi’s MMI multimedia interface as well as climate control, electric emergency brake, split, folding rear seats, and a CD audio system. What it lacks in rear seat room (it’s quite tight back there), it makes up for with a cavernous, sixteen cubic-foot trunk.

Options include an adaptive light package (bi-xenon lights with dynamic cornering and LED daytime running lights), keyless entry and starting, three-zone HVAC, a panoramic moonroof, backup camera, navigation system, and a 500-watt Bang & Olufsen premium sound system with fourteen speakers and active noise compensation.

An S Line version of the A5 will also be available, with unique front and rear bumpers, sports seats, black headliner, and special dash inlays. It also includes a sport steering wheel, eighteen-inch wheels (in place of the standard seventeens), and a sports suspension.

If that’s not enough sport, customers can opt for the S5, which is being launched simultaneously. It includes a 354-hp, direct-injection version of the 4.2-liter V-8 found in the S4 sedan, and knocks a full second off the zero-to-62 mph run.

The S5 has an even more aggressive sports suspension, bigger brakes, and unique exterior treatments that include aluminum-look mirrors, dual exhausts with four oval tailpipes, a rear deck spoiler, and different front and rear fascias. It rides on eighteen-inch wheels with 245/40-18 S-Design wheels, and includes the Xenon Plus headlight package (with those sexy LED daytime running lights). Inside, it has a sport wheel and sport seats, a grey instrument cluster, aluminum door sills, and special dash inlays.

Audi is taking orders for the A5 and S5 now, and the first cars should make their way to customers by June 2007. With the changes to the engine layout, we expect both to drive as wonderfully as they look – but we’re concerned that Audi might put off customers looking for an automatic transmission, which seems the logical choice for the A5. Come on, Audi, get that S tronic twin-clutch unit done, quick!

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