It’s easy to criticize cars that are “all show and no go.” But looking at this Audi A5, which offers four-cylinder power in a segment dominated by 300-hp six-cylinders, I feel compelled to ask, is there anything really wrong with prioritizing looks over performance?
Before I go any further, let me be clear – the A5 is no slug. Every car I’ve ever driven with Volkswagen’s excellent 2.0-liter turbocharged engine has felt exceptionally peppy, and this one is no exception. Combine that with a smooth six-speed gearbox that feels as if it was pulled directly out of the S4, as well as steering that firms up nicely at speed, and you have the potential for plenty of fun behind the wheel.
But the main argument for buying this car would have be style, and I’d say it makes a good case for itself. To these eyes at least, no other sport-coupe, from the BMW 335i to the Infiniti G37, looks as cutting edge and as plain beautiful as this Audi. The Cadillac CTS coupe might provide some competition, but then the A5 also offers a stunning interior.
In other words, the A5 has slightly less “go” than its competitors, but totally blows them away when it comes to “show.”
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I find the price on this car a bit offensive, but then again most of the options seem superfluous to me. Getting the price back at $40,000 shouldn’t be difficult. The $1450 for 19-inch wheels seems especially steep, unless Audi plans to deliver the standard 18-inch wheels to me as well. There’s also that irritating trend of navigation prices creeping upward rather than downward, as technology should and almost always does.
Clear your mind of pricing, though, and it becomes very easy to connect with this car. The gearbox and engine are a delight to work, inviting you to push hard into the boost and shift quickly. That this car is missing two cylinders on most of the competition is hardly noticed. I do wish that second and third gear were a bit shorter to keep the revs up and boost on tap when driving aggressively, but not to redline. On back roads, I downshifted to third more than once and was surprised just how low the revs were sitting at 55 mph.
The steering, as in several other recent Audis, also bothers me. Most irritating is the huge range of power assist between parking lot speeds and high-velocity travel. The immense difference in steering effort smacks too much of trying to be all things to all people, and it isn’t working. At the risk of offending a few gingerly buyers, effort at parking speeds needs to be noticeably higher. BMW has never apologized for a weighty wheel and it certainly hasn’t hurt them.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Great powertrain. Didn’t miss the V-6 one bit. Absolutely effortless acceleration to 80 or 90 mph for merging onto a freeway. Nice gearshifter and clutch pedal setup. Can’t really see any reason to consider the V-6, actually; this turbo four is that good.
Yep, options prices are steep. But, oh, those nineteen-inch wheels are gorgeous. I agree with Eric; $2500 for a nav system is ridiculous these days. It should be more like $1500, even with the rearview camera.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
The 2.0T engine is a new offering in the A5 this year, and according to Audi, it lowers by $4700 the price of entry for this car. The best part is that, more so than any other four-cylinder I can think of, the 2.0T does not feel like an entry-level engine. Especially when combined with this delightful, light-shifting manual, it’s a blast. I can’t imagine anyone feeling the need to spend thousands more for the V-6. (Even if you’re really feeling flush, I would direct your attention to the V-8-powered S5.)
To my mind, Audi’s offering a turbo four in an arena dominated by sixes backs up the brand’s progressive image. In the same vein, so too does Audi’s willingness to bring to America a premium small car, the A3. Being progressive isn’t just about styling or offering high-tech options. It’s also recognizing that fuel economy is destined to play an ever-larger role in our automotive consciousness, and adjusting your product offerings accordingly.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
Every time I walk up to an A5 — our 2009 Design of the Year, by the way — I’m struck by its perfectly proportioned lines. And it is just as pleasing to drive as it is to look at. Sure, the 211-hp turbo four isn’t a rocket, but it still gets you up to cruising speed with absolutely no drama and with power to spare. The cabin is a testament to Audi’s attention to detail, with every seam, every piece of switchgear, and every piece of leather or plastic make of the highest quality. Quite honestly, most people won’t think twice about the fact that this car has a four-cylinder engine rather than a V-6.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
The A5’s exterior is at once elegant and sporty. The flowing lines create a graceful overall shape while accents like the LEDs in and around the tail- and headlights, respectively, give it a purposeful look. Behind the wheel, though, it’s clear that in creating the A5, Audi emphasized luxury over serious performance. This is no bad thing. The steering, clutch, and shifter all have a pleasingly light action that makes driving the A5 effortless-although, as Eric noted, at low speeds the steering effort becomes far too light.
The addition of the turbo four gives the A5 a unique place in the market that will surely be copied by other luxury makes. While, it certainly doesn’t make the A5 a rocket, it’s smooth and quiet and never left me wanted for more power as I darting around sleepy, tryptophan-saturated drivers on Thanksgiving Day.
The cabin is a lovely place to spend time as its both luxurious yet straightforward. The sliding screen for the moonroof was a bit of a revelation for me. It filters light rather than blocking it, somehow managing to both significantly soften harsh light on a sunny day and brighten dull gray light on a cloudy one. It looks great too as it’s a nice contrast against the material used on the ceiling.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
2010 Audi A5 2.0T Quattro MT6
Base price (with destination): $36,825
Price as tested: $44,750
Speed sensitive steering
Tire pressure monitoring system
8-way power seats
Automatic climate control
Sirius satellite radio
Auxiliary audio input
Front knee airbags
Side curtain airbags
Options on this vehicle:
Quartz gray metallic paint – $475
Premium plus A5 – $3500
LED daytime running lights
18-inch 5-spoke aluminum alloy wheels
3-zone climate control
Heated front seats
Homelink universal garage door opener
Audi music interface
Rain sensing wipers
Navigation with camera – $2500
Navigation system with MMI
Voice control for radio, phone, and navigation
Rear parking sensors
19-in. sport package – $1450
19-in. aluminum alloy wheels w/high performance tires
Front sport seats
Key options not on vehicle:
Milano leather – $1000
Bang & Olufsen sound system – $850
Wood interior inlays – $400
22 / 30 / 25 mpg
Size: 2.0L turbocharged DOHC DI four-cylinder
Horsepower: 211 hp @ 4300-6000 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1500-4200 rpm
Weight: 3583 lbs
19 x 8.5-in. 5-spoke aluminum alloy wheels
255/35 high performance tires