First Drive: 2011 Audi A5

Another positive outgrowth of staying with the four-cylinder is less weight hanging out over the nose, which makes for snappier turn-in. Like its four-door sibling, the A5 still suffers from power steering that's trying to be all things to all people, with too much variation in assist between a parking-lot pace and on-the-road speeds. Ride comfort is decent, despite my test example's 18-inch wheels. Optional Drive Select offers the ability to fine-tune suspension firmness, as well as several other variables.

Although now several years old, the exterior design is wearing well. The A5 interior, however, doesn't seem quite as impressive as it once did. My test car was the mid-trim-level premium plus and was further equipped with navigation and optional nutmeg laurel wood trim. Leather is standard on the A5. The beige leather with contrasting darker areas was attractive and the interior bits certainly are well put together, but the cabin overall lacked some visual sparkle compared to newer competitors. Practically speaking, the front seats are comfortable and the view out is not bad for a coupe. The two-place rear perch is cramped, however, with headroom in particularly short supply. Consider it an occasional-use proposition unless your rear-seat passengers are under five-foot-eight.

Still, the A5 offers a lot more daily usability than the strictly two-place TT coupe. (Okay, granted, that car has a pair of rear seats, but they're sized for briefcases, not for people.) And at the same time, it makes the kind of understated style statement an Audi should. Get it with the 2.0T, the six-speed, and Quattro, and you've got not only the least expensive, most economical combo, but also one that's pretty sweet to drive.

"More practical than a TT, more exclusive than an A4" really doesn't say much. That's like saying it's more practical than a Ferrari, more exclusive than a Toyota. It would mean something if it was more practical than an A4 and more exclusive than a TT.That said, still a lovely car.
Audi exteriors are becoming more and more bland every time I see them. The A5 looks attractive (though the interior is fairly boring) but I never understood the rave about it. Understated elegance is one thing--as the design ages, it tends more toward boringness.

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