Audi's new coupe is cool
The 2008 Audi A5 is the first modern coupe from Audi. Based off the new A4 platform, the Audi A5 boasts a strong 3.2-liter V-6 engine, available quattro all-wheel drive, and sexy coupe exterior styling along with a comfortable and luxurious interior.
Coupe fans finally have a reason to go to an Audi dealership, as the Audi A5 more or less nails the coupe formula with sophistication, style, and performance to match primary competitor, the BMW 3 Series two-doors. Even our complaints – we'd like more power and tighter handling – are address elsewhere in the lineup by the V-8 powered Audi S5.
Audi has long positioned itself as an alternative to makes like Mercedes-Benz and BMW, successfully for the most part. For the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series, Audi has the A8; for the E-Class and 5 Series, Audi offers up the A6; and for the C-Class and especially the BMW 3 Series, Audi offers up the A4. However, this analogue to the wildly successful small Bimmer has had one shortcoming since its inception: no coupe version. It may not seem like a big deal – the majority of BMW 3 Series sold are sedans – but coupes carry with them an amount of prestige and style that sedans can't match.
For the 2008 model year, Audi threw down against the BMW 3 Series coupe with the A5. From nearly every angle, the new Audi coupe is a hit thanks to traditional Audi strengths: sophisticated styling outside; a comfortable, luxurious and exquisitely executed interior; quattro all-wheel drive of course; and a few new ones, such as a new drivetrain layout that significantly improves handling and steering feel.
However, get past the looks and the quattro, and the Audi A5 has its faults. It costs the same as the BMW, but with a significant horsepower debt. The A5's rear seat is cramped, and the large glass sunroof only tilts. Still, the Audi A5 is a compelling package. Despite the power deficit relative to its competition, the A5 still moves out quickly. It looks great from almost any angle, is comfortable and spacious for the front seat occupants, and the all-wheel drive system offers up secure handling in all weather conditions. Short on power or not, the Audi A5 is a compelling vehicle.
The 2008 Audi A5 comes in one version, with a base price of $40,675 including the $775 destination charge. The only Audi A5 engine is a 3.2-liter V-6 with direct fuel injection that's good for 265 hp and 243 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission or, if you prefer and have an extra $1,300 lying around – a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual control. Regardless of the transmission you choose, power is routed to all four wheels through Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system. Note that, despite the direct injection, Audi's V-6 trails the BMW 335i's engine by 35 horsepower and 57 lb.-ft. of torque, yet the automatic version weighs less than the Audi by nearly 200 pounds.
One interesting mechanical feature of the Audi A5 is the placement of the front differential between the engine and the clutch (or torque converter), rather than behind them as it has in the past. This pushes the front axle forward by nearly 5 inches, helping to balance the weight of the car and cure some of the nose-heavy handling characteristics that have plagued previous Audi cars.
Most of the desirable Audi A5 options are bundled into packages, as is the practice among most automakers these days. The Navigation Plus package includes Audi's MMI interface and costs $2,390; a $1,850 Premium Package adds Xenon headlights, LED running lamps under the headlights (they give the A5 a signature look), heated seats with memory for the driver's side, and a few other goodies; and a Technology Package adds a rear parking system with a rearview camera, adaptive headlights and a high-tech key for $1,700. You can also get the $2,900 Audi A5 S line package, which ups the ante with stiffer springs, 19-inch Y-design wheels (available separately for $900), different front and rear bumpers, and various S line badges strewn on the exterior and interior. A Bang & Olufsen sound system adds another $850 to the bottom line.