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Thread: 2008 Audi A5

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    2008 Audi A5

    If you look at Audi's recent model lineup, you will notice one thing almost immediately. Or rather, the absence of one thing almost immediately.

    That one thing is more than one two-door model.

    Other than the TT, Audi (unlike BMW, Mercedes-Benz) hasn't had much in the way of coupes to offer buyers who want something besides a sedan or wagon.

    Cue the new A5 - a brand-new two-plus-two coupe that finally gives Audi something to go up against BMW's 3-Series coupe, the Mercedes-Benz CLK, Infiniti G37 and others like that.

    ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

    Unlike the small (and in base four-cylinder version, underpowered) TT coupe, the A5 gets a V-6 as standard equipment. The engine displaces 3.2 liters and produces 265 horsepower; it features direct injection and can be teamed with either a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic with both "leave it in Drive" shift control and a manual up and downshift "Sport" mode with F1-style paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

    Also unlike the TT, which is offered in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions, the A5 comes standard with Quattro all-wheel-drive. The system is set up to be rear-biased - instead of the more typical front-biased system, in which as much as 90 percent of the engine's power goes to the front wheels until they begin to lose traction. The A5's default setting has 60 percent of the engine's power going to the back wheels, 40 percent to the front. The ratio varies depending on available traction and driving conditions, but the key point is you don't have to be hammering it to get the rear wheels to feel like they're actual participants in the process of forward motion and not just being dragged along for the ride.

    Off the line acceleration is excellent - with either version (manual or automatic) capable of reaching 60 mph in well under 6 seconds. Stick versions are a tenth or two quicker - as you'd expect. The engine feels like a performance engine, too. Peak power comes in at 6,500 RPM - but the rev limiter doesn't throttle you back until 7,000-plus RPM - even with the automatic transmission, which will run well into the red zone under full throttle before banging off the next gear change.

    The miracle of direct injection (in which a precisely metered fuel charge is shot directly into the engine's cylinders as they compress/heat incoming air to the point of auto-ignition) allows for remarkably good fuel efficiency, too. The six-speed manual version can return 16 MPGs city and 27 MPGs on the highway, according to the EPA. For a 3,800 lb. luxury-performance sport coupe with 265 horsepower and all-wheel-drive, that is damned impressive.

    For example, it beats the much lighter (and rear-wheel-drive-only) Mercedes-Benz CLK 350 (268 hp V-6) by two MPGs on the highway. The Benz CLK is also much pricier than the Audi, despite not having significantly more power or all-wheel-drive (and lower fuel economy). The CLK350's base price of $46,450 towers over the A5's base price of $39,900. Also, no manual transmission is available with the Benz.

    BMW's 3-series coupe offers AWD and more power than the A5 - if you get the $42,600 335xi.

    Probably the A5's toughest competition is the phenomenal Infiniti G37 coupe - which is almost cheap at $34,500 for the base model yet offers a best in class (by far) 330 horsepower from its standard 3.7 liter V-6 engine (which also gets better in-city mileage - 18 MPGs - though highway mileage, at 24 MPG is lower than most in this segment). However, there are two things in the A5's favor when it's stacked up against the G37: First, you have to pay Infiniti extra to get a manual transmission (vs. paying less if you buy the manual-equipped Audi) and the Infiniti doesn't offer AWD at any price. It is rear-drive only and a helluva ride for the enthusiast, but for those who want the added grip and all-weather tenacity of AWD, the G37 comes up short.

    RIDE & HANDLING

    The A5 is a luxury coupe more so than a luxury performance coupe like the G37 or the BMW 3-Series. It is heavier than both - and feels it. But it is sharper-reflexed than the almost boozy Benz CLK, which is much happier cruising in a straight line at 85 mph than attacking apexes in corners at speeds well over the posted max.

    In addition to its performance-calibrated AWD system, the A5 rides on a longer wheelbase than the A4 sedan it shares some basic chassis components with. This adds stability as well as the feel of a bigger car. Though the suspension is not adjustable, it strikes a good balance between limiting sway and body roll during cornering and transmitting too much feedback over potholes, etc. on straights. Eighteen inch wheels are standard - with 19s optional. My test car had the 19s with very aggressive, low aspect ratio Dunlop Sportmax GT tires in size 255/35ZR-19. It's not uncommon for a car fitted with such short sidewall (and thus, stiff) rubber to have a very firm ride - and feel "darty" at higher speeds, with a tendency to shift left to right with any dip/irregularity in the road. That's great for high-performance driving but it gets annoying when you're just driving. The A5's suspension nicely muted the inherent twitchiness of the 35-series ZR-rated tires; it felt tight and controlled - but never Moon Bounce-like.

    Overall, the A5's handling dynamics fall in between the G37 and BMW 3-Series on the high end of the corner-burner scale - but above the cruisermobile feel of the Benz CLK.

    It delivers the goods for the enthusiast driver - as well as the everyday-minded driver.

    STYLING & UTILITY

    Though it sprang from the A4's loins, you'd never know it to look at it.

    The A5 - though a coupe - seems larger than the four-door A4. Part of this is due to the A5's modified/longer wheelbase (108.3 inches vs. 104.3 inches for the A4 sedan). But the rest of it is due to the A5's flatbelly supermodel styling - which is as far removed from the handsome but far more conservatively-sculpted A4 sedan as Paris Hilton's profile is from that of Baron Hilton.

    Remember that old George Jones song about the Corvette? "Long and lean, every young man's dream"? Well, the same applies to the A5. It's a beautiful car, inside and out. The show-car front end - with its low and portruding air dam and delicate-looking (and vulnerable to shopping carts and oblivious "moms" in SUVs and minivans) headlight assemblies may not survive unscathed long out there in the real world - but they definitely make an impression.

    The other thing about the A5 is you keep noticing little details as you walk around the car - the slight molded in bulges around the wheelwells, the twin creases on the hood that meet up at the grille and give the impression of a sprinter about to lunge off the starting blocks; the slight scalloping of the door panels; the molded in upward-canted lip of the trunk lid and rear quarters. Lots of small touches that not only separate the A5 from the A4 donor platform but also result in a very sharp-looking car.

    Anyone who has been near any Audi lately will tell you to expect a phenomenal interior - not just layout but also materials and workmanship. The A5 is classy and refined and modern-looking, but not overwhelming. The basic controls are high tech but not overteched. The Multi Media Interface (MMI) takes a little while to learn, but unlike BMW's iDrive or the Benz COMMAND system, once you learn it the MMI is easy to use.

    My tester had the optional S-Line equipment package which adds racy-looking aluminum accents inside plus bolstered sport bucket seats. All A5s come with triple-zone climate control AC (back seat passengers can "squeeze the breeze" for their own space), an oversized panorama sunroof, leather, and a kicking 10-speaker stereo rig with Sirius satellite radio. You can up-rate that by selecting the optional 505 watt Bang & Olufsen ultra-premium audio system, which includes iPod interface.

    Other major options include a DVD-based navigation system, bun warmers, Bluetooth connectivity, rearview back-up camera monitor and an electrically-assisted trunk opener/closer.

    The back seats are nice in theory but next to useless in practice - at least, if taller people are riding up front. Because with the front seats pushed back much, there is virtually no legroom for the rear seat occupants. Still, having back seats - even if cramped - adds a level of plausible/theoretical functionality no two-seat coupe can match and makes the A5 at least thinkable relative to a traditional sedan.

    And - there's a very large trunk with more than 16 cubic feet of capacity. Compare that to the tiny trunk of the Benz CLK (10.4 cubic feet), BMW 3-Series coupe (11.1 cubic feet) or - worst of all - the Infiniti G37, which has just 7.4 cubic feet of trunk space.

    DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

    The A5 has the feel of a luxury coupe with just enough sporting character to make it fun. The availability of a manual transmission is a huge advantage over the Benz CLK (if you are an enthusiast driver, at least) and gives it enough street cred to grapple with the BMWs and Infinitis out there.

    AWD gives it an additional card to throw down, too. Especially since it's standard equipment - and priced comparably to (or even lower than) similar cars that only offer AWD as a high-cost option.

    The back seat area's not as large as in some of the bigger two-plus-two coupes (including the Benz CLK), but the trunk size is tremendous - as good or better than you'll find in some mid-sized sedans.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    The main thing I liked about the A5 is that it's something different. A real standout in its segment. As much as I admire BMWs as driver's cars, they have become all too common; when I'm spending around $40k on a car I'd like to not be passing other cars just like mine every time I go out for a drive. Mercedes' cars, on the other hand, are overpriced. No offense. But it's hard to argue the point. Some people like to pay for status; I'd rather get something for my money. The CLK is a nice car. But I can't see spending almost $47k on the thing when Audi is offering comparable status, equivalent or better equipment and power - and stunning good looks - for almost seven grand less.

    Comment?

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Re: 2008 Audi A5

    Just posted this article to the main site with pictures:




    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...8&Itemid=10848

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