Are coupes back in vogue? Audi would have you think so. The all-new A5 and its performance twin, the S5, are aimed straight for their fellow two-door heartthrobs: the BMW 3 Series coupe and Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class. Like its Deutschland competitors, the A5 seats four and draws power from a high-tech six-cylinder engine.
Manual-transmission A5s hit dealerships in November 2007; automatic-equipped versions will come four months later, Audi says. All-wheel drive is standard across the line.
The A5 shares components with the next A4, set to arrive in the next few years.
The A5 is instantly recognizable as an Audi, with the brand's customary wide-mouth grille flanked by lower air intakes. With piercing, downward-slanting headlamps, the A5's nose has something of a furrowed brow. In back, the tail holds twin exhaust pipes, a dark lower bumper and horizontal taillamps reminiscent of the 3 Series coupe and countless Lexus models. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard.
At 182.3 inches long, the A5 falls just between the 3 Series coupe (181.1 inches) and the CLK (183.2).
The A5's dashboard looks much like that of Audi's larger A6. A broad dome overlaps the gauges and central information screen, which incorporates the optional navigation system. Dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seats and Audi's Multi-Media Interface are standard. The MMI system governs various functions — including the navigation system — with a central knob behind the gearshift. Thanks to more than a dozen shortcut buttons surrounding the knob, it's easier to use than BMW's similar iDrive, but uninitiated drivers may find it confusing.
Options include sportier seats, the navigation system and a 14-speaker surround sound stereo by Danish audiophiles Bang & Olufsen. The A5 has an extensive range of materials to choose from, including two-tone leather/Alcantara seats and aluminum, wood or piano-black dashboard trim.
The trunk holds a sedan-like 16.1 cubic feet of luggage, much more than the 3 Series coupe (11.1 cubic feet) or the CLK (10.4).
Under the Hood
Audi's 3.2-liter V-6 offers a few new performance tweaks, including variable valve lift control (similar to Honda's VTEC) and direct fuel injection to make 265 horsepower and 243 pounds-feet of torque.
Audi offers a choice of a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission in the A5. Unfortunately, Audi's expedient Direct Shift Gearbox, which can manage quicker shifts than most stick-shift drivers, is not available.
Quattro all-wheel drive is standard; in normal conditions, it channels 60 percent of the power to the rear wheels. With the manual transmission, Audi says the A5 can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in about 6 seconds, which is faster than most cars.
Six standard airbags include the required front ones, as well as side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for both rows. Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system are also standard.