Editor’s note: This review was written in August 2010 about the 2010 Audi A5. Little of substance has changed with this year’s model. To see what’s new for 2012, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the three model years.
I was impressed with the A5’s stunning looks when it debuted for 2008, but I didn’t like its 3.2-liter V-6. It lacked excitement, and even though it’s the more powerful of two available engines, the coupe felt too heavy with it inside. Fellow editor Kelsey Mays reviewed the A5 Cabriolet convertible last year and found the A5’s base 2.0-liter turbo maladjusted, which is strange because our staff universally loves that engine in the A4, as well as other Audis and VWs of various shapes and sizes.
I discovered that the car is at its best in its most affordable, least powerful guise: the A5 2.0T. This one’s just right.
See all A5 trim levels and body styles compared here.
In the car world — especially the sports car world — the thinking is that the more powerful the engine, the better the driving experience. Audi’s 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder is one exception, especially compared with the other engine offered in the A5: the 3.2-liter six-cylinder. (If you want brute force and enthusiast thrills, check out our review of the Audi S5 here.)
The 2.0-liter revs happily and gets you up to speed lickety-split. It might not have the low-end power of the 3.2, but neither does it have any of the accelerator lag exhibited by the A5 3.2 I drove. My test car had the standard six-speed manual, which is a joy to drive. The clutch is light and the shifter pops into each gate with precise, light throws.
This is the manual transmission you want if you do a lot of commuting — and as the master of the 60-minute commute in the Cars.com offices, I am best qualified to offer this assessment.
Steering is in the traditional Audi vein: power-assisted to an extreme at low speeds, with a more precise feel at higher speeds. What this does is rid you of the heavy lifting you need to do to navigate a BMW 3 Series up a parking structure.
The ride was also fairly comfortable in daily driving. The structure feels rigid, but you don’t feel major road imperfections, like bridge joints, as severely as you do in the BMW competition. The Infiniti G37 also has a nice balance of ride comfort and performance, with a nicer exhaust and more grunt under the hood.
What neither the BMW 3 coupe nor the G37 coupe has, though, is the A5’s looks. The car is stunning, and after more than a year on the market, it still received praise from my neighbors and family members.
I don’t think I need to elaborate on this section; just take a look at the pretty pictures.
Audi’s interior looks neat, orderly and simple. Could it be a little bit more luxurious for its as-tested $40,000 price tag? Perhaps, especially around the doors, but overall I was focused on the stylish gauges, the sophisticated entertainment and navigation system, and the road, as a driver should be.
Those features also make up for the two small rear seats, which are nearly impossible to use.
One drawback, though, is getting in and out. The A5 is a step better than the Chevy Corvette in terms of having to fold your body to get in and out of it, but that’s not much of a compliment. More extreme sports cars are easier to jump into than the A5, which might make this otherwise mainstream vehicle attractive to fewer buyers. My wife especially can’t stand this attribute — she still remembers/loathes the Corvette Z06 and BMW 6 Series — even when she’s not wearing high heels or a dress.
The trunk has a nice, rectangular shape that makes the 12.0 cubic feet of cargo space in there extremely usable, as there aren’t any odd cutouts or wasted space. The rear seats might be useless for passengers, but at least they fold down to expand the cargo area.
The A5 comes with standard front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags for the driver and passenger, and side curtain airbags for both rows. The A5 has not been crash-tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
It’s pretty easy to pen this section, because the A5 has already proved itself in the market as a strong seller. The 2.0T is the least expensive version, starting at $36,000 with the manual transmission. Our test car had navigation and an optional Prestige Package, which ratcheted the price up above $43,000. That’s a lot of money for a four-cylinder engine, even if it is a really good one.
But at least you don’t need to go any higher than that; the styling and combination of everyday driving comfort and just-enough thrills make a convincing argument not to upgrade to a 3.2.