Monday, November 10, 2008

Audi A5 gets an A+

You might be a huge fan of the Audi R8, as I am.
But you might also think, as I do, that paying six figures for a car is a bit ostentatious, especially in tough economic times.
So Audi rolls out its first midsize U.S. coupe in several years, probably not so much bowing to that concern, but just because they thought it would be cool.
Well the A5 coupe is cool, and it's a little less than half the price of the R8 supercar.
There are endless things to appreciate about it, too.
You can start with its performance.
You'll cruise down the highway or on city streets with a smoothness and fluidity that raise the level of sports car road manners to a new high.
When you accelerate to higher speeds, those road manners come right along with you.
Take on some twisty roads, and watch the quattro all-wheel-drive system grip the road tightly and experience the responsiveness you get from its handling.
The steering offers a firm enough, but not overbearing, command of the car.
The 3.2-liter V-6 engine is quiet and exceptionally efficient, and more than adequately powerful, making 265 horsepower.
Gas mileage is listed at 18 mpg city, 27 highway, according to EPA.
The six-speed automatic transmission is velvety smooth, but if you choose to use the paddle-shifters, you'll experience a bit more joy.
Add to that dynamic performance a design that is sleek and sophisticated, but still understated.
The headlights have the new signature feature that Audi offers, slim LED strips that underline the main bulbs. That feature first gained fame with the R8, and thankfully Audi is adding it to its higher sales volume cars.
When you turn on the turn indicator lights, the LED strip goes off - what a neat trick.
The curves of the A5's body are artistic without being gaudy.
You will get some nice, admiring glances in this car, but not the kind of overblown, hormonally charged expressions of lust that some flashier cars elicit.
The interior is classic Audi - quality materials arranged perfectly.
There are brushed metal accents that set off the high-end plastics on the dash.
The leather seats have a richness that looks great, providing more than ample comfort.
There is even a dose of practicality, with back seats that can fit kids fairly comfortably and a spacious trunk that would accommodate a golf bag and a number of other items.
Also, the thing that taller drivers love about Audi is the overall roominess of the cabin.
At 6'6", I don't even have to slide the driver's seat all the way to the farthest back position.
Audi is just about the only automaker whose cars I can say that about - it's usually a trait found only in SUVs.
Quality products such as this one are helping Audi make more of a mark on the U.S. market.
Audi said it reached a market share of 8.6 percent within its competitive set in October, up from 6.2 percent a year earlier.
Audi also said it set a sales record in October, despite a crummy environment for auto sales.
It cited the A5 as one of the drivers of its strong sales.
Only Audi reported growth on a car basis in the import high group in October, a segment that includes brands such as BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes, Volvo, Acura and Lexus.
Those brands are probably well aware that Audi is charging at them, and products like the A5 are leading the way.
The A5 starts at around $41,000.
Our tester, equipped with the Navigation Plus system and premium and technology packages, had a sticker price of $52,140.
At that price, I could buy two of them and still have spent less than what an R8 would cost.

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