Audi A5: A Post-Crash Postmortem Page 2

2008 Audi A5

The entire front end of her car was smashed in, flush with the fire wall.

The Lessons:

Bad: Texting while driving. In case you missed it, Car and Driver’s comparisons of drinking and driving vs. texting and driving are horrifying evidence of the perils. Please, put the phone down.

Good: The A5. Good and safe. Also good: Now you don’t have to total one yourself. I’ve done the work for you.

Now can I tell you what the A5 is like?

Luckily, before this accident I had five days to appreciate the A5's attributes that have nothing whatsoever to do with saving one’s skin, some of which I’ll enumerate briefly here.

It’s gorgeous. One thing Audi has nailed is how to translate the R8’s tremendous, hunkered stance and massage that essential strength throughout its entire line. I’ve rarely driven a car that’s so affordable yet so attractive. Women, men, kids - everyone smiled or waved or chatted me up about the car. If anything explains the A5/S5’s nearly 50-percent rise in sales (through August 2009) in a positively dismal economy it’s definitely that anyone with eyes seems to think it’s sharp and sexy.

The steering, which I’ve seen dinged by other reviewers as too weighty, is excellent and communicative. After way too many years of Audis with over-boosted steering I think Audi’s finally dialed back its Servotronic system so that the “speed-sensitive” promise is realized, adding help only when you need it, and reducing aid enough so that you can feel the road. Further bespokery is available if you get one with Audi Drive Select, which lets you customize throttle mapping, suspension damping, and the twitchiness of the steering. The transmission function here is less critical in the manual shift car, but useful in the Tiptronic model. And a word on that: While Audi at last offers standard-shift cars that are approaching the competition (namely BMW), its Tiptronic cars are already superb, and while you sadly cannot have your A5 with Audi’s new, faster double-clutch S Tronic seven-speed (largely preserved for its European market vehicles and the forthcoming S5 Cabrio, costing $58,250), an A5 with the six-speed Tiptronic will be plenty of fun.

For one thing, Tiptronic shifts quickly enough, and with Audi Drive Select, you can make it shift very fast. Add to this equation the new 2.0 TFSI engine to get into an A5 for less dough and you’re talking about a really winning formula for Audi. Incidentally, that motor trades a higher horsepower rating (211 hp vs. 265 the outgoing 3.2 TFSI), for better torque off the line: 243 pound-feet @ 3250 rpm vs. 258 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm. The smaller engine will move the Audi swiftly, and even if 60 mph takes 6.4 seconds vs. 5.8 for the larger-motor model, you’ll also get 25 percent better fuel economy (25 mpg combined EPA vs. 20 mpg combined for the 3.2 TFSI), which makes this a very good bargain.

Also very good—in fact exceptional, is the cockpit of the A5. Few car companies put together interiors as well crafted and downright sexy as Audi. The simplest example: Brushed metal frames subtly outline vents, switches and gauges, while the feel and look of the latter is sharp, intelligent, not garish. Bell & Ross watch faces provide a valid analogy. There is so much less gimmickry at work in the interior design of an Audi than, say, a Kia. The purpose, Audi conveys, isn’t the light show, but what the lights illuminate.

Lastly, with quattro AWD and a rear-wheel-biased torque split the A5 is a year-round livable sports coupe. It doesn’t punish you with an overstiff ride; the car is darn near gentle, but handles very well and is communicative and fun. Add in the pragmatic hatch and you have a real winner.

Now if we could only get them to bring that 4-door Sportback option Stateside.

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