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Monday, August 16, 2010

Road Test: 2010 Audi A5 2.0T Quattro Premium Read more

The A5's interior has a stylish setup with superior fit and finish
Brian Harper for National Post
The A5's interior has a stylish setup with superior fit and finish

As accustomed as I am to getting test vehicles that are fully loaded -- the automakers often equipping their cars and trucks in such a way as to expose us to the full suite of amenities offered in their products -- even I was gobsmacked by the $20,000-plus list of options that festooned the Audi A5 sport coupe I picked up. Now, 20-large worth of trinkets and toys on a $100,000 vehicle is one thing, but the A5 quattro Premium with six-speed manual has a considerably lower base price of $46,200. Audi Canada had increased the car's value by more than 40% or, in more understandable terms, had added the price of a compact car to the tester.

Naturally, this left me of two minds. The first was that a basic, out-of-the-box A5 2.0T is a fine car in its own right, not requiring the addition of so much factory customization. The second, and admittedly more powerful, observation was that I was driving one brash set of wheels. Speaking of which, it was $5,640 worth of 19-inch hollow-spoke black alloy wheels that truly upped the bling factor. On top of these, the coupe was also kitted with a bladed front spoiler, side sills, rear diffuser, rear bumper skirt, rear spoiler, polished exhaust trim and -- the piece de resistance -- a $144 carbon-fibre Audi Sport licence plate frame. While it might be natural to think said Audi looked like it had escaped from the Franken-tuner lab, it actually presented itself quite cohesively, without that tacked-on appearance.

Unfortunately, it was something of a paper lion. Don't hate me; I am a huge fan of the A5's base 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder. It is a creamy smooth powerplant, possessing decent oomph (211 horsepower) for its displacement and more than adequate torque (258 pound-feet) starting at a low 1,500 rpm. Thanks to a delightfully slick six-speed manual gearbox, the car accelerates smoothly --although not with the brio suggested by its looks--to 100 kilometres an hour in about eight seconds.
The 2.0L turbo's biggest flaw is a lack of snap from low engine speeds when sudden urge is called for. It will putter along contentedly in sixth gear at sub-2,000-rpm levels, being exceedingly fuel efficient while doing so, but it's not going to take off like a scared rabbit if you need to boot it -- a couple of downshifts are definitely called for. So, for the sake of keeping up with the tester's muscular appearance, it needs the optional 3.2L V6 to put go to the show. Actually, it deserves the S5's 354-hp 4.2L V8.
On the upside, highway fuel economy for the A5 is positively parsimonious. I was averaging 6.6 litres per 100 kilometres while cruising the flat sections of the Macdonald-Cartier at 110 to 115 km/h. Overall fuel economy for a week combining highway and city use was 9.9 litres of premium unleaded for every 100 km, not bad for a car that tips the scales at 1,700 kilograms (and considering how often I was leaning on the throttle).

Much like the A4 2.0T quattro I had tested earlier, the A5's handling and ride are well above par, with a nod to the $2,500 Audi Drive select option. This includes the Dynamic Steering System and Adaptive Suspension Damping System, among other things, which sharpen both the Servotronic speed-sensitive steering and the sport suspension -- five-link front and trapezoidal-link rear with stabilizer bars at both ends. The coupe tracked straight and true on curvy bits of tarmac, while on-ramps and off-ramps were approached with abandon, knowing the car would remain rock-steady.
Given the A5's fastback body style compromises visibility toward the rear of the car, the Side Assist portion of the $2,200 Technology Package (which also includes push-button start, keyless opening, HomeLink and adaptive headlights) proved its worth. Sensors determine if there are vehicles in the Audi's blind spots and signal through lights mounted in the door mirrors. It's a tad distracting in heavy traffic until you get used to it.

Again, like the A4, the A5's cabin setup is stylish, attractive and designed to accommodate serious seat time behind the wheel. Kudos to the firm and supportive front seats, which kept me fatigue-free even after long hours of driving. As with the A4, there's a bounty of headroom and legroom for those more than six feet tall. Unlike the sedan, however, the A5's rear-seat area is best used sparingly, unless the occupants are of shorter stature.

The rest of the interior is suitably upscale, as is Audi's wont: superior fit and finish, controls that fall to hand and more than a fair share of mod-cons and the latest electronic trickery.
Any disappointment I have about the A5's performance is directly related to the tester's appearance. A car with that level of macho had better scorch the Earth with brawn to match. In milder and less expensive form, the A5 and its turbo four bring an air of breezy sophistication to the coupe segment. Anyone, especially those who are in post-soccer-parent mode, should put it on their "must consider" list.

Type of vehicle: All-wheel-drive luxury sport coupe
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC four-cylinder
Power: 211 hp @ 5,300 rpm; 258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS
Tires: P255/35R19 (optional)
Price: base/as tested: $46,200/$66,484
Destination charge: $1,995
Transport Canada fuel economy L/100 km: 9.4 city, 6.5 hwy.

Standard features: Three-zone climate control system with filtration, cruise control, intelligent key, interior fade-in/fade-out lighting, heated exterior mirrors, rain-and speed-sensitive windshield wipers, rain sensor, light sensor, heated washer nozzles, headlight washers, bi-xenon headlights, glass sunroof, auto-blink turn signal indicator, power door locks and windows, leather power front seats with heat, multi-function steering wheel, AM/FM/CD audio system with satellite radio, trip computer, self-opening trunk lid, 60/40-split rear seats

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