Ah, the personal luxury coupe-a breed of car most folks under the age of thirty have no memory of. Originally perfected by American automakers, the personal luxury car arguably hit its zenith at the height of the Rat Pack era with gorgeous styling masterpieces as the original Oldsmobile Toronado and Buick Riviera. And then it all went downhill from there, and badly. Interestingly, the Germans would later pick up on the concept on an even grander scale. As a kid growing up in the 1980’s, I was utterly captivated by cars like the BMW 635CSi and Mercedes-Benz 560SEC. While the descendents of the BMW and Benz are still available, they are hugely expensive. And that is where the Audi A5 enters the picture.
What separates the Audi from its German competition is that the A5 offers all the swagger and style of the original personal luxury coupes, but on a more more attainable level than its contemporary rivals. When the A5 went on sale as a 2008 model, the car’s good looks slayed me. Three years later the car is still positively gorgeous, and in future years I am convinced the A5 will be as respected and admired as 1970’s-era BMW 3.0CS coupes are today. Neither trendy or flashy, the A5 absolutely drips of class and elegance. The proportions are perfect, and though it may be hard to tell from the pics, but the A5 is delightfully curvy and voluptuous. Finished in optional Deep Sea Blue pearl effect paint, the Audi makes similarly priced cars appear forced in looking premium, while here, it seemingly effortless.
Audi has earned a sterling reputation for building some of the best interiors out there, and the A5 does not disappoint. And, after all, this is a personal luxury coupe, so it had better deliver. And it certainly does. The seats are low, as they should be, and supremely comfortable. For all the features and tech our A5 offered, all controls were within easy reach and fairly intuitive to use. I definitely prefer Audi’s MMI (multi-media interface) to BMW’s iDrive for controlling audio, navigation, and other functions. The driver is faced with two deep set gauges, separated with an LCD display screen and a meaty steering wheel. The workmanship and quality of materials here are without fault, and the optional Nutmeg Laurel wood trim added an extra level of luxe to an already polished interior. Rear seat space is not as awful as you might think, and the generously sized trunk makes the A5 a perfect choice for a weekend getaway.
At this point, it might be fair of you to think that ok, Audi has dipped its toe in an older, and largely forgotten niche, but that is where you would be wrong. While personal luxury cars of the past favored larger engines, Audi has turned that concept on its head by offering the A5 with a four cylinder engine. Before you start crying heresy, hear me out. The engine in question is a 2.0L turbocharged, direct injected four rated at 211hp. On paper that sounds pretty meager for a car the size and heft of the A5, but this lovely, torquey little engine actually works very well here. 0-60mph can be expected in the mid-six second range. In my week with the A5, the car was always satisfying. And, let’s face it. The guy buying an A5 is not heading to the local drag strip on the weekends. To sweeten things, the A5 delivers something personal luxury cars are not known for-good fuel economy. With 21/31 MPG city/highway, the A5 is frugal for the luxury and style it delivers. Even sweeter was our test car’s six-speed manual transmission, which was a joy to use. As befitting any proper German coupe, when taken to your favorite back road, the A5 is ready to dance.
While the A5 was previously available with a V-6 engine, that has been dropped. Buyers seeking more power should seek the Audi S5. The A5 is available as a coupe or Cabriolet. While the Cabriolet is offered in front-wheel drive and Quattro all-wheel drive, all A5 coupes come standard as a Quattro. While the six-speed manual is standard, an eight speed automatic transmission is available.
The Audi A5 Quattro coupe starts at a reasonable $36,500USD. Our test car, with the aforementioned pearl paint, wood trim, was also equipped with the Premium Plus package, which adds to the generous standard equipment list xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, unique 18″ alloys, Bluetooth, three-zone auto climate control andÃ‚Â heated seats. Other options included navigation and a sublime Bang & Olufsen sound system for a total of $45,430, including destination. Inexpensive? No. But the content for the price paid is on par with its closest competition from Lexus, Volvo and Infiniti.
No, Audi did not reinvent the wheel with the A5, but what they did manage to do was to take an old formula with the personal luxury coupe and make a positively stunning car that offers more than adequate performance with good fuel economy to boot-a modern take on a classic recipe. The A5 is a no-apologies, bonafide grand tourer that begs for weekend trips to grand locales, where getting there in style, fun, and comfort is the order of the day. That it can do so at a fraction of the cost of its pricier rivals at BMW and Mercedes wrapped in a body that is destined for classic status is icing on the cake.