2012 Audi A5 Review

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John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
February 22, 2012

Both the Audi A5 Coupe and its Cabriolet convertible sibling are striking designs that offer comfortable, easy-to-drive capacity for two people--and four in a pinch

The 2012 Audi A5 is widely acknowledged to be one of the handsomest Audis sold, and many reviewers just give it the superlative without qualification. Certainly its designer, Walter d'Silva, said it was the most beautiful car he'd ever drawn.

The A5 Coupe is elegant and striking, especially in Audi's characteristic white color. Then, when you lop off the roof, the open-air A5 Cabriolet adds a dash of decadence to the design. If we were spending more than $40,000 on a two-door luxury car from Audi, we'd want it to be the convertible.

In either guise, the Audi A5 is a boulevard cruiser--what we used to call a grand touring car--at its heart. It's meant for two people and some weekend luggage, though the back seat is useful for short trips, snug but not cruel for those passengers. The finely finished interior is laid out well, and Audi's controls always seem to feel lighter than those in its rivals.

Review continues below

The convertible is our choice here. The top lowers quickly and provides well-insulated interior space when it's up. It blurs the roofline and eats into rear-seat space, what there is of it, but when the weather is right it subdues all those complaints.

All A5 models come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four, even the Cabrio with quattro all-wheel drive. A 6-speed manual can be replaced by an 8-speed automatic. The Audi A5 range produces EPA gas-mileage ratings in the mid 20s--adequate if hardly at economy car levels. No hybrid or clean-diesel variants are offered in the States, sadly,

In base trim, the A5 is well-equipped, and should be at a base price of more than $40,000. The options list is long. In fact, the only real option missing is the box to tick that will guarantee sunshine, balmy breezes, and clear roads ahead when you drop the top.

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2012 Audi A5

Styling

The 2012 Audi A5 is expressive, cool, and nicely detailed—what a special luxury coupe should be.

The A5 Coupe is striking and elegant. Somehow the open-air A5 Cabriolet adds a touch of decadence to the design. If we were spending more than $40,000 on a 2-door luxury car from Audi, we'd want it to be the convertible.

Running gear is shared with the A4 sedan, but you might not know it just looking at the A5; they somehow do a lot more with the same proportions, offering up a much sexier profile.

The A5's strong, deep grille the muted aggression of its front end is perfectly in line with Audi's lineup, while it grabs some of the sculptural suppleness of musclecars like the Chevy Camaro into its styling languages, especially from the rear angles. The sideview's balanced, and striking, and there's just enough detail in back to accentuate the shape, not overwhelm it, as also complemented by distinctive rear LED lighting.

The cockpit of the A5 has the deft touch to match the high-fashion sheetmetal. The details are correct, the materials are fine. The shape is festooned with buttons, but Audi brings it all together with leather, black and aluminum trim. It goes a step beyond the usual and traditional luxury touches, to great effect.

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2012 Audi A5

Performance

You'll do just fine skipping the Drive Select and the Cabrio's CVT; otherwise, the 2012 Audi A5 delivers excellent powertrain performance and graceful dynamics.

All A5 models sport a 2.0-liter turbo-4, even the Cabrio with all-wheel drive.

The powerplant's 211 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque are a favorite of editors, since the torque curve hits a peak at the lower reach of its powerband, and pulls evenly to the 6000-rpm range and is quick to respond to the throttle, even if it sounds coarse at times.

Whether you pick the 6-speed manual or the 8-speed automatic, you can't go wrong. In the A5 Coupe, the turbo four pairs up with a new eight-speed automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive, and together they give the A5 lineup very quick acceleration. The turbo works well with the 8-speed auto, executing quick, decisive downshifts. Audi promises it'll dash to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. Opt for the 6-speed manual gearbox in the quattro A5 Coupe, and you'll shave another two-tenths off those figures, at 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds.

The base Cabriolet instead comes with front-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission, which uses pulleys and a belt for a slightly more efficient means of connecting engine power to the wheels. The CVT has a rubbery, drawn-out feel as it changes ratios, and this is the least satisfying powertrain in the A5 lineup; it's also the slowest to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, so shop wisely. You can get the true automatic transmission in the Cabriolet, and that cuts the 0-60 time to 7.2 seconds.

Audi also makes Drive Select available here. We'd skip it. Drive Select lets drivers adjust suspension feel, steering feel, and throttle response. Just as it does in the A4, Drive Select doesn't offer the right combination of ride and handling to suit its character.

The A5's strong performance pairs well with its taut ride and handling, although both of these models are tuned for serene driving, not taut manners. Our biggest beef is somewhat slow and vague steering response, yet almost delicate in feel. But the suspension is up to the task, allowing you to maintain composure over choppy surfaces.

The A5 is also available with an S-line package that delivers better handling through stiffer suspension settings.

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2012 Audi A5

Comfort & Quality

The 2012 Audi A5 is a great weekend getaway machine, given its excellent front-seat comfort, decent trunk space, and lavish, quiet interior.

In either guise, the Audi A5 is a boulevard cruiser--what we used to call a grand touring car--at its heart, and that means that the priority is clearly toward front-seat comfort, not for whomever ends up in back for short stints.

For a couple and a weekend's worth of baggage, the 2012 A5 is an ideal companion, with a well-laid-out cabin and a quiet, refined ride.

Front seats have excellent support and are mounted to grant good leg and head room. With rather strong bolstering, as well as an underlying firmness, they're good for covering long distances, though the more heavily bolstered buckets from the sporty S5 coupe and convertible should be more widely available in the A5. Headroom can be a bit snug with the optional panoramic sunroof.

In back, entry and exit can be tough, even with the A5's long doors. And you shouldn't plan on putting adults there for very long, as there's nearly no legroom or headroom. The Cabriolet cuts out even more space back there, so it's for kids only.

The rear seats are split to fold down in equal portions, or together, which boosts access to the trunk. Even in the Cabriolet, the cargo hold has space for a fair amount of luggage; it hangs on to 11.3 of the Coupe's 16.3 cubic feet of trunk space, even when the top is folded down.

Materials are a high point in the A5, no matter which model. Surfaces have a low-gloss luster, and the cockpit shows the company's mastery of mixing plastic, leather, and wood in the right proportions. A superb ride-firm but just absorbent enough-plus excellent insulation from road and wind noise altogether make the A5 a joy for covering long distances.

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2012 Audi A5

Safety

A long list of passive and active safety features—as well as a number of advanced-tech options—assure that you're getting about the same level of safety in the A5 Coupe as you would in Audi's sedans.

There aren't crash test ratings from either of the U.S. safety agencies for the Audi A5-and there likely won't be, given its rather low sales volume. But given its lengthy and comprehensive list of safety gear, we're confident that it should offer good occupant protection and accident avoidance.

Dual front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control are all included in every A5. Curtain airbags are omitted on the Cabriolet for obvious reasons, but they're present on the Coupe model. To make up for that, Audi fits larger side airbags on the Cabrio, as well as pop-up roll bars that deploy when the vehicle's sensors detect a rollover.

Visibility is very good in the A5 Coupe, a little less so in the Cabriolet when the roof is raised. Still, the optional rearview camera and reverse parking sensors are welcome features, since the A5 does have somewhat thick roof pillars and a small rear window.

If you're willing to invest some extra money in safety-tech, you can option up to a lane-departure warning system, a blind-spot warning system, radar-based cruise control, adaptive headlamps, a rearview camera and rear parking sensors.

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2012 Audi A5

Features

The 2012 Audi A5 Coupe and Convertible are luxury cruisers through and through, with premium features like Bang & Olufsen sound and plenty of tech and appearance extras.

In base trim, the A5 comes well-equipped--as it should with a starting price north of $40,000--and the options list is long. It's lavishly outfitted as you'd expect in an upscale convertible, and its audio and entertainment features are competitive, even if its MMI controller can seem frustrating.

Automatic climate control comes standard in all Coupe and Convertible models. So do a 10-speaker audio system, power windows/locks/mirrors, keyless entry and pushbutton start, and cruise control.

Bluetooth, bi-xenon headlamps, a rearview camera, side-lane assist (which warns drivers of vehicles in blind spots), a navigation system, and a powerful, clean-sounding Bang & Olufsen audio system are available as options.

On the Coupe, a panoramic sunroof is another key option; But in the Cabriolet, a folding fabric top that weighs less and takes up less space when folded, compared to a hardtop mechanism, opens or closes completely in less than 20 seconds.

Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI) is an option in the A5. With its dial-and-press controller, it (at least in theory) makes navigation, climate, and entertainment functions easier to find when driving. But like other knob-driven systems, the MMI still requires you to remember where some of the lesser-used functions are in the menu system. But thankfully, it does have a set of redundant buttons laid out around the knob.

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2012 Audi A5

Fuel Economy

Considering its size and sport/luxury mission, the 2012 Audi A5 family delivers respectable gas mileage.

The Audi A5 range is relatively green for a luxury Coupe or Convertible-producing EPA Combined gas-mileage ratings in the mid 20s.

Coupes get a quite impressive 21/31 mpg with the six-speed manual and quattro all-wheel drive, while with the newly developed eight-speed automatic transmission, the A5 Coupe with all-wheel drive gets rated at 21/29 mpg.

With the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), the Cabriolet earns EPA ratings of 22 mpg city, 30 highway; but if you get the conventional automatic transmission, the ratings fall slightly, to 21/29.

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Styling 9.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 9.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 7.0
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