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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
particularly good in bad weather situations
strong, linear power at any speed
artificial steering feel
All A5 models come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four, even the Cabrio with quattro all-wheel drive.
The turbo four's 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet 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 can sound a little coarse at times.
Whether you pick the six-speed manual gearbox or the eight-speed automatic transmission, 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 engine actually works very well with the automatic, executing quick, decisive downshifts. Audi promises it'll dash to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. Opt instead for the six-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 its Drive Select feature an option on the A5, and it's another feature we'd skip. Drive Select allows the driver to tune the suspension, steering, and throttle response, and in the similar A4, the system doesn't seem to offer the right combination of ride and handling to suit its character.
The A5's strong engine performance pairs well with its taut ride and handling—although both of these models are tuned more for for serenity than taut driving feel. Steering responsiveness is probably our biggest beef; it's a bit slow and vague, 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 option package that has stiffer suspension settings and better handling.
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.