Striking and elegant as a convertible or as a coupe, the Audi A5 has a timeless air that seems above its under-$40,000 base price, and fitting for its top end more than $70,000.
The sculpted subtlety of the A5 hasn't worn down at all since its introduction, and chief designer Walter d'Silva's pride that this was his most beautiful design ever has merit. The A5 has an elegant profile, and muscular haunches that carry faint echoes of Camaros and Jaguars. Though it shares its running gear with the more pedestrian A4 sedan, there's much more attention to surface in its panels, which makes it all the more striking when studied up close.
Where it lacks presence, oddly enough, is at the front. Audi adopted a tall, gaping grille design a generation of cars ago, and for 2013 it's rendered the look with more delicacy. The frame of the grille has been muted, and the corners have been angled while the headlamps have been trimmed and thinned out, and the fog lights widened and flattened. There's so much negative space on the front end, it takes a moment to register as a grille, not as a nose bra--not the intent, we're sure. The addition of LED lighting dresses it up at night, and it's become such a recognizable Audi calling card, it's easier to pick out the cars at night than it might be during the day, even with the grille and with the four shiny rings on the decklid.Inside, the A5 has all the gravitas to match the high-design exterior. It's lavish and luxurious, with high-grade materials and plenty of small details like the finely graded instruments and the light grace notes of metallic trim on switches and buttons. The dash shapes itself add up to a little more business than we'd like, but it works well, and two-tone leather and suede seats, along with aluminum or piano-black trims, combine to a wide range of appearances that help this cabin stand apart from ordinary wood-trimmed luxury interiors.
The same flowing, sculpted design of the standard A5 is the basis for the S5's proportions, and that's a very good thing. It's also dressed up a bit with bolder aerodynamics and accent trim on the outside, while inside, the cabin again builds on the attractive base car's design with performance-themed trim and options. Aluminum, wood, and woven metal are all to be found, and while the switchgear can seem a bit excessive, all of the materials and fit and finish speak of quality. The RS5 is nearly identical, save for a mesh grille and LED detailing, RS5 badging, a retractable spoiler on the decklid, and a distinctive selection of interior trims, from Nappa leather to carbon, piano-black plastic, or stainless steel.