2013 Audi A5 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 11, 2012

A pretty, talented family of coupes and convertibles, the A5 lineup ranges from the black-sheep CVT Cabrio to the unabashedly awesome RS5.

It's widely regarded as one of the most attractive two-door luxury cars of the past few years, and Audi's A5 hasn't done much to tamper with its affable style for the 2013 model year. Available as a coupe or a convertible, and in sporty S5 and harder-edged RS5 trim, the lineup spans a range of drivetrains and body styles that makes it more versatile than its competition.

The A5 is striking, and elegant. The 2-door has the style language of recent Audis down pat. Audi's pared down detail while paying attention to surfaces. The A5 as a result is just as handsome as a convertible as it is in hardtop coupe form. The tall, gaping grille almost seems a misstep, but it's been slimmed down some this year. The well-coordinated cabin doesn't put a foot wrong. It's put together with obvious care, and its soothing shapes and textures range from traditional wood trim to stainless-steel and carbon-fiber pieces.

A boulevard cruiser at heart, the A5 has a perky 2.0-liter turbo-4 under its hood. With 211 hp, it's a flexible engine with lots of low-end torque, but it's not particularly good with the front-drive car's continuously variable transmission. Skip that combination for virtually any other model. All have all-wheel drive, with either an 8-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual. Fuel economy is good, with a high of 32 mpg on the manual-equipped Coupe. Ride and handling are tuned for comfort, though Audi's available Drive Select system lets owners program steering, throttle, suspension and transmission profiles for a taut feel. There's also variable-ratio steering. We'd pass on both, though we'd take the coupe's available sport suspension for its slightly firm and predictable road feel.

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A step up into the performance arena brings the S5 coupe and cabriolet, and with them a supercharged 333-hp V-6 and a choice between a manual and 7-speed dual-clutch transmissions. A sport suspension, better brakes and bigger wheels and tires give it tauter handling with less understeer than the basic A5; Drive Select and Dynamic Steering are on the menu as well. The champion of the lineup is undoubtedly the RS5: its 4.2-liter V-8 has 450 ripe-sounding horsepower, its dual-clutch transmission is effortlessly quick to shift, and its available sport differential turns the coupe into a rival for the likes of the C63 AMG, M3, and CTS-V.

The A5 does best when it's carrying the luggage for two well-coddled passengers. The back seat can hold another pair, but they should be slight of build and strong in constitution. Leg and shoulder room are generous, and the seats are well-padded and bolstered. The rear seats, on the other hand, are too short in the legs for adults. From the driver's seat, visibility rearward is on the poor side due to the chunky C-pillars that look so good on the outside (the Cabriolet avoids this criticism with the top down). Interior storage space is generally good, with a locking glove box and console, one-liter bottle holders in the doors, and a larger-than-average trunk with fold-flat rear seats.

Audi's usual fluency in cockpit design yields an interior with light-touch controls, an airy feel, and tight build quality.

The S5 and its Cabriolet counterpart, like most luxury performance cars, haven't been safety tested, but they do offer an extensive list of safety features, including: dual front, side, and side curtain airbags; knee airbags, traction and stability control; anti-lock brakes; active pop-up roll bars in the Cabriolet; and a rear-view camera with parking sensors.

Luxury features are similarly exhaustive, with all of the usual luxury suspects on board, including all the power and heated accessories you can think of, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, satellite radio, and Bluetooth. Optional add-ons include the excellent Bang & Olfusen sound system, navigation, and iPhone integration. The latest-generation MMI controller is also employed, making it easy to control audio, navigation, and other on-screen functions with its joystick-like controller. New Google Earth and Street View mapping provides some of the clearest, most beautiful renderings we've seen on a GPS.

Of all the models, the A5 and S5 convertibles shine brightest. Their well-insulated tops can be dropped in a matter of seconds, and they'll rise quickly enough that you won't get drenched when you stop in a sudden shower. Sure, the cloth top blurs some of the coupe's crisp roofline--not to mention eating further into the rear seat space--but the sensation of sun in the face and (a little bit of) wind in the hair makes those quibbles fade into insignificance.

9

2013 Audi A5

Styling

No matter which model you choose, the A5 lineup has classically handsome looks and a tidy, high-quality interior.

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.

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8

2013 Audi A5

Performance

The A5's lot in life is more boulevard cruising, but with the S5 and RS5, Audi takes on all comers.

The A5 encompasses a wide range of performance that boils down to the numbers of cylinders under the hood. In short, the A5 itself sports a turbo four-cylinder; the S5 gets a supercharged six; and the roaring RS5 has the lineup's only naturally aspirated V-8.

As an A5, the two-door Audi relies on the corporate turbocharged 2.0-liter four for power in all versions, from front-drive Cabrio to all-wheel-drive Coupe. With 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the powerplant generates a wide, useful band of torque from low in its rev range, pulling strongly through about 6000 rpm as it tapers off toward redline. It's fast to respond to throttle changes even without available driver-configurable options, and though it can sound a little gritty as it winds out, it's an exemplary unit that still compares well with the newer turbo fours from Mercedes, BMW, and Cadillac.

Transmission choices depend on body style. In the Coupe, Audi brings a choice of an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. Either one suits the A5 well, though with quattro all-wheel drive, the eight-speed automatic is particularly effective, since it has more gears, staged in the grunty end of the powerband, to deliver good acceleration and decisive, quick downshifts. Audi estimates 0-60 mph times with the automatic of 6.6 seconds; with the six-speed manual, it's even quicker, at 6.4 seconds.

In the Cabriolet, Audi's continuously variable transmission makes its only appearance. It's not unwelcome, especially for those seeking out its excellent city fuel economy ratings, but like other CVTs, it's more sluggish to respond and generates more drivetrain noise than a well-sorted automatic. It still suffers from a drawn-out feel, almost rubbery, as it glides through ratios generated by the expansion and contraction of pulleys around a belt--they take the place of conventional gears. This is Audi's least satisfying powertrain available in the U.S. It's the only A5 offered without all-wheel drive, and still it's the slowest of the A5 lineup, with a 0-60 mph time estimated at 7.5 seconds. Even with the weight penalty of all-wheel drive, the Cabriolet with the excellent eight-speed automatic hits 60 mph in 7.2 seconds.

Ride and handling are set for comfort, but Audi makes its Drive Select feature available on the A5. Along with the CVT, it's a feature we'd just as soon leave on the order sheet. Drive Select gives the driver the ability to alter settings for the suspension, steering, transmission and throttle response. As it does in the A4 sedan, Drive Select can be a bit of too much choice--much of the time, it doesn't seem to offer the right combination of ride and handling to suit the car's character. We think the basic suspension is up to the task, allowing you to maintain composure over choppy surfaces without feeling overly stiff.If the mostly serene driving feel of the A5 needs a boost, in your mind, there's always the S-line option package that has stiffer suspension settings and better handling.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.

Steering response, with or without Drive Select, has improved this year with the adoption of electric power steering, which in the now-typical VW/Audi mold, has better on-center feel and response than some other brands and executions. It also enables Dynamic Steering, a variable-assist feature that can change the amount of steering response delivered based on a variety of factors. It's another feature that means more to enthusiasts and higher-performance cars, than it does to more relaxed cruisers like the A5 and its drivers.

Move up to the S5, and the two-door's performance envelope expands to FedEx proportions. Both the S5 Coupe and Cabriolet are now powered by a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, rated at 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. Until this model year, Coupes still sported a V-8 engine. Performance hasn't lagged, though--acceleration is still good for 0-60 mph times of about 5.0 seconds. The S5 cars adopt stiffer suspensions and better brakes, and Audi's magnificent seven-speed dual-clutch transmission becomes the gearbox of choice on the coupe, above and beyond the standard six-speed manual. (Cabriolets don't offer the manual at all.) The dual-clutch's lightning-quick reflexes and paddle controls will have even the diehard shift-it-yourselfers reconsidering their position on the third pedal.

With uprated brakes, 18-inch wheels and summer sport tires, and standard all-wheel drive, handling is, as you might expect, is very good. Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system aids this, biasing the front-rear power split at 40/60 percent, and an available sport differential splits power between the rear wheels for even more balanced handling. Electronic power steering in the S5, like everywhere it's been used, is a tad on the numb side, while the stiff ride quality which enhances handling can feel a bit harsh on the street, though the optional Drive Select system allows the driver to adjust the shift modes, suspension stiffness, and steering feel to better suit the situation. As with the A5, the S5's basic suspension seems so well-sorted, Drive Select and Dynamic Steering seem more like an upsell than a necessity. Braking performance is very good.

At the pinnacle of the A5 lineup sits the RS5. New for the 2013 model year, the coupe-only cruiser is the only model to carry a V-8. It's a muscular 4.2-liter engine with 450 horsepower that shows its semi-exotic roots as it blends power with an authoritative growl through the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel-drive system. Audi pegs 0-60 mph times at 4.5 seconds, and top speed rises to 174 mph, figures that rival BMW's M3 and Mercedes' C63 AMG. The sport differential comes standard, as do 19-inch wheels and Drive Select--but without control over the suspension, which uses conventional springs and shocks. Dynamic Steering remains an option on this model, too. It's the sole A5 that feels fluid with Drive Select, admittedly left in its most sporting setting, while even Comfort mode imparts a somewhat stiff ride. A sport exhaust makes the RS5's sound even more resonant, and optional carbon-ceramic brakes lift its stopping power into Porsche territory. In sum, the RS5 is part luxury coupe, part weekend track toy.

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8

2013 Audi A5

Comfort & Quality

Excellent build quality complements the A5 lineup's great front seats and acceptable trunk space.

No matter which form it takes--A5, S5 or RS 5, coupe or Cabriolet--the latest two-doors from Audi have great front-seat comfort and excellent build quality, while rear-seat passengers get a little shorted.

The A5 lineup is a classic boulevard cruiser, even when it's aggressively tuned for speed in S5 and RS 5 form. It makes for an ideal companion for a couple and their weekend's worth of luggage, and not much more.

The emphasis placed on the front passengers is obvious, from the cozy comfort of the base seats, to the grippy nature of the uprated sport seats available on the faster versions. Even those standard seats have relatively firm and pronounced bolstering for a luxury car; they're great for relaxing or for racking up the miles on long drives without discomfort. They're also capped in leather, something the competition has left behind in the name of cost savings. On the S5 and RS5, sport seats grow wings that snug up against the torso and legs; on the RS 5, they're offered in either Alcantara or Nappa leather.

In those spots, head and leg room are good, though head room can be a little tight on Coupes when the panoramic sunroof is fitted.

The back seat promises occasional seating for a couple of passengers, and in reality, that's all you'll want to use it for. Getting in and out of the seats can be an exercise unto itself, even with the long doors. Adults won't be happy back there for very long--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, especially on the RS5, which offers a choice of stainless-steel or carbon trim.

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8

2013 Audi A5

Safety

Audi adds more safety technology to the pile on this year's A5 lineup, but crash-test scores aren't in yet.

With its latest major refresh, the Audi A5 lineup has all the safety technology that can be expected in its class, though most of it remains on the options list. What it doesn't have are crash-test scores under the current regimen.

Back in 2011, both of the major safety agencies altered their testing procedures. So far, the 2013 Audi A5 hasn't been re-tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Given its mid-life-cycle status, its low sales volume and its relatively high sticker price, there likely won't be any performed either. With Audi's reputation for safety, and the A5's lengthy and comprehensive list of safety gear, we're betting the coupe and convertible will provide good occupant protection and accident avoidance.

Each A5 (or S5 or RS 5) comes with dual front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control. Curtain airbags are left off the Cabriolet for obvious reasons, but Audi does install bigger side airbags on the convertibles along with pop-up roll bars that deploy when sensors detect a rollover is imminent.

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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2013 Audi A5

Features

Bang & Olufsen sound, Google Earth and Street View maps, and quattro all-wheel drive are the highlights and hallmarks of the latest A5.

Audi fits most of its U.S.-market vehicles with a suitably upmarket list of features and amenities, save for the odd omission or two. It's the winning new options on the roster for the 2013 model year that lift its score to the top of the class--there's just nothing like its latest mapping and audio systems.

The base A5 comes well-equipped, and for a pricetag of nearly $40,000, it should. Power windows, locks, and mirrors are standard; so are automatic climate control, an AM/FM/CD player with satellite radio and 10 speakers, keyless entry and pushbutton start, leather seating, power front seats, a sunroof, and cruise control. Bluetooth and iPod connectivity are options, though, and odd ones at this price point.

All Cabriolets come with a power-folding soft top with a glass rear window and an electric defogger. The folding fabric top weighs less than a hardtop mechanism, and takes up less space when folded--and it opens or closes completely in less than 20 seconds.


Audi's Multi-Media Interface is also standard on the A5 lineup. It uses a roller-style controller to govern audio and entertainment features and more, depending on which options you've ordered. In theory, it makes those functions easier to find and operate 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, and some newly relocated controls for the latest model year.

Bi-xenon headlamps, a rearview camera, side-lane assist (which warns drivers of vehicles in blind spots), and a powerful, clean-sounding Bang & Olufsen audio system are available as options. On Coupes, there's a provision for a panoramic sunroof.

A navigation system bundled in with MMI is updated for the 2013 model year, and available in all models. Packaged with a rearview camera, HD radio, and a DVD player, the system links up with Google Earth and Street View mapping through Audi Connect, a subscription service offered by the automaker. For $25 to $30 a month, Audi Connect turns the car into a rolling wireless hotspot, delivering data to the navigation system as well as up to eight mobile devices. Maps are rendered in beautiful detail, from flyover perspectives that are incredibly useful when hunting destinations in unknown locales. It's the rare new navigation system that seems worth the big pricetag.

Moving into the S5 and RS5 range piles on the standard equipment. The S5 coupe and cabriolet get heated front seats, 18-inch wheels, xenon headlights, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, and a special body kit as standard equipment. The RS 5 also adds its own styling touches, as well as a retractable spoiler, a choice of special interior trims, sport seats, parking sensors, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel and shift paddles.

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2013 Audi A5

Fuel Economy

For its size and mission, the A5 earns good gas mileage ratings.

Audi's A5 earns relatively good fuel-economy ratings--that is, until you venture into the heady performance territory of the S5 and the RS5.

The standard-issue, turbo four-cylinder A5 has a wide range of fuel economy ratings, starting with the best of the bunch, the front-drive Cabriolet with the continuously variable transmission and the all-wheel-drive Coupe with the six-speed manual. Both are rated at 26 miles per gallon combined, though the Cabriolet gets better city ratings and the Coupe fares better on the highway.

Step into the eight-speed automatics, and both the Coupe and Cabriolet earn identical ratings of 20/30 mpg, and 24 mpg combined.

The S5 sees economy suffer a bit, though its supercharged six is more efficient than the former naturally aspirated V-8. It's rated at 18/28 mpg with the Coupe and its dual-clutch transmission, or 21 mpg combined; with the manual shifter, the numbers are 17/26 mpg, and 20 combined. Cabriolets with the dual-clutch gearbox check in with EPA numebrs of 18/26 mpg and 21 mpg combined.

Bringing up the rear is the 450-horsepower RS5. Its V-8 and dual-clutch combo evades the gas-guzzler tax, but still registers the lowest gas mileage of the lineup at 16/23 mpg, or 18 mpg combined.

It's long been rumored that the A4 family of vehicles, which includes the A5, would adopt either Audi's diesel engines or the hybrid technology now found in its Q5 SUV. As of yet, neither's been confirmed for the A5 coupes and convertibles.

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Styling 9
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 8
Features 10
Fuel Economy 7
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