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A nice review on the A5

he people have spoken
Audi could have pushed the envelope a little more, but the A5 has undeniable appeal

Canwest News Service

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In autojournalism, as in almost any other business save perhaps politics and crime, it's important to admit error. And, indeed, I may have erred. I've revisited the topic, checked my observations and still come to the same conclusions, but enough people have contradicted me that I must admit some vague verisimilitude to their opinion.

Luckily for my ego, the area of contention is style, something I have little trouble in admitting is not my area of expertise. I know what I like, but the general public's taste is something that still confounds me. Greta Scacchi, who I worship from afar, couldn't buy a role on Bret Michaels' Rock of Love while Scarlett Johansson, who couldn't avert my stare from a Chrysler 300C if it happened to have particularly flashy rims, is a sex symbol. The Jaguar E-Type, which I think looks like an upside-down bathtub on wheels, is a classic, while Ferrari aficionados get all shirty because the achingly beautiful Dino is powered by a V6. I just don't get it.

Nonetheless, enough people tell me that Audi's new A5 is "all that" that I'll have to admit it must be more appealing than I think.

It's not that I think it's ugly; au contraire, even a Luddite like myself can see its appeal. I just think Audi could have pushed the envelope and sculpted something truly avant-garde. Instead, it penned a BMW 3 Series coupe fighter. I may not have agreed with its decision, but then Audi is not in the business of selling cars to destitute autojournalists with seemingly little sense of style, and the people who do buy coupes in this luxury segment obviously appreciate the company's design. So who am I to disagree?

This reasoned approach also pertains to the A5's comportment. That's not to say it isn't sporty. While the RS 5, when it appears, will be a true M3 coupe competitor, the base 3.2-litre V6 is no slouch either. The 3.2L gets a dose of Audi's FSI direct injection technology, which pumps up the volume to 265 horsepower and will sprint to 100 kilometres an hour in about six seconds. It may not be the gruntiest of motors, but it revs sweetly and the slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission makes easy work of keeping the V6 in the meaty part of its powerband. It may not have the moxie of BMW's twin-turbo 335, but it is juicier than the normally aspirated 328. It's also one of the few V6s that is virtually as smooth as BMW's sublime in-line six.

Ditto the handling. Audis tend to be suspended a little softer than their BMW counterparts and their quattro four-wheel-drive systems create a little full-boogies understeer, but, in everyday, real-life driving, they handle superbly. The steering is very linear if a little overboosted, but there's plenty of feedback through the A5's steering wheel and, with meaty 245/40R18 tires, you'll probably run out of demerit points before you run out of traction. The base A5 may not be a track weapon, but it is an excellent, sporty street ride. I should, of course, point out the icy road advantages of the quattro AWD system, but the summer has been a long time coming and I don't want to break up the good karma with talk of traction in the snow.

If you must give the advantage in sportiness to the A5's BMW counterpart, then the A5 counterpunches with an interior that fights above its price tag.

The leather trim is absolutely first rate, the panel gaps are tight and there's a warmth to the cabin not found in more austere BMWs. The teardrop gauge set is attractive and I like little details in the Audi, such as the six-position seat heaters and the multi-function button that controls the air conditioning. Some of the high-tech stuff I could do without, however. I like the push-button starting, but the electronic brake switch always seems to need fiddling and it took about three punches before it would release.

Audi's MMI onboard computer is fairly straightforward, but you can't manually change a radio station, a major pet peeve of mine with many of these computerized audio systems. That said, the audio options include a Bang & Olufsen stereo system, which elevates the A5 about two notches, in my opinion.

But, as with all coupes, it will be styling that sells the A5. And while I may not completely appreciate its appeal, virtually everyone who commented on its looks gave it the enthusiastic two thumbs up. The people have spoken and I stand corrected.

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2008 Audi A5

Price: $51,850 (base/as tested)

Engine: 3.2L DOHC V6

Power: 265 horsepower; 243 pound-feet of torque

Fuel economy: 12.7 litres per 100 km (city); 7.7 litres per 100 km (hwy.)

Visit for more specifications on this vehicle.
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