• Roger Witherspoon

Hi Stepping in the Audi Coupe

By Roger Witherspoon


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There are always risks involved in taking a winning formula and modifying it to

come up with something different.

That is especially true of cars, which are, in essence, the largest and most

expensive piece of sculpture the average family owns. The decisions made by auto

designers as to what to keep and what to throw out, what to emphasize and what to

downplay, change the nature of the artwork and affects those who may consider owning

it.

There is a relationship one has with a vehicle: how it makes them feel when

they look at it, or stand next to it, or sit down and merge with its interior lines and

comfort zones. Then, of course, comes the issue of how well it performs and meets the

needs of the owner.

In this case, Audi’s sedans have long set standards for performance, styling,

technology and comfort. Whether one starts with the compact Audi A-4 in the upper

$30,000 range or drop six figures and slide into the long, luxurious, Audi A-8, one can

expect speed, agility, and superior road handling; a sleek but not overpowering style

which appeals to both male and female motorists; a sophisticated, rather than rakish

décor, and plenty of leg and head room. And one finds these qualities throughout all the

Audi family of sedans.

But now comes the Audi A-5, a two door sport coupe stepping away from the

family-oriented sedan in favor of an upscale hot rod for two. But in this case, stepping

away from the flow was not a step back, though the coupe is definitely, defiantly,

different.

The A-5 experience starts with the grill. It is wider and meaner than the traditional

Audi face greeting you. The four interlocking circles in the deep black grill are more like

the grin of a circling shark than a variant of the interlocking rings marking the warm and

fuzzy Olympic signature. The hood is low and wide, with wrap-around, side-projecting

headlights which conjure the four wheeled image of silver wrap-around shades on a

Harley Davidson rider. It is tough, aggressive, masculine, sleek and decidedly no-

nonsense.

The grill is the introduction to a long silhouette ending in a short, stubby rear. The

dominant features on the sides are the 19-inch aluminum, five-spoke wheels sticking out

from huge wells that emphasize the low height of the car and add to its predatory image.

Inside, there is an obligatory back seat which is comfortable enough for small

children. But there is little leg and head room, and it is better suited for briefcases and

small packages. The seats can fold down with the touch of a button, however, enlarging a

trunk already designed to hold enough luggage for a week’s vacation for two.

The design is everything one comes to expect in a $50,000 vehicle. The leather

seats are deep, padded, wide, comfortable, power adjustable, and heated or cooled. There

are storage compartments for coffee cups, water bottles, cell phones, and CDs. The

entertainment center is powered by a 505-watt, 14-speaker, Bang & Olufsen sound

system which was equally adept with the soft jazz violins of Keiko Matsui or the

brashness of Usher. It can be operated from the wood grain console or the fingertip

controls on the leather steering wheel.

In addition to the six-disc, in-dash, CD player, the A-5 comes with an iPod

interface, AM/FM and Sirius Satellite Radio, and Bluetooth cell phone connection. Its

navigation system is not touch-screen, but the computer control system is intuitive and

easy to operate.

The A-5 has a sun roof but, surprisingly for a car in this price range, it tilts but

does not slide open. This was part of the tug-of-war between the American and German

designers which, in the end, the German team won. Europeans do not particularly like the

wind blowing in their faces, since it interferes with their smoking cigarettes and cigars.

As a result, they may have a glass roof, but it doesn’t open, and they have large cigar

holders, but no cup or bottle holders. Jaguar, for example, solved that problem by

offering an extra smokers’ package for Americans who want them but, otherwise, having

large cup and bottle holders and roofs that let the sun and wind in as their standard

interior. Audi, on the other hand, gave the nod to the European styling, with a couple of

pop-up, wobbly cup holders and large, attractive ash trays. For those who don’t smoke,

it’s an expensive annoyance.

On the safety side, the Coupe’s high density, Bi-Xenon headlights swivel as the

front wheels turn to follow the road – which is really useful on dark, winding country

byways.

But if the A-5 is to be successful, it will have to make its mark on the road as a

sports car. And here, the verdict varies between good and better. The basic A5 comes

with a V-6 engine capable of cranking out 265 horsepower – which is enough to push the

Coupe to 130 miles an hour. That’s fast enough to earn a license suspension, though it

doesn’t particularly turn heads in the sports car world. Audi does offer a big brother

model, however, with a V-8 engine pushing 354 horsepower and topping out at road

running 155 miles per hour. And where the smaller engine jump starts the A5 from 0 to

60 miles per hour in a decent but average time of 5.8 seconds, the V-8 will rock you back

into your heated or air cooled seat as it jumps from 0 to 60 in just 4.9 second. The

difference, however, will cost you about $10,000.

But at any speed, the Audi A5 is a comfortable, sleek, sporty-looking, head turner

of a car providing a fast chariot for a weekend getaway for two.


2008 Audi A-5 Coupe


MSRP: $50,340

EPA Mileage: 16 MPG City 27 MPG Highway


Performance/ Safety:

0 – 60 MPH 5.8 Seconds

Top Speed 130 MPH


3.2-Liter DOHC aluminum alloy V-6 engine producing 265 horsepower and 243 pound-

feet of torque; 6-speed manual transmission; permanent all wheel drive; 19-inch, 5-spoke,

alloy wheels; five-link front suspension; independent trapezoidal-link rear suspension;

antilock brake system; self-leveling and adaptive Bi-Xenon headlights; rearview camera;

rack & pinion steering; driver & front passenger front airbags; seat-mounted side airbags;

side curtain airbags.


Interior / Comfort:


AM/FM/ Sirius satellite radio; Bang & Olufsen, 505-watt premium sound system with 14

speakers, including 4 tweeters and 1 subwoofer; 6-disc, in-dash CD player; iPod

interface; Bluetooth cell phone connection; navigation system; leather seats; heated front

seats; tilt and telescoping, leather steering wheel; fingertip audio, telephone and cruise

controls; tilting sun roof.

Roger Witherspoon

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