Reviews

2012 Audi A5 Walk Around

The Audi A5 and S5 look great, appearing at once formal and sporting. On each side a strong character line arches over the front wheel and carries all the way to the tail, but apart from the bottom of the door and sides of the panoramic glass roof there's hardly a straight line to be found.

Proportions are classic coupe with minimal bodywork ahead of the front wheels, a substantial rear roof pillar, moderate trunk lid and a longer tail than snout. The door windows are frameless and visual strength is added by a central pillar that hides as a dark panel behind the rear side glass.

Cabriolets keep much the same proportions with their folding soft-top (which folds in 15 seconds, among the fastest in class, at speeds to 30 mph) and really look good with the top down.

Out in the open the A5 appears larger than it really is; the Audi is half a foot shorter than a Jaguar XK or Bentley GTC and just a few inches longer than a 911, yet it comes across at least as spacious inside as any of those.

In terms of styling, the A5 is the cleanest, the S5 the most aggressive, and the A5 with S line package splits the difference. The leading edges of the car are the inner points of the lower grilles that separate the central grille section from the lights and side grilles, much like the leading points of a manta ray. On the S5 aluminum-look trim is used at the lower edge of the grille, on the outside mirrors, and at the bottom of the rear bumper between the four exhaust outlets.

Bi-xenon headlamps give these cars that wild-animal-stalking-prey look. Crisp, white LED daytime running lamps run along the bottoms and outer edges of these headlamps, originators of a higher standard for appearance and function; they can be turned off if you wish, automatically dim for use as parking lights, and are off on whichever side the turn signal is blinking for better vision of said signal. Some car companies could learn something from this design.

Most wheels are five-spoke or a derivative, like the two-by-five propeller-blade shaped spokes on the S5 which use a fingered center cap to cover all the lug nuts.

Interior

Interior Features

The Audi A5 and S5 cabins are designed around the driver. A choice of leather is available along with different types of wood, carbon fiber, aluminum or stainless steel trim. Every surface has a pleasant feel, regardless of the material from which it's constructed. It is modern Teutonic luxury in the vein of multiple finishes that complement each other well, with stark efficiency or warmth determined by color choices and trim components.

The S5 cabin is done in mostly dark materials, including the woven headliner and sunshade. Lighter trim highlights the roof panel pull (it slides forward from the rear), gauge nacelles, vents, speaker grilles, and control knobs with piano black centers. The black lacquer also surrounds the primary control area aft of the shifter.

A three-spoke leather-wrapped wheel has hand grips at all the right places and just two controls on each side spoke. However, each side has a thumbwheel that serves multiple functions by scrolling up or down or pressing to click, allowing a majority of system operations to be done without removing a hand from the wheel. Oft-used controls like cruise, signals, flash-to-pass/main beams, and wipe/wash are all on handy stalks. The wheel adjusts for reach and rake with a single manual release, giving all the advantages: Proper driving position, spacing from airbag, and instrument view. The center armrest also adjusts for height and rake, so it you can use it in cruise mode and slide it out of the way for lots of shifting on winding roads.

Front seats range from very good in the A5 to excellent in the S5, and the S line models fall in between. Any A5/S5 seat provides hours of comfort and wiggle room while maintaining all the lateral support required to explore the car's capabilities. On the S5 the headrests are integral with the backrest and not adjustable, yet the headrest and neck protection are all in the right place and satisfactory for those well past six feet. Thigh extensions in the seat cushions let those tall drivers use more chair than just the area under their pants pockets, and there's plenty of legroom and a good dead pedal.

A fast-slide switch on the front seat backrests eases access to the rear buckets which are nicely sculpted and comfortable for most up to 5-feet, 10-inches tall. A substantial armrest folds down over central storage trays and passengers are catered to with reading lights, two speakers per side, coat hooks, outboard storage pockets, cupholders, and a pair of vents with adjustable temperature control.

To enlarge the cargo area the rear seat folds in a 50/50-split, allowing a pass-through into the passenger compartment for carrying longer items.

The Cabriolet has a lightly revised rear seat but the side windows do roll down. A wind-blocker cuts buffeting in the front if you have no rear passengers. Ventilated front seats may be equipped with neck heating, expanding the temperature range for comfortable al fresco motoring.

The driver faces a tachometer and speedometer with smaller temperature and fuel gauges outboard in the two teardrop-shaped pods; in between, there's a bank of warning lights across the top and information display in the center. This panel shows a variety of data, much of it chosen by the driver using the stalk and wheel controls; even on manual transmission cars it displays the gear selected in white and, if another gear offers the same performance on less gas, an arrow and a number for that gear in green. Night driving is further aided by deep amber illumination that offers the fastest recovery time for your eyes, smoked-lens vanity mirror lamps mounted in the roof, and shaded map lights that light your lap, not your eyes.

A well-shaded screen for the MMI (multi-media interface) is located on the center stack and angled toward the driver. The MMI controls many of the car's functions and displays navigation maps and the rear camera view. MMI has a central control knob, somewhat like BMW iDrive and Mercedes COMAND systems. This is the third generation of MMI, and its operation has been simplified by the adoption of a joystick that's integrated into the central control knob. It has a new complete-word input capability, three-dimensional map displays and a music jukebox on the internal hard disc drive. Operating it may require a little familiarization but it is quicker and requires less button-clicking frustration than some similar systems. The MMI controller is immediately behind the shifter but not accidentally hit by a resting hand or quick shift. To the left of the lever are the parking brake and Start/Stop buttons, and to the right is the volume knob; this is less than convenient in sixth gear so you'll find the steering wheel control the logical, handy choice.

Below the central screen is a pair of vents and some simple switchgear. At the base of the console are the climate controls, with buttons to select fan speed, temperature, airflow, and seat heat and a small rotary knob to make the adjustments. Full auto mode is available, as is full manual control without any confusion.

The navigation system works as directed. Sound from the optional 505-watt, 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo system is most impressive.

Outward visibility is quite good, with relatively narrow pillars and the side posts far enough rearward that they don't interfere with lane-change or close-quarter over the shoulder glances. The rear pillars are generally unnoticed, the rear window usefully large and distortion-free, and the edges of the bodywork not totally lost in the distance.

Cabin storage includes a shallow bin in the armrest, one center cupholder and a phone-sized bin adjacent, glovebox, and door pockets with beverage stands at the leading edge.

The trunk opening is larger than many two-doors and takes advantage of the trunk lid length to open well out of the way. There are four tie-down rings, a spare underneath, and 12.4 cubic feet of trunk capacity. Cabriolets offer the same trunk capacity with the roof up, and lose just two cubic feet of space with the top folded.

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