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Monday, September 15, 2008

Audi S5 too thirsty, try the A5

If you were to describe the perfect sports coupe, one to live with daily through all seasons and all lengths and types of travel, good fuel economy would probably be on your list of must-have attributes. And that's unfortunate for the Audi S5, a perfectly decent car that just happens to eat, drink, and bathe itself in gasoline like its uncle is the prince of Dubai. Sure, it has impressive power and an engine note that faster, more exotic cars might envy, but its EPA figures of 14 and 21 mpg fall below most mid-size crossovers. Thankfully, the A5 coupe exists.


The A5 arrived at Audi dealerships earlier this year and offers a more efficient alternative for those who want one of the most attractive coupes on the market but aren't willing to get a divorce over the S5's higher price and higher operating costs. In automatic form, the combination of a six-speed Tiptronic and a direct injection, 265-hp 3.2-liter V-6 is good for a claimed 18 city/27 highway mpg. Averaging 75 mph on a trip from Chicago to Michigan's west coast and back, we saw a fuel-economy reading that broke — just barely — 30 mpg. And all the while, old bald guys and teenage girls alike were giving this $40,000 coupe long, hundred-grand stares.


What's more, the A5 continues to affirm our earlier impressions that Audi's got a great chassis on its hands with this new A4/S4/A5/S5 platform. The company's always done comfort a bit better than sport and, indeed, the A5 serves as a better daily driver than the S5. We can't wait for Audi Drive Select to be offered this fall, though. The system allows steering, throttle, and suspension settings to be dialed in individually — we'd leave the A5 suspension alone, but the steering could use a bit more weight and the throttle could use a setting somewhere between the current "normal" and "sport" settings on the gear selector. One other option worth thinking about: sport seats. The base A5 seats aren't terrible, but they lack thigh support. The sport seats, however, are lovely.

a53_center.jpg If one thing stands in the A5's way, it's that the competition within its segment is fierce. Our automatic, all-wheel-drive tester started with a $41,200 base price, and a series of packages contributed to an as-tested $48,390. It may offer more space than a BMW 335i coupe or an Infiniti G37 coupe, but at that price those cars are both more powerful and less expensive, if less gracefully styled. But if you're looking for a healthy balance of efficiency, comfort, and panache, the A5 is an excellent choice.