Review: Audi A5 S-Line


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Get your chauffeur ready. The Audi A5 S-Line is here.

Picture 11The A5, out since 2008 but only in limited wait-line-inducing numbers, is a stunner. Of that, there is no doubt. Even its designer, Walter da’Silva, claims that its his best ever. This from the man who has designed no less than four Alfa Romeos (the 145, 146, 147, and 156) as well as the 2006 Lamborghini Miura concept. So you needn’t just take my word that the A5 is a looker.

So we’ve got stunning sheetmetal. Check. The interior? It would be a surprise only if it weren’t incredible. All the “auto journos” ever seem to talk about is how Audi interiors are descendants of Zeus himself. So prepare to be surprised because I just wasn’t that impressed with it. The MMI, Audi slang for satnav, was terribrutal. From what I understand, it’s still better than iDrive or COMAND, but it was slightly daft nonetheless – and I’d consider myself to be pretty tech savvy. The MMI system was just menu after menu after menu of mazes that rivaled the Blenheim Palace hedge maze. I’m sure that it would be fine after a week of using it but it still distracts the driver from the road, making it a safety hazard. Coming from a guy who uses his iPhone while driving, that’s saying something. Although maybe the iPhone isn’t any better.

Don’t misinterpret my criticism of the interior though, the materials and fit-and-finish were impressive, but at $60k, they had better be. I’d be waxing lyrically if the A5’s interior were fitted to a $25k Golf, but at this price point I expect it. This isn’t peanuts we’re talking here. But I’m getting sidetracked – back to the interior experience.

Picture 10The stock sound system, at least when blaring out that latest from Drake, is pretty lackluster. So make sure you go for the optional B&O, because last time I checked, the Danish company had no idea how to make a bad set of speakers. I mean, you’ve got to listen to something while you drive the A5, because you sure as hell can’t hear anything from outside the car.

Oh, and the back seat is pitiful. You have to feel badly for the cows who gave their lives for those rear seats because those little nubs will never be used. The front seats, on the other hand, were stupendous. There were an ideal balance between long-distance comfort, performance bolstering, and flexible adjustment. If for no other reason than that, check the S-Line box when ordering your A5. If you still want to order one, that is.

To drive, the A5 isn’t much – about on par with a Chevy Malibu. Vague, light steering. Quintuple-laminated glass that mutes engine noise, exhaust noise, and excitment. Generally, an unengaging venture, which is why is might be worth getting a chauffeur. That way, you’ll be able to look good and never have to subject yourself to the Wonder Bread driving experience. But wait, if Audi didn’t spend their performance-related R&D dollars on engine or suspension tuning, where did they spend those loonies Euros? On the brakes. Considering how quiet the vehicle is and how easy it is to cruise along at 100 kph in a 60 zone, good stoppers will not be put to waste. You start to realize how important those brakes are when you glance over the spec sheet and notice 3700+ lbs weight; the Quattro-powered two-door is a hefty mother. This mass is great for stability in a straight line but doesn’t do much when a bend in the road presents itself. Thankfully, we live in Alberta and bends in the road are about as common as Liberals.

Picture 8Which brings me to one of my major concerns with the A5, it is so quiet and so refined that you’ll probably forget that you’re driving at all. Driving becomes a background affair – like walking is for anyone over the age of 2. When you want to walk somewhere, you don’t think about it, you just go there. Your legs know what to do. The A5 is so isolating to the driver that it’s a bit like walking. So if you can’t afford a chauffeur (few of us can), then you’re basically left driving a piece of art. It’s like wrapping yourself in Picasso’s Guernica and walking to the grocery store. Except Guernica has Quattro, and is good in the winter.

Yet, despite all my criticisms of the A5 (awful satnav, too isolated, boring to drive, bad stock sound system, pitiful rear seats), it made me feel like a million bucks when I was behind the wheel. When you look that good and you know it, you feel on top of the world. That nearly inexplicable feeling is reason enough to plunk down sixty grand.

This therefore leaves us with a lot of conflicts and a number of compromises. The A5 looks like a menacing sports car, but isn’t. It only seats two adults, but they’re incredibly comfortable. It’s ideal for Canadian winters thanks to Quattro, but won’t be great on fuel as a result. It’s not as good as the 335xi or even the upcoming E-Class Coupe, but it looks like Megan Fox. So I forgive the A5’s transgressions and am left with a smile on my face. Happy in the knowledge that there are still high-quality, beautiful cars being built.

Overall: An exercise in compromise.

Price as tested: $58,500

Interior Design: 6/10. Great materials and quality, too many buttons, lackluster ergonomics.

Exterior Design: 9/10. Drop-dead gorgeous from any angle.

Engine: 4/10. It has an engine?

Transmission: 5/10. Go for the auto, it suits the car better.

Audio/Visual: 4/10. Stock sound is weak, MMI should be avoided. Get the B&O.

Overall (not an average): 6.5/10.