Racing through the Malibu mountains isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a spirited drive that is firmly contrasted by LA’s city roads. Roads that are littered with stop lights, smog inducing traffic, and drivers that barely passed driver’s ed. Both scenarios can induce frustration, apathy and an abundance of disdain.
However, sitting behind the wheel of Audi’s 2013 A5 all of the aforementioned seems to just drift away, delivering what can surely be deemed a pacifying effect. Honestly, getting behind the wheel of the AWD coupe is a bit like waking up to Christmas morning, every morning. Put more succinctly, the 2013 A5 is a Christmas morning maker.
And while the A5 can’t shower you with physical gifts, you will feel as though you just opened a present as you slip inside the German engineered 2-door machine. The lines and curves of this car are sexy, and leave little to dwell on what Audi could have improved.
So is this A5 a car designed to appeal to those in their 20 and 30s? I’d say yes since it’s a 4 seater, though the backseat are merely a means to an end: a lowered insurance premium. That isn’t to say the A5’s backseat couldn’t accommodate a few petite folk. But look else where for road trips that involve 2 or more.
As day transitions into night, the Audi A5’s interior is basked in the warm glow of red LED lights, as is the instrument cluster, knobs, and just about anything that one could push. The center stack has been afforded a simple, yet intelligent layout that makes adjusting the climate control and heated seats simple beyond words. Change the fan speed and a set of virtual knobs appears on the screen, laying over the turn-by-turn directions supported by Google Maps.
The speed of the infotainment system is still some what questionably lethargic as evidenced by the slow scrolling maps, and the minutes it takes the computer to convert spoken address to an actual input, which by the way both work flawlessly despite their slowness. The system, called MMI (multi media interface), is controlled using a knob (there some functions on the steering wheel) similar to that of BMW. It’s relatively easy to use and takes little to no acclimation. However, unlike other systems of a similar ilk, turn the knob counterclockwise, as in to the left, and menu items move to the right. This is contrary to the industry standard, but its something akin to swiping up on an iPad and dragging your finger down on a laptop’s trackpad; both accomplish the same scroll direction.
Unfortunately, Spotify (and presumably RDIO and MOG) are not directly compatible with Audi’s MMI system. You’ll still be able to playback music from these service, albeit via Bluetooth, since plugging it in using the built-in 30-pin cord renders them useless; in my experience the track info wouldn’t display and nine out of ten times playback didn’t work. That being said, it’s designed to work specifically with your iPhone’s iPod app, allowing you to access the player’s menus using the MMI control knob. But be warned, the included, and proprietary iPhone cord is no more than 8-inches long, meaning that you have to stow your iPhone away in the glove box, leaving it well out of reach while driving. Adding insult to injury there is no standard USB port embedded in the center stack, despite the presence of two SD card slots and a slot for a SIM card that provides the 3G Hotspot functionality courtesy of T-Mobile (a trial period is included, but you’ll have to pay after that).
The speaker system in my 2013 A5 was powered by the very capable and always opulent Bang and Olufsen. “Capable” is an understatement, as the system boasts more than enough oomph to impress even the most demanding of audio enthusiasts. However, a comparable system by Harmon Kardon found in the 335i is more robust, sounds better and delivers a fuller sound.
Infotainment concerns aside, the Audi A5 is a more than suitable everyday driver. It’s certainly no rocket ship, as evidenced by the 21 city and 31 highway MPG rating thanks to its 2L 4-cylinder turbo charged 211HP engine. Through the Malibu mountains on route 23, a windy road chalk full of switch backs and winding curves, the A5’s engine was able to deliver power when I demanded it. It did however show some signs of understeer, as well as too little feedback in the brake pedal – both leave a little something to be desired.
Audi uses something called Electromechanical Steering, otherwise known as EPS, or electric power steering. Their version calculates how much “assistance” is needed at any given time based on feedback from driver and the car. At slow speeds, such as when you’re maneuvering a parking lot, the steering wheel allows for a lot of play, requiring little to no effort to turn. At faster speeds the steering firms up, providing less play and requiring less effort (and time) to make a maneuver. The system works relatively well, except during spirited driving at low speeds. Such was the case while traversing route 23, which called for many more rotations of the wheel than felt safe. In fact, even in parking lots or at low speeds on city streets the Electromechanical Steering made the A5 feel heavy and anything but nimble.
All-in-all the car’s chassis and engine setup make the A5 a pleasure to drive. The steering, though, is far less impressive, as is the manumatic gearbox, which when placed in manual sport mode will automatically shift up once the revs have sustained and exceeded a certain point. It’s a feature I’d expect in automatic sport modes, but can prove a nuisance during aggressive drive, especially when you want to use larger (lower) gears to slow the A5 during winding downhill descents. Shifting into regular automatic mode leaves little to complain about, but nor is it a gearbox that I can sing praises about.
I could easily throw around words like “opulent” and “sumptuous” to describe the 2013 Audi A5. And don’t get me wrong, it is all of those things. But the A5 deserves more than that. From inside to out the A5 has been crafted with the a level meticulousness that only German engineering could deliver. The MMI Infotainment system, while not perfect, is intuitive, and makes programming your garage door’s remote a snap – BMW, Caddy and others car manufacturers require you to press a combination of buttons on the rear view mirror. The backseat of the A5 is for the most part a secondary storage system, though the trunk, which boasts 12.2 cubic feet, is very ample considering the A5’s all together small size. Arguably the tail of the A5 is more attractive than the front thanks to an array of LEDs, but the same attention to detail has been met in the facia, which is further complemented by the adaptive headlights, which are no feature that should ever be over looked in a vehicle (both from a wow and cool factor).
As tested, my 2013 Audi A5, a Premium Plus model, cost $48,085.
Bottom line: The 2013 Audi A5, while underpowered and perhaps not a true sports car, it most certainly fits the bill without blowing out your wallet.
Pros: Excellent road hugging abilities, decent fuel economy, Google Maps, panoramic roof
Cons: EPS steering that makes the car feel heavy, doesn’t work with Spotify, no USB input in center stack, panoramic roof only tilts up