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Stereotyping is one of LA’s favorite past times. This constant need for categorization can make-or-break people, places, and things. German luxury cars are of course included in this: BMW has performance (people who wear bright colored polos with obscure Tour-de-France logos on them and backwards baseball hats), Mercedes has luxury (old people), and Audi has design (people who name their first-born Neutra and claim to want to move to France because everything is ‘just so effortlessly chic there’).
The Audi A5 emerged in 2008 as one of Audi’s flagship “design” vehicles along with the TT, R8 and the new A7. For 2013, Audi has updated the A5 to keep it fresh and fighting in a very competitive, style-driven segment. As Audi learned with the TT, messing with an ionic design is always risky business. Does the updated 2013 Audi A5 still have that head-turning quality it needs to keep rank in the valet-cache based value system of LA’s car culture?
If there is one thing Audi knows, it’s how to design a car with breathtaking proportions. With it’s undulating sides and low, chopped greenhouse, the A5 exudes swagger. Yeah, I know, I used “swagger”, but just look at how well those haunches rise up to meet the steeply sloping rear window. It somehow manages to deliver that longer/wider/lower look of late 1960s Detroit muscle cars without actually being obnoxiously large. It’s muscly without being corny, elegant without being feminine.
Of course the crown jewel of the Audi A5 has always been THAT FACE. Sure it looked pretty in photos but then you saw one of these puppies passing you from the opposite direction in real life, and it was like a bull with LED horns. Angry, purposeful, and well…just bad-ass.
So you could say Audi took a bit of a gamble by changing THAT FACE on the 2013 A5. The 2013 A5 emerges with a more finely detailed and sculptural front facia. The original blocky headlights have been swapped out for more expressive units that taper inward as they meet Audi’s updated, bevel-cornered grill. The dotted LED light horns have been replaced with complex, wrap-around light pipes, burning in an eye-searingly pure white. From the front, the updated A5 could easily pass for Chernabog himself. Around back you’ll find slightly updated taillights with Audi’s signature “not amused” looking light pipes and a lightly re-imagined lower bumper facia.
Yup, it’s still got it.
The overall design remains extremely driver-focused. Controls fall readily at hand. A large sunroof overhead lets light flood the cabin and can be tilted to let in some fresh air (but oddly can’t be slid back). The Germans can be ruefully withholding at times.
Materials and build quality are best-in-class, which is expected in an Audi. Aesthetically, greater use of gloss black trim enhances contrast to visually brighten the plastic surfaces. Aluminum trim pieces now adorn many switches like the climate controls and window buttons adding a more precise look and feel to those controls. A new three-spoke steering wheel shared with the A6 finds its way into the A5 cockpit as well, looking more upscale with it’s finer detailing and more intuitive button arrangement.
Functionally the biggest change to the A5’s cabin is the addition of Audi Connect. Audi Connect comes as part of the standard navigation option and includes a high-resolution screen, updated 3D graphics, navigation with Google maps, Google voice search, and a WiFi hot spot that allows eight other devices to join your car’s wireless network.
Overkill? Not really. In practice, the Audi Connect system integrates smartphone quality navigation and search functions into your cars hardwired controls, upping safety and convenience. The downside? You’ll have to shell out $30 a month for a T-Mobile data plan to keep all that sweet, delicious data flowing to your new Teutonic baby.
Audi’s ubiquitous AWD system is clearly the star of the A5 driving experience, and thankfully, it’s standard on all American A5s. Quattro provides so much grip that you’d be inclined to think you’re a better driver than you really are. Quattro has the ability to actively send power where it’s needed making everything from driving in the rain to driving like you stole it that much more controlled and engaging.
On the power side of things, Audi offers the A5 with one engine option, its omnipresent 2.0-liter turbocharged, DOHC engine featuring 211 hp @ 4,300 RPMs. That may seem puny on paper, but the real story is over in the torque department. With 258 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm, this fairly small engine really performs far better than its meager size might suggest.
For those wanting more power you can spring for the S5 which comes with a 333 hp, supercharged V6. For the even more power-hungry there’s the RS5, with a beastly 4.2-liter V8 making 450 hp. For most, the base 2.0T will be plenty of power and offers impressive fuel economy for its class, delivering 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. I was able to achieve 35 mpg on a highway trip up the coast to Santa Barbara.
The 2013 Audi A5 is able to blend stunning design, a sumptuous cabin, wonderfully neutral handling, and a luxurious over-all experience in a way that few other GT coupes can. Still, at the end of the day it will probably come down to THAT FACE, which, like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, refuses to be ignored.