Long Term Update: 2009 Audi A5 3.2 quattro S-line – “Grooves in the pavement”.

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August 31, 2009

By Jason Teller

• 2875 to 5700 miles

It has been some time since we’ve updated our Long Term A5, but it has given us quite a bit more time behind the wheel to draw meaningful impressions for our readers. Trends are emerging. Patterns have become obvious. There are figurative “grooves in the pavement” now.

First and foremost the A5 continues to be an absolute visual stunner. This point cannot ever be overemphasized, for it is perhaps the strongest selling point of this particular vehicle. Granted our A5 happens to be bright red (the most classic of all Audi colors), but we think the lady’s curves rather than her skin color underscore all the attention she gets.

This attention is propagated via a never ending procession of gawkers, be it in a parking lot, sitting in slow moving traffic, moving briskly down the highway or anything in-between. People approach the A5 (moving or not) and look at it. It literally demands attention from anybody who has even a mild interest or appreciation for automobiles. Of course partnered strongly with the A5’s exterior styling are the LED daytime running lights which have become a very strong Audi symbol. This means that even oncoming traffic or pedestrians are mesmerized like mosquitoes drawn to a bug lamp by the vehicle as it approaches. The LED’s get the conversation going and the rest of the styling seals the deal.

This is quite an egotistical experience for the driver. Admittedly while some people think of automobiles as merely a means from point A to point B, upscale buyers care as much about the halo surrounding the car they might perhaps care about performance or safety. To be clear this is no Audi R8, and yet we defy anybody to find another car in current Audi lineup which generates as much attention as the A5 / S5 model. Every day that we drive the A5 we get the satisfaction of being watched, followed, sped-up to, slowed-down for, walked-over-to in a parking lot and more. It is both gratifying and a testament to Audi’s product development.

Inside the car a few features have become indispensible friends. First and foremost the Advanced Key keyless start / stop system is just perfect. One would never imagine how liberating it is to merely have the key “on your person” as opposed to constantly in and out of the pocket or computer bag. We love this feature and will have a hard time living without it if our subsequent cars do not have it.

Second, we give exceptionally high marks to the B&O premium sound system. Recall this is not the over-the-top B&O system available in only Audi’s highest end cars for a fortune, but rather a mere $850 upgrade. Do not; we repeat DO NOT order a brand new Audi without spec’ing in this upgrade because it is a tremendous value. Paired with our previous iPod integration upgrade we have access to 3,000 songs at the touch of the MMI system all faithfully reproduced. Frankly we can’t believe we have not blown the system out given the volume levels achieved and wide range of music, but the reality is that it has performed amazingly well.

Third, Audi Side Assist is a great feature that should eventually come standard in all vehicles given the safety application. Side Assist simply eliminates any potential for blind spot problems, particularly at night when visibility is low anyway. This is another feature (like Advanced Key) which is sorely missed when we drive other vehicles.

Last, we have been pleasantly surprised by the interior seating surfaces. Initially we were skeptical that the sport seats would hold up well given the interwoven sparkle, however 10 months in the seats look essentially brand new with no visible signs of wear and tear. We appreciate the interior remaining ship-shape – and all owners should as they think both about their ownership period and potential resale down the road.

Yes, clearly some very nice trends have emerged, but we’d be remiss not to point out a different trend as well. This one is not necessarily negative, but is a matter of context for the owner of the A5. The car is obviously a coupe and there is an inherent trade-off in rear seating for any coupe from any manufacturer. We were hopeful that the A5 would provide some reasonable rear seating, but in the end the back seats are extremely functionally limited. There are two issues at play: 1) legroom (the distance between the back of the front seat and the front of the back seat) is severely impacted unless the front seats are moved uncomfortably close to the dash; and 2) given the hard insert between the two (essentially bucket) rear seats, it is impossible to seat a third person in the middle of the back. Again we acknowledge that this car is neither intended for, nor marketed to, owners who need the utility of large backseats. Still, the A5 might as well be a 2-seater because we have struggled with putting anybody in the back besides small kids – and even then only with a front seat moved forward.

Given the rear seating situation the A5 is pointed directly at singles, empty nesters or people who perhaps would own it as a second vehicle. This is not a bad thing, but rather something we felt worth validating. We would never recommend a family of four, for instance, to consider this car as a primary family vehicle.


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