All photos courtesy Samuel Lippke.
Out the driver’s side window and onto the distant horizon, the sea and sky merged together in a blue-gray haze so seamlessly that you couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended. The view out of the driver’s side window and windshield is nearly unobstructed in the 2013 Audi A5; in fact, there are few blind spots at all, the Pacific Ocean surrounding me was nearly panoramic. Slung low in the front-engined coupe, I sang along to the new Kendrick Lamar single “Swimming Pools” pumping out of the Bang & Olufsen audio system – a smooth anthem with thumping drops that perfectly suits the buttoned-up rebellion ethos of the A5 – and carved deeper into the Palos Verdes bluffs.
This is how Germany does muscle cars, a grand tourer that chews up road with inspired handling and no luxury lost – while also setting new beauty standards for a country where form is the fourth most important element after function, function and function.
Except for a few design and option changes – we’ll get to those later – the coupe is mostly unchanged for 2013, returning the same 2.0L TFSI 4-cylinder engine with 211 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft of torque. This is the least powerful engine in the A5 family – that also includes the sporty S5 and raucous RS 5 – but switch to Sport mode as you carefully loop around a gaggle of bikers riding a switchback, downshift to second gear and press your right Android Homme into the gas pedal. Above 4,000 rpm, the noise will make you wonder whether Audi accidentally handed you an S5 equipped with the wrong badge.
I left the house early this morning and took the long way to work, rolling through brutalism architecture of downtown Long Beach and over the colossal twin bridges that look down to the biggest ports in the U.S. I crossed into San Pedro and headed for the water, which leads to the hills that hide the best driving roads the South Bay has to offer. Palos Verdes Drive East is a meandering uphill climb with breathtaking views, a perfect opportunity to put the standard eight-speed TipTronic transmission through its paces.
New for 2013 is electromechanical power steering, which glides the (also new) three-spoke leather steering wheel from lock to lock. In second gear the A5 provides direct and immediate feedback around a hairpin, then firms up as you accelerate and shift into third and fourth.
The Audi A5 begins to shrink as you gather speed, particularly with the sporty feel of the leather wheel that angles perfectly at four and eight-o’clock positions, like that of a racecar. The quattro all-wheel drive system handles corners deftly, while still maintaining the rear-drive bias that doesn’t keep you from chirping the tires once in a while.
Still, the car has so much more potential for performance, and customers looking to boost their adrenaline should head toward the S5 or RS 5. The 2013 Audi A5 is still a cruiser, and a very good one at that – comfortable and even supple, especially for a car in its price range. There really isn’t much competition in the front-engine, all-wheel drive $40k segment. The Infiniti G37 doesn’t have the luxury or performance and the BMW 6-Series is a huge leap forward in price. The Mercedes-Benz C250, BMW 328i and Cadillac CTS Coupe are all good options and should be cross-shopped, but the competition doesn’t offer all-wheel drive, which is a huge selling point for suit-and-ties looking for a comfortable yet bold ride to work.
Our test car is the Premium Plus model, middle of the A5 range between the Premium and Prestige trims, and retailing for $42,600. Add some of the options we enjoyed like the $850 audio system, $550 Advanced Intelligence Key and $3,050 MMI Navigation Plus Package and you’re looking at a $48,085 pricetag. One or two more goodies and you’re well into the $50k range.
All of these extra options were fully appreciated – except the heated wheel and seats, it is summer in SoCal, after all – because as I delved deeper north into the hillside estates, morning traffic clogged up the two-lane road. Sport mode, sadly, deselected. Switch from semi-auto to full automatic transmission and settle in for the slow haul. Under these conditions, the ride is composed at all times with seamless gear shifts and a soft ride that could rival most mattresses for comfort. Just roll up the windows, crank the radio and relax.
Slow cruising is when the 2013 Audi A5 looks its best – especially in Brilliant Black, like a well-manicured man in a tailored suit walking briskly along Madison Ave. When the A5 first debuted, its flowing lines were pleasing but the overall shape was a bit bland and nondescript. That changed with the 2012 refresh, which included updated taillights and a more focused and aggressive front fascia. Passersby stare like they’re seeing an old friend who’s spent a lot of time in the gym lately. Our test model wears the look well, and also benefits from a new standard LED xenon-plus headlight design for 2013.
Another new addition for 2013 is a navigation package includes Google Earth satellite maps. Personally, I still prefer the grid view, but it can be very helpful to use the three-dimensional view if that’s what you prefer. The lapping blue waters of the Palos Verdes Reservoir come into sight on my navigation screen seconds before it appears through the right window.
You won’t find a better combination of style, performance, luxury, exclusivity and value than the 2013 Audi A5. The problem is that time flies when you’re enjoying yourself so much. The hills even out and I’m through the office door ten minutes later.