Road test: Audi’s A5 coupe is elegant, sporty and economical

Audi A5 coupe

Audi A5 coupe

A couple of years ago, not too long after the current model was introduced, I was extolling the virtues of the A4 Quattro, Audi’s  premium all-wheel-drive, mid-size sedan.

It struck me then, as it still does, that the A4 was right-sized for a post-toddler family of four in an automotive world that was starting to realize that bigger is not necessarily better.

I also found that the A4’s turbocharged four-cylinder engine offers a superb blend of smooth performance and fuel efficiency, and its sophisticated suspension provide an excellent blend of ride and handling.

The only down side was the nearly $40,000 price tag, which is not outrageous for a premium German sedan but admittedly not right-sized for the average family.

Now, let’s change the picture a bit. It’s 2011 and the kids have cut the cord (physically, if not financially). Mom and dad are mostly empty nesters and seldom have need to transport more than themselves.

Freed from the endless chores of child-rearing and maybe even with a few dollars they can call their own, they are ready to resume a lifestyle they recall, perhaps not quite accurately, as exciting and carefree.

It’s time to buy a new car. The wild youth of yore wants something a little less frumpish than the family sedan, something more exciting ,more stylish, more individualistic.

But there’s a catch. The tight-fisted exchequer of the estate hates the idea of losing that captivating blend of performance and fuel efficiency, What’s the point of owning a fancy car if all you are doing is running back and forth to the gas station?

Of course, like migrant birds the kids will return from time to time and the family will occasionally have to travel together under the same roof.

Not to worry. Once again, and for just a couple of thousand dollars more, Audi might have just the right blend of performance and practicality.

I’m talking about the A5 coupe,

Its elegantly clean lines set it apart from the crowd and its two-door configuration adds a sense of upscale intimacy. This car commands attention, no matter what car it is parked next to. Your friendly restaurant valet might just assign it a spot in the front row.

And, yes, there is actually comfortable room for four, although entrance and egress will be accomplished most easily by the youngest passengers.

Best of all — I’m talking to you, exchequer — the A5 has virtually the same powertrain as the A4. It is equally quick, perhaps even a bit more agile and a tad more stingy in its consumption of fuel.

Initially, Audi thought many U.S. buyers of this premium coupe might prefer a slightly smoother, more powerful V-6 engine, But they apparently were wrong.

The V-6 has been dropped and the only engine offered for 2011 is the familiar turbocharged 2-liter, 211-horsepower, four-cylinder model that will propel driver and passenger to 60 miles an hour in about 6.5 seconds.

It will return an EPA-rated 21 to 31 miles per gallon of premium fuel teamed with a six-speed manual transmission or 21/29 mpg with the six-speed automatic.