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

Okay, If you really insist on more power than you will ever actually need and seldom get to use, Audi does offer an S5, a structurally identical coupe with a thirsty 354-horsepower V-8 engine that gulps fuel at the rate of 14 to 24 miles per gallon depending on choice of  manual or automatic shifter. Of course, while you are watching the gas gauge race to empty, you can also be racing from a stop to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.

But, back to the subject at hand which, for anyone who really cares, is officially known as the 2011 Audi A5 2.0 TFSI quattro MT6 Coupe.

During my week with the manual-transmission car I had the opportunity to take it on a 300-mile round-trip from southern New Jersey to downtown Manhattan and on a couple of spirited runs around the rural roads inland from my barrier-island town of Avalon.

Tooling along the Garden State Parkway at speeds that could often be described as extra-legal, I was impressed most by the comfortable ride and the surprising 33-miles-per gallon returned by the smooth and quiet engine.

On the back roads, the A5 brought its sporting nature into focus with strong grip, mostly neutral handling, precise steering and strong brakes. Despite the all-wheel drive, there was nary a hint of understeer.

Toggling mostly between third and fourth gears, I was completely satisfied with the Audi’s power output. Fuel mileage, however, dropped to 21 mpg.

Naturally, a premium car requires more than perky performance. It must make its passengers feel as if they are seated in the lap of luxury and the Audi comes complete with  a whole host of comfort and convenience features.

Included in the base price of $37,375 (including delivery) are such standard features as sumptuous linen beige leather seating, automatic climate control, driver information system with trip computer,  tilting glass panel roof with sun screen, 8-way power front seats and premium 10-speaker, 180-watt audio system,

Add another $8,000 and your A5 will include a navigation system, Bluetooth hands-free phone interface, 3-zone climate control, upgraded audio system,  nutmeg laurel wood trim and Xenon-[plus headlights.

Any complaints? Although I don’t agree, some critics feel the A5 could really use more power. Also, the low roof line may require driver and passengers to duck and access to those rear seats is awkward.

That’s about it.

Obviously, a four-seat coupe, particularly one that can’t be called inexpensive, isn’t the car for everyone. But, those who fit in the A5 niche will be getting a gorgeous automobile that combines an upscale aura with a fun-to-drive demeanor and a surprising amount of fuel efficiency.