We are growing up — drivers and vehicle manufacturers.
In the past, we mostly cared about vehicle speed and handling. We still do. But we now realize that cars and trucks operate in a world of multiple, often conflicting concerns.
There are people — motorists and pedestrians. Manufacturers and drivers are trying to injure and kill fewer of them.
There is the environment. Scoff, if you will. But it is difficult — and dangerous — to drive anything through flash-flood waters; and it is nearly impossible to enjoy an open-top car in 100-degree heat.
Today, we give credence to vehicle and traffic safety, fuel economy and emissions control. We’d also like our cars to do more than transport two people.
These shifts change the kinds of cars that are built and what we prefer to buy.
Take a look at the 2018 Audi A5 luxury line. There is the completely revised Audi A5 coupe, a two-door, all-wheel-drive wonder driven for this week’s column. And there is the A5 Cabriolet — great, when the weather is mild and the top can be lowered.
All new for 2018 is something called the A5 Sportback — a hatchback with four doors and nearly double, according to early reports, the 11.6 feet of cargo space in the A5 coupe.
The Sportback might seem odd to Audi fans who are wedded to the sleek, just-for-fun two-door styling of the coupe and cabriolet. But people with growing children, or aging parents in need of transportation, will appreciate those two extra doors and the better rear-seat access of the Sportback.
Let’s face it. Many coupes, as does the tested A5, have rear seats. But those coupe back seats are cooped up — difficult for passengers, be they long of limb or lengthy in senior years, to reach and sit comfortably. The A5 Sportback, which Audi engineers say drives just as well as the A5 coupe, offers a more comfortable rear-seat ride.
I began yearning for the Sportback midway through my week in the A5 coupe, the latter of which proved an absolute pleasure to drive — until I pulled into a shopping center with passengers in tow. The joy disappeared in the effort to accommodate people and their stuff.
But, in solo motoring, nothing beats the fantasy of the open road, assuming you can find one, like the A5 coupe. It is such a beautiful car.
It comes with a stronger, turbocharged four-cylinder engine for 2018 — 252-horsepower, 273 pound-feet of torque vs. 220-horsepower, 258-pound feet of torque in the 2017 model. Front interior ergonomics are remarkably simple and accommodating. Safety offerings have been improved — rearview camera, blind-side monitoring, and a “city braking” device, operable at low speeds, to reduce the risk of hitting pedestrians.
But this is where Audi upsets me. The A5 line comes in three trim offerings: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. I drove the Premium Plus trim in the coupe and was miffed. If I wanted all of the advanced electronic safety items — much of the same equipment available on the less costly 2018 Fiat 500X — I would have to buy the much more expensive A5 Quattro/Prestige coupe.
I don’t want “prestige.” But I would appreciate something like rear cross-traffic alert, which I can get on the Fiat 500x for far less money.
Bottom line: The 2018 Audi A5 Quattro coupe is one heck of an enjoyable cruise for driver and front-seat passenger. But if you have real-world transportation needs, like children and their stuff, check out the four-door, hatchback Sportback.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent in all categories.
Head-turning quotient: High “Wow!” factor. It is an inarguably beautiful automobile — the car as art piece.
Engine/transmission: It comes with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged (forced air), inline 16-valve gasoline engine with variable-valve timing (252-horsepower, 273 pound-feet of torque). The engine is linked to a seven-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually. A traditional six-speed manual is available.
Capacities: Seating is for four people. But, be warned: Access to rear seats is difficult for large or elderly people, some of whom complain that the seating is uncomfortable. Cargo capacity is 11.6 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 15.3 gallons. Premium grade is “recommended” for best performance.
Mileage: Pleasant surprise for such a high-performance car! I averaged 32 miles per gallon on the highway.
Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes; four-wheel antilock brake protection; pre-collision and post-collision safety systems; blind-side monitoring; stability and traction control; side and head air bags.
Pricing: The 2018 Audi A5 coupe with all-wheel drive starts at $42,800. Price as tested is $52,950 including $9,175 in options (Premium Plus trim, onboard navigation, Bang & Olufsen sound system, 19-inch wheels) and a $975 factory-to-dealer shipment charge.