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Coupe de gr--ce.

Byline: By John Connor

The coupe is back. All right, I'm aware as far as many car makers were concerned, it has never gone away.

But it's been off Audi's agenda for 11 years and the marque which is sworn to overtake other premier brands during the next decade wants a slice of the action that has been BMW and Mercedes territory.

The model that will run the gauntlet against the 3 series Coupe and the CLK is the Audi A5 - sleeker, longer and wider than its rivals.

Most important from a visual point of view is that the A5 is the lowest-slung model in its class. The impression is further enhanced by its generous width. Without doubt the A5 is one of those cars that looks more impressive in the metal.

The A5 is based on the platform of the next A4, will be available in just two guises at first - 3.0-litre diesel quattro and S5 which is also quattro but has a mighty 350bhp V8 petrol engine.

The 3.0 TDI costs pounds 33,430 and the S5 is pounds 39,825. Both will be six-speed manuals but automatic transmission will be an option within a few months. Expect a series of other engines to be included in the line-up over the next 12 months, starting with a 170bhp 1.8-litre FSI (priced at around pounds 26,000), which is forecast to be the best seller, and particularly popular with the user-chooser company buying market.

There will also be 2.4-litre and 2.7-litre diesels and a 3.2-litre, 265bhp V6 petrol. The smaller engine models will be front drive rather than quattro four-wheel drive.

The A5 puts on a bold front with its deep grille and pin-prick daytime running lights which surround the large headlights, an innovation borrowed from the just introduced R8 supercar.

It's an image that creates substantial road presence and helps put it in a class slightly above the BMW coupe.

As far as interior dimensions go, the A5 has a longer than average wheelbase which allows reasonable legroom in the rear so long as those in the front don't have their seats fully extended. Headroom in the back is fine for anyone up to six foot, but getting in and out can be a shade inelegant.

The boot - it's a conventional rear compartment rather than a hatch - has a rather narrow aperture but can stash 455 litres of luggage.

Audi has come in for some stick for not measuring up to BMW in the handling and ride stakes.

But their sporting models - especially the TT - have illustrated that great strides have been made. And the A5 continues the progress reaching a reasonable compromise between sharper handling and grand touring comfort.

I found the 3.0TDI with its high powered 235bhp engine to be more composed than the S5, which felt somewhat fidgety over poor surfaces. Amazingly, the TDI proved to be under one second slower to 62mph, covering the sprint in a rapid 5.9 seconds. Both models are electronically limited to 155mph.

Fuel consumption is substantially different - the diesel manages nearly 40mpg combined, while the V8 slurps at the rate of a gallon every 22 miles or so.

The auto option will undoubtedly suit the nature of the A5. The standard six-speed box is less slick a change than the sportier TT.

Designer Walter de Silva is said to have described the A5 as his most beautiful car ever, which is probably why 2,000 orders have be taken for it in Britain alone.
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 22, 2007
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