It's more than a quarter of a century since Audi launched one of the best sports coupes the world has ever seen. The 1980 Audi Quattro was legendary not only for introducing four-wheel drive to road cars on a mass scale and extracting unlikely power outputs from a small five-cylinder engine, but also for winning many world rally championships. It was such a great drive, and Audi has failed to produce a sports coupe since that has been anything like as entertaining.
In fact, it left the field wide open to arch-rivals BMW and Mercedes, with their 3 Series and CLK coupes, while denying buyers desirous of a classy, sporting, stylish and practical car of a potentially appealing choice. But now we have the svelte-looking A5. It's a two-door, four-seater coupe whose fluent contours usher in a new look for the company, albeit with the assertive grille that Audi has lately been planting on its cars.
The A5 is available with a variety of petrol and diesel engines. The best of them is the 240 bhp 3.0 TDI diesel, which combines strong low-rev urge with impressive economy.
The TDI's quiet power suits the character of this Audi too, which is more long-distance cruiser than athletic sports car. Its four-wheel-drive Quattro system confers a terrific feeling of stability that's confirmed when you hard-charge some bends. But like many sporting Audis of the past, it proves less deft in tight turns, where its BMW rival outpoints it. This drawback is less serious than the deficiencies in the A5's ride, its big wheels clumping into potholes, undermining its case as a luxuriously comfortable mile-muncher. And if you plan to carry adults in the rear, make sure they're under six foot - anyone taller will be wearing the Audi's headlining as a hat.
These flaws, however, don't destroy the car's appeal. It's such a pleasing thing to be in and, we suspect, to own, because it's constructed to a high standard. The interior is crafted from high-quality materials, the controls move with silken precision and the general ambience makes you feel that all's well with the world. Which is part of the point of cars like these.
This Audi also excels on the motorway. It's quiet, has exceptionally comfortable front seats, satellite navigation and stereo systems that are easily mastered, and that potent diesel makes authoritative high-speed progress.
But it's more compromised than you'd expect, with an all-new suspension layout that doesn't really deliver an improvement in agility and comfort, and a four-seat cabin that isn't as capacious as it should be. Even so, the A5 is a highly appealing car, scoring with its quiet good taste, superb quality and an excellent engine. It's not the best coupe of this breed, but easy to fall for.
Audi A5 Coupe 3.0 TDI
Max power: 240 bhp
Max torque: 369 lb ft
Max speed: 155 mph
0-62 mph: 5.9 sec
Fuel consumption: 39.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 191 g/km
BMW 330d SE: £32,200
More ordinary to look at, but better to drive and roomier.
Mercedes CLK 320 CDI Elegance: £34,475
Good-looking, but beginning to age now and a little pricey.
- Richard Bremner is editor of Clean Green Cars - www.cleangreencars.co.uk.