One of the prettiest coupes around, the 2008 Audi A5 comes in with excellent handling, thanks to the standard Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Its 3.2-liter engine produces adequate power, but you'll have to step up to the Audi S5 for real fun. Our test car came with a smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission in lieu of the available six-speed automatic.
We also had all the goodies in the cabin, including an excellent sounding Bang & Olufsen audio system and the Audi Music Interface, which let us connect a crazy variety of music devices to the car. We're also very happy with the Bluetooth phone support, but the navigation system really needs help, despite its high-resolution maps. Audi rounds out the gadgets in the A5 with its very useful blind-spot warning system and the best rear-view camera available.
Test the tech: Music player madness
Rooting around the glove compartment of our test car, we came across a mesh bag full of cables. There was an iPod plug, a 1/8-inch minijack, USB adapter, and a mini USB. Each cable plugged into a port mounted in the glove box, the Audi Music Interface. We had previously used the iPod connector in the Audi S5, but hadn't seen these other options. To test the tech, we scrounged around the office, coming up with an iPod, a USB drive with MP3 files, a Zune, and a Creative Zen with a mini USB connection.
We gathered four MP3 devices to use with the Audi A5.
We first plugged the iPod into the system, then used Audi's Multimedia Interface (MMI) to choose the Audi Music Interface from the Source menu. After a few short moments, the iPod library showed up on the A5's LCD. We really couldn't ask for a better interface. It let us choose from categories including artist, album, and genre, after which we could drill down to the particular music we wanted to hear. The MMI's dial made it easy to choose music.
Then we switched to the USB adapter cable. We plugged in our USB drive, then plugged the cable into the glove box port. Although the interface came up faster, we weren't treated to nearly as much refinement as we had with the iPod. We could only browse folders on the USB drive, with no facility to look at music by genre or other ID3 tag information.
The iPod interface is excellent, offering full indexing of the music library.
Our next attempt was the mini USB cable. We plugged it into the Creative Zen, then plugged it into the A5. When we switched the source to Audi Music Interface, the screen told us the device was initializing. And it kept initializing until it decided it couldn't, and failed. In this case, we would probably have needed a storage device without a proprietary file system, which the Creative Zen uses. A few MP3 players, such as the Cowon iAudio 7, have standard file systems that should work with the Audi Music Interface, although choosing music will be similar to the USB drive.
The USB interface isn't quite as good, merely showing music folders.
Finally, we plugged the minijack into our Zune's headphone port, and plugged it into the car. We knew this would be strictly an audio connection, and the screen merely showed that we were listening to an external device. To choose music, we had to reach over to the glove compartment and use the Zune controls, as the cable is too short to put the Zune on the console, which would be a more convenient position for the driver.
In the cabin
The 2008 Audi A5 uses MMI controls, consisting of a knob surrounded by four buttons, mounted on the console, while the LCD is mounted at the top center of the dashboard. The MMI controls are well-positioned and easy to reach and manipulate while keeping your eyes on the road. But you do have to get used to the positions of the function buttons, positioned around the outside of the MMI controls, for choosing navigation, telephone, or stereo screens. Onscreen, Audi color codes the applications, using blue for navigation, green for the telephone, and amber for the stereo, making it easy to see at a glance which function you are controlling.
The navigation system's maps are nicely rendered, but the system itself is slow.