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Verona, Italy –It is said by Audi’s marketing staff that 2007 is Audi’s year of emotion. Why emotion? By the end of this year, Audi will have introduced three coupes to market: the TT, the R8, and the A5/S5. In Europe, that list of sultry two-doors includes an A5 with Audi’s 3.0 TDI.
What’s that? Diesel you say. In a two-door coupe? That’s one interesting combination Audi’s not yet ready to make for America. But, maybe they should. With the success of the R10 TDI racecar speaking to enthusiasts in America and around the world, it’s worth a closer look at the car to see just what it’s all about.

In the auto industry, coupes themselves are a bit of a risk. They likely won’t do much to help a brand hit its numbers, but when you look back twenty years and measure a marque, it is the coupe that is remembered, that makes the notch on the yardstick. Coupes defy logic and utility in favor of beauty and a more exotic image. Man cannot live by family car alone.
Adding a diesel to the mix is even more of a risk. That may not be so in European markets, where diesel is usually at least fifty percent of the sales and costs of engine federalization are relatively low. However, in America it would certainly be a roll of the dice, requiring cahones of polished alloy aluminum. North American Audi execs have shown a track record that is a little too calculated for such a move… at least right away – good for business, but a pity for those of us who yearn for just such a ride right now.

To be precise, cars like this Metor Grey A5 3.0 TDI are about as un-American as you might find. With two-door body, TDI motor and manual 6-speed transmission, this is one of the least likely configurations deemed “acceptable†by the American market… and that’s just one of the reasons why we wish we could get it.

It’s easy to become smitten with the muscular lines penned by Walter da’ Silva. That becomes even more the case as you open the doors to a handsome Cinnamon brown leather interior accented by aluminum and Walnut Brown inlays. Audi’s two-material accenting takes on a grown-up and rich tone with such a combination, and the color-matched Bang & Olufsen speakers add to both the sound and the look.

Depress the polished silver starter button and the car’s 3.0 TDI comes to life. With commonrail design using Bosch Piezo injectors, this engine brings a new level of smooth to diesel motors – something we’ve already experienced fitted in an A6 and Q7. Still, at throttle the 3.0 TDI loses points to the more sultry-sounding 3.2 and 4.2 petrol offerings elsewhere in the A5/S5 lineup.

Engage a gear with that throttle though and it wins those points back. Torque is prodigious and immediate. On paper, the engine may sound meager with only 176 bhp at 4000 rpm, however the 369 ft-lbs. of torque at only 1500 rpm that had us smiling so much our jowls were showing… or maybe that was from such authoritative acceleration.
Off the line and around town, the A5 pulls like nothing else in the range – not even the S5. That power is said to make the A5 also the fastest in the non S-car part of the range, moving the coupe from 0-62 mph in 5.9 seconds. Even on the highway, one can drive lazily without shifting and still pass with ease. Even better, this is the kind of car that can return an estimated on and off-highway average of over 39 mpg.

In the curves, the 3.0 TDI is plenty of fun as the oodles of torque on tap allow you to manhandle the two-door more easily than even in the S5. Power is always on tap, with maximum torque on tap from 1500-3000 rpm. Considering red-line is south of 5000 revs, that means roughly 1/3 or 1500 rpm of the engine’s range is at maximum pulling power.
Unfortunately, the base A5 suspension, as experienced on our tester, was not as composed as that of the S5 in such curve-laden situations. Having just stepped out of an S5, we noted that the A5 3.0 TDI sucked up bumps more comfortably, but left us wanting more firmness and less roll when hard in a turn.

A pity we didn’t have time to test the lone A5 3.0 TDI S-line on hand for sampling, as that car may have left us forgetting about the S5 almost entirely. With its S-line body kit nearly identical to that of the S5 save for different grille badging and single tipped exhaust on each side, as well as great-looking BBS-style wheels, that particular A5 was definitely one of the best looking in the motor pool. It was also one that would likely be the most sought-after in the modern diesel-friendly European market.

No, our tester wasn’t an S-line. However, like all A5s, it was still quite handsome. Rolling on 18-inch V-style 10-arm star wheels, something we might see as a base setup in America, the car drew plenty of looks on Italian roads where low-slung Ferraris and sleek Alfa Romeo coupes are commonplace.

Having sampled the S5, A5 3.2 and A5 3.0 TDI in the same afternoon, it’s with a fair degree of irony that we can suggest the A5 3.0 TDI might be the best setup for American roads. Being the least-likely to be offered in America, the low-range power would be more than enough for around town driving and highway cruising at legal speeds often far lower than portions of Europe. Even before you consider the improved fuel economy, or that the low-sulphur diesel the 3.0 TDI consumes is now readily available stateside, the car is already a clear winner.
It’s a shame then that the coupe will likely not come to America within at least a year, if ever. Short of a full-on landslide of diesel sales, the 3.0 TDI will likely be sold in the A4 or even the A6 following the Q7 3.0 TDI’s American debut in late 2008, before the A5 is even considered. Yes, there’s a burgeoning diesel market here, and hopeful rumors out of the U.S. dealer’s training session suggest it’s being considered, but likely not in the first or even second wave of American diesels and most likely not with a manual transmission… and that’s a real shame.
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