Never underestimate the power of great design. Take our long-term A5. All in all, it is a completely stunning example of the emotional response great exterior design can generate. Aside from the odd exotic, or R8, there may be no more visually striking vehicle on the road-and certainly not in this class. With the A5 and S5, Audi chief designer Walter da'Silva has taken the brand's new family design language and effectively booted it through the uprights.

Ours seems particularly effective draped in pearlescent Ibis White, the inverted trapezoid grille element and foglamp cutouts standing in stark contrast to the pristine snowy panels. We've never really been big fans of the white car as art, but the A5 may just be the thing to change our minds. Drive it down the street and you're guaranteed more than your fair share of looks. In any case, more than a modest $40,000 base price would suggest. The A5 is, flat out, just plain sexy. It manages to combine sensuality and aggression in a seemingly paradoxical yet very Aston Martin-esque fashion.

Some have criticized the company for applying the LED running lights to the entire model range, citing the move as softening the range-topping R8's own visual impact. But I'm having a hard time reconciling that argument. They look great, jewel-like, and are a big factor in delivering the A5's optical impact. From your rearview mirror, it's hard to mistake this car for anything but an Audi product as it closes for the kill. (And anyway, the R8 wasn't the first Audi with daytime-running LEDs; it was the S6.)

Continuing backward, the A5's smooth, sweeping panels lend a distinct elegance, a sophistication through simplicity, that most modern German sedans or four-seat coupes seem to lack. The body panels themselves are devoid of extraneous "character lines," save for the subtle direction changes imparted by the shoulder line and another, more subtle crease mediating the doors and rocker panels. The hood, trunk, and rear bumper follow suit, favoring sweeping surfaces and smooth curves over steam-pressed busyness.

Exterior aside, one gripe I've got with the current North American A5 and A4 lineup is the lack of drivetrain options. In Europe you can choose from the 3.2-liter gasoline V6, the 2.0 TFSI, or one of three diesel-burners currently on the books: 2.0, 2.7, and a new ultra-clean 3.0 TDI that lays down 236 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque while supposedly returning economy numbers upwards of 44 mpg. And let's not mention the exclusive availability of the S tronic dual-clutch automated manual. Sucks to be us.

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