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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Summary is at the bottom.




As most of you know, I just test drove the Lexus IS350 a few days ago and I was definitely surprised by its driving dynamics and was taken in by its "exotic" styling. What some of you don't know is that I've been looking to test drive the Audi A5 and/or S4 for a long time now and I made time after work to spend a good 45 minutes of my time at Audi of Tucson.

The A5 I drove was a 2013 Cuvee Silver metallic Premium Plus with black leather interior. I wanted to test drive a A5 with the Prestige S-Line trim originally, but I opted to check out the cheaper Premium Plus A5 specifically because I liked the creamy beige color of the Cuvee Silver. MSRP was around $50k (window sticker is down below). I also wanted to test the Quattro AWD of the car particularly since there's a likelihood that I'll be moving to a colder climate next year. As much as I like the idea of RWD+snow mode+all season tires, I think Audi's quattro system will give me better piece of mind quick frankly. :)






Key Features:
MMI Navigation Plus Package
19" 10-Spoke wheels
Sport Package
Audi Advanced Key
Bang & Olufsen Sound System


Pros:
-So Robb (my sales guy) started showing some of the exterior features and talked about the engine, which I was pretty familiar with already. Immediately you can tell, the A5 was not an afterthought of a design (I'm looking at you, E-Class coupe!). It has a proper and well-thought out shape to it. It's very wide and sits low and instantly invokes a gratifying appearance of elegant aggression and performance. Going back to its size, the A5 is definitely the performance coupe for those drivers, big and tall, looking for 2 doors but also needing the practicality of a decent sized backseat. What I was absolutely shocked by was the size of the A5's trunk. It's huge, specifically in its inward depth--I'm talking near full size sedan type trunk depth! Of course there's also fold-down seats and a pass through.

-Ok, the Audi interior still is probably my favorite of performance car interiors. Unfortunately, I've noticed, it is unbelievably difficult to photograph to do it justice, so if you haven't sat in one, just take my word for it. :D The sport bolstered seats (which have standard memory!!!) are very comfortable and snug without digging in. The overall fit and finish is top notch and everything feels solid as a rock. The instrumentation, while might be becoming a little dated, still is easy to read and feel good to the touch. The steering wheel and the overall touch and feel of the buttons and surfaces are all good and the cockpit is very ergonomically design with a tilted center dash, a high center console, and a large range of motion for the power driver seat.

-This was my second experience driving a Audi (I previously tested a 2011 Audi A4 a few years ago) and my first time driving the A5. It took me just a few seconds to remember how to control the MMI for the menu navigation (the knob is inverted as a default, so that may take a while to get used to!). However, since everything is knob and button based, there are an abundance of buttons on the center console for the MMI which might take a while to become acclimated to. Then again, they were still positioned and intuitive enough that I quickly figured out what did what and how they should be used.

-Audi's navigation system lives up to the hype indeed. The quality and options available for the screen are incredibly detailed and thorough. The A5 has a lot of cool features such as Google Earth 3D graphics and even has its own wifi hotspot. As far as the navigation goes when voice activated, the response is quick (could be a little quicker), but the amount of detail and accuracy is a big favorite of mine. Any navigation system where I don't have to stop and manually enter in the destination or the address is a huge plus in my book. It also has the option of being able to download directions from your personal computer. The A5 also has a compass feature in the rear view mirror and a rear backup camera with detection and trajectory lines, which is a must have these days. Even without it, the A5 actually has very good visibility all around for a 2-door of its dimensions.





-As for the driving itself, it did not disappoint! Due to the AWD system, low stance, and torque-biased engine, the A5 does not waste any time from a stop and the turbo engine kicks in just when you want it to. The 8-speed Tiptronic transmission keeps the car in just the right gear when you need it, giving you a good burst of power at any moment. Some might think 211hp and 258 lb-ft sounds like terrible numbers on paper, but this isn't your ordinary engine. The 2.0 TSFI direct injection turbo is available in every other Audi and VW car for a reason. Surprisingly, from what I can tell, the A5 couldn't possibly be any more than .4-.6 seconds slower than my G37 and I didn't mind one bit. I think what really surprised me the most was how incredibly smooth and quiet the A5 was. Even with the larger 19" wheels and summer tires, the suspension and the chassis stay well composed and bumps are handled extremely well without ever feeling floaty.

-Despite it being slightly slower than what I'm used to, the nicely tuned "package" of the A5 makes up for it. Coupling the tight sport suspension with that turbo motor, there's still more than enough performance for spirited driving without the fear of getting into trouble with law enforcement. Combining the turbo 2.0, the torque-biased engine at low RPM, along with the confidence and control of the AWD makes the A5 feel faster than it really is. Thanks to the A5's torque split and torque vectoring systems, the car turns into corners very tightly and builds power quickly out of them all while staying planted to the road. My only regret is that I didn't get a chance to really take it out on some of the curvier parts of town (The Audi dealership is inexplicably located in the hustle/bustle part of town--I'll have to come back at a later time if I want to get it into some twistier areas).

-The last good thing I'll mention is the 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen system which offered an awesome, deep, immersive, and crisp sound. Easily on par with Lexus' Mark Levinson sound system and maybe even better than that. I had the sales guy rocking out hard to my trademark audio test CD (featuring a blend of tunes from Ozzy, Rush, Boston, The Who, Stevie Wonder, The Beastie Boys, Massive Attack, Fleetwood Mac and others). He loved it so much, he wants me to make him a copy of it! It'd be awesome if he used it in the lobby or with other customers on test drives so they can listen to the capabilities of the sound system. :D



Cons:
-Some of the issues with the car stems from the lack of value that the A5 may have in the eyes of those looking for more bang for the buck. For $50k in the Premium Plus trim, there's still a lot going on. You still get paddles, a sport mode with sport suspension, rear view camera, heated seats, navigation, keyless start/entry, LED running lights, memory functions, bluetooth, and all-wheel drive. But on this particular trim level, you don't get adaptive Xenon lights, no adaptive cruise control, no power lumbar, no dynamic steering, and no drive select. Also, Audi flat-out doesn't offer a heated steering wheel, active lane assist, ventilated seats, anti-collision systems, or an around view monitor on the A5 at all. So, despite how friggin gorgeous the A5 is and it is gorgeous, the Premium Plus quattro package and the A5 itself may not give the casual or tech-oriented performance buyer enough to justify its price tag. If you want the full benefits and practicality of an A5 and you've got $54k lying around---Option for option, the top of the line Prestige S-Line package is probably the better bet otherwise but you'll still be without those bragworthy S5-like 0-60 times.







-I suppose the other cons I have is rather nitpicky and it deals with the MMI. Not in terms of functionality but in terms of function. There's a lot of buttons on the center console along with the MMI knob that you have to interact with the navigate through the various different menu options. The speed and response is great, but I suppose there will be quite the learning curve in order to keep track of all of the different menu buttons and sequences it takes to access certain features. The navigation/multimedia screen itself is a little tuckered and is about the same size as the Lexus' IS350, which means that it's not quite as big as some of its competitors.

-This is a personal preference nitpick of mine, but I'm really gonna miss not having an USB input. There is a iPod cable in the glovebox that will take some getting used to, but other than that, this car is extremely well-rounded in its electronics. Another nitpick is that the paddle shifters are located on the steering wheel and not on the steering column, which means that the paddles will move along with the wheel. This isn't a major deal since I prefer to manually shift using the gear selector--however, if a car is going to have paddle shifters, I would've prefer them to stay in one place. Maybe it'll just take getting used to.







Summary


Looks: 9.5/10 (Even though I feel it'll start to show its age in a few years, as it stands right now, the A5 is probably the most well defined and well sculpted coupe or car in general you can find under $50k. On the outside, it's low, it's wide, it's sharp, and clean. On the inside, everything is trimmed in leather or chrome, all driver-focused with high craftsmanship, soft-touch materials, and more importantly, it looks its price.)

Performance: 8.25/10*(This is what I would call an excellent middleground of practical and usable everyday power with a nice smooth chassis, quiet cabin, and well-composed handling. The 8-speed Tiptronic transmission is very quick through the gears and it knows where it needs to be to respond to driver input. It corners in tightly and stays planted and it feels lighter than it really is. Although for $50k+, I can't argue against those that probably would want to see a little bit more power. * = I haven't been able to properly test its capabilities yet, so this score might change later)

Personal Practicality and Appeal: 8.5/10 (The A5 gets a ton of credit here for brand recognition and personal appeal as it's not a car that you see every day. Also even though the dimensions of the car are expected for most coupes, it's perhaps a little bit more generous than the competition due to its wheelbase. The car has really good interior dimensions and you'll forget right away that you're in a two-seater. Fuel economy is decent at 20/30. Entry and exit is good and it actually feels a bit less cramped in the front than the IS350. It also has that unbelievably deep-in trunk and an actually decent back row.)

Options/Tech: 7.25/10 (I absolutely love the Bang & Olufsen audio system. It's a must-have. Outside of the group of buttons around the MMI controller, the Navigation system itself is really impressive but the screen could be larger. The main interface in general is well functioned and simple and climate/audio controls are easy to access. My biggest concern for the Premium Plus is that for $50k, not being able to get Audi Drive Select or Dynamic Steering is a letdown. For the money, I would've liked to have seen more options on the A5 in general to better compete with its competitors.)




Overall: 8.3/10
(I gave the Cadillac ATS a 7.6/10, Lexus IS350 F-Sport a 8.1/10, Lexus GS350 F-Sport a 7.8/10, and the BMW 335i M Sport a 8.6/10)



Bottom Line: If you want an incredibly stylish, premium, and head-turning 2-door performance coupe that won't beat you up at the pump, that won't have worried in the rain or the snow, and when pressed, gives you just enough performance that will keep a big grin on your face in everyday traffic, the A5 is a really good choice. The tradeoff here is, that for the $50k car that I tested, you're not even getting the top of the line A5, let alone the beast of the car that exists in an S5. Even then, it's missing several of the latest and greatest tech features that can be found in the competition (i.e., BMW 335i and Infiniti Q50).
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Bonus pics (Dealer taken).



Before I even got into the A5 that I test drove, Robb spent a couple of minutes showing a top of the line, $55k A5 Prestige with S-Line, similar to the one above. If I decide to get an A5, I would go out of my way to make sure it was S-Line.



The S-Line has nicer seats, much more aggressive grill and wheels, a sporty flat-bottom steering wheel, and a few additional nice-ities that really help justify its cost. I thought the S-Line interior was overflowing with performance luxury through and through--and again, it looked like a $55k car.



Again, the photos don't do the car justice whatsoever.. :(
 

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Well, you clearly like big mouth bass like grills because I think this and the IS have the ugliest grills on the market. The side and rear profile also look a lot like an accord coupe. I want to like Audi and I've driven a few and they do handle very well, but that interior is boring and dated and there are WAY too many menus to go through on that system to do very basic things. And as you said, no value. You're dead on about the stereo though. Infiniti needs a partnership with a higher end system than Bose.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
I agree. A5 is really nice. I just can't justify the $4K "looks premium" compared to an absolutely similarly equipped A4.
I don't know about that. I really think that the A5 wipes the floor with the A4 as far as external looks are concerned. :) Sure, you give up some practicality, but I believe the A5 is a special machine of its own and appeals to a different kind of buyer and so I don't think it should be directly compared with the A4 anyway. :(

I think it's more meaningful to compare it to a 3-series coupe or C-class coupe.



Well, you clearly like big mouth bass like grills because I think this and the IS have the ugliest grills on the market. The side and rear profile also look a lot like an accord coupe. I want to like Audi and I've driven a few and they do handle very well, but that interior is boring and dated and there are WAY too many menus to go through on that system to do very basic things. And as you said, no value. You're dead on about the stereo though. Infiniti needs a partnership with a higher end system than Bose.
I'm glad that you're in the minority when it comes to the exterior look of the A5. ;) I've never seen or met anyone that would be inclined to agree with your opinion of its grille. I find this very peculiar since I have seen people complain about the Q50's grille and its similarities to the Lexus, but somehow you seem gung-ho about the Q50...

Also, I see the rear of the Audi A4/A5 as extremely recognizable and unique and I don't see much resemblance to an Accord coupe at all. :confused:

I don't know what kind of Audi interiors you've been in lately, but I think the interior(s) of the current generation are anything but boring, specifically the S-Line that I mentioned. I do feel that they're just beginning to look dated, but definitely not what I would say boring. I will agree that the pre-2009 Audis had a lot of work to do interior-wise, but I think they've significantly turned things around in a big way currently.


I'm thinking you must be a bizzaro version of myself in how much we disagree on things.
 

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So I'm finally buying a car tomorrow. In addition to the A4/A6 2.0s, I'm taking a look at the IS 250/350, GS 350, Q50 Premium with Touring, Mazda6 GT, 528/535 xDrive. It's going to take the whole day, but hopefully I at least make a final decision on what to get!

I'm giving the Q50 another chance as when I drove it last the adaptive steering must've been on "light", and I drove the beige interior (and I hate beige interiors). Hopefully I see a black one - those interiors look nice to me in the pics.

Out of all the cars you've driven, what do you think your next car will be?
 

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I don't know about that. I really think that the A5 wipes the floor with the A4 as far as external looks are concerned. :) Sure, you give up some practicality, but I believe the A5 is a special machine of its own and appeals to a different kind of buyer and so I don't think it should be directly compared with the A4 anyway. :(

I think it's more meaningful to compare it to a 3-series coupe or C-class coupe.
From the looks of the new 4 series, it's going to be a big competitor of the A5. Both have wide low stances that really make it look sexyyy
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
So I'm finally buying a car tomorrow. In addition to the A4/A6 2.0s, I'm taking a look at the IS 250/350, GS 350, Q50 Premium with Touring, Mazda6 GT, 528/535 xDrive. It's going to take the whole day, but hopefully I at least make a final decision on what to get!

I'm giving the Q50 another chance as when I drove it last the adaptive steering must've been on "light", and I drove the beige interior (and I hate beige interiors). Hopefully I see a black one - those interiors look nice to me in the pics.

Out of all the cars you've driven, what do you think your next car will be?
Wow, out of all of the cars you're looking at, the Mazda6 GT seems to be the odd one out. :p


Anyway, so far I've driven the ATS 3.6, 335i, IS350, GS350, and A5. I still have probably 4-5 more cars that I would want to take a look at before I can really make a decision (a few of which aren't yet on the market) and it's so far away that I really don't know for sure.

If someone put a gun to my head to make a decision, I would lean towards the A5 right now as the numbers suggest. This is mainly because it has the personal practicality and looks advantage that I personally find more appealing and comfortable with over the rest. The IS350 is the close second, while it has the lower price tag and had incredible performance, its lack of options and polarizing look are holding it back a little for me a bit.

Despite its great performance, I'm still very ambivalent about the ATS's electronics, its dimensions, and the fact that it's a brand new car. I feel that its value may be hurt over time and could ultimately become ubiquitous.

I think the BMW 335i M Sport and GS350 are just out of my price range. The 335i hands down had the best combo of performance and tech, but the $58k price tag might be pushing it. I'm thinking of trying out the 328i to see if I can hit a middleground.
 

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I don't know about that. I really think that the A5 wipes the floor with the A4 as far as external looks are concerned. :) Sure, you give up some practicality, but I believe the A5 is a special machine of its own and appeals to a different kind of buyer and so I don't think it should be directly compared with the A4 anyway. :(

I think it's more meaningful to compare it to a 3-series coupe or C-class coupe.




I'm glad that you're in the minority when it comes to the exterior look of the A5. ;) I've never seen or met anyone that would be inclined to agree with your opinion of its grille. I find this very peculiar since I have seen people complain about the Q50's grille and its similarities to the Lexus, but somehow you seem gung-ho about the Q50...

Also, I see the rear of the Audi A4/A5 as extremely recognizable and unique and I don't see much resemblance to an Accord coupe at all. :confused:

I don't know what kind of Audi interiors you've been in lately, but I think the interior(s) of the current generation are anything but boring, specifically the S-Line that I mentioned. I do feel that they're just beginning to look dated, but definitely not what I would say boring. I will agree that the pre-2009 Audis had a lot of work to do interior-wise, but I think they've significantly turned things around in a big way currently.


I'm thinking you must be a bizzaro version of myself in how much we disagree on things.
There's a reason why most of us are on this forum. If I was in love with the competitors I'd be spending my time there. And I'm not an Infiniti only guy. I like the way the new 4 series looks. If I didn't dislike the i-drive so much I'd be seriously considering a 428 or 435.
 

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Wow, out of all of the cars you're looking at, the Mazda6 GT seems to be the odd one out. :p

I think the BMW 335i M Sport and GS350 are just out of my price range. The 335i has the best combo of performance and tech primarily, but $58k might be pushing it. I'm thinking of trying out the 328i to see if I can hit a middleground.
The GS 350 F-sport can be had for 52.5 K after incentives. Also has excellent residuals from LFS designed to move the car.

Yeah, I was surprised about the Mazda. I saw it on the road and really liked the exterior. Didn't drive too badly (just underpowered, but suitable for daily driving), and had all the tech stuff I want except for the small Nav screen. It's actually a fall-back for me, if I can't decide between the IS, Q, and A4 -- I'll go with it to be safe as it's a lot cheaper anyway.

EDIT: Now I can see why manufacturers offer loyalty incentives. That would've probably clinched it for me between the Lexus, Infiniti, and Audi if I had owned one before.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The GS 350 F-sport can be had for 52.5 K after incentives. Also has excellent residuals from LFS designed to move the car.

Yeah, I was surprised about the Mazda. I saw it on the road and really liked the exterior. Didn't drive too badly (just underpowered, but suitable for daily driving), and had all the tech stuff I want except for the small Nav screen. It's actually a fall-back for me, if I can't decide between the IS, Q, and A4 -- I'll go with it to be safe as it's a lot cheaper anyway.

EDIT: Now I can see why manufacturers offer loyalty incentives. That would've probably clinched it for me between the Lexus, Infiniti, and Audi if I had owned one before.
Yeah, you're totally right about the GS350's lease deals.

The only issue is that those lease deals will be running out before I'll be able to lock anything in. Maybe I can find a preowned one when the time comes or maybe the lease deals/incentive will eventually return?

My biggest concern(s) with the GS350 is its weight. It might be a little much for me. As with the IS350, I'm not the biggest fan of the Lexus mouse controller either, which is a shame because the system itself is really good.
 

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Once again a very nice review man! Keep em coming! Looking forward to you finally reviewing the Q50!
 

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Yeah, you're totally right about the GS350's lease deals.

The only issue is that those lease deals will be running out before I'll be able to lock anything in. Maybe I can find a preowned one when the time comes or maybe the lease deals/incentive will eventually return?

My biggest concern(s) with the GS350 is its weight. It might be a little much for me. As with the IS350, I'm not the biggest fan of the Lexus mouse controller either, which is a shame because the system itself is really good.
From Lexus website :
GS350 RWD F-Sport is 3,795 lbs
IS350 RWD F-Sport is 3,593 lbs
Difference of about 200lbs

The GS350 F-Sport gets the option of RWS ( Rear wheel steering) which reduces turning circle from 36.8 ft to 35.4 ft essentially allowing the GS to handle like a smaller car.

The Japanese version IS350 F-Sport has the RWS option but this option is not available in the US.

Note that VGRS,RWS and LDH (Lexus Dynamic Handling) come as a package and is a stand-alone option for the GS350 F-Sport.

My suggestion would be to drive the GS350 RWD F-Sport with the VGRS and RWS over the same road course that you tested the IS350 F-Sport and compare the handling.

This video explains RWS, VGRS and LDH in the GS350 F-Sport :
 

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great review!

2 years ago i drove the A5 2.0 and 3.2 models back to back.........it was interesting to see that you said it doesnt feel so slow....i thought it was the heaviest thing on the road :X i mean it is a pretty heavy car, 200hp doesnt help. thankfully a chip does.

One of the things that really bothered me was the lack of a real sunroof. i was told the only options are nothing or panorama roof (which only opens in a vent position)

never the less it is a GORGEOUS car........actually....i think it was prettier pre-LCI
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
From Lexus website :
GS350 RWD F-Sport is 3,795 lbs
IS350 RWD F-Sport is 3,593 lbs
Difference of about 200lbs

The GS350 F-Sport gets the option of RWS ( Rear wheel steering) which reduces turning circle from 36.8 ft to 35.4 ft essentially allowing the GS to handle like a smaller car.

The Japanese version IS350 F-Sport has the RWS option but this option is not available in the US.

Note that VGRS,RWS and LDH (Lexus Dynamic Handling) come as a package and is a stand-alone option for the GS350 F-Sport.

My suggestion would be to drive the GS350 RWD F-Sport with the VGRS and RWS over the same road course that you tested the IS350 F-Sport and compare the handling.

This video explains RWS, VGRS and LDH in the GS350 F-Sport :
Lexus GS Dynamic Handling System - YouTube
Sometimes it's not just about curb weight numbers. It's how the car's electronics, steering, weight distribution, chassis, and suspension that controls how much the driver feels of the car's weight. The GS350 felt heavier than it probably was.

Thanks for the video. I'm not sure that remember seeing this feature. Something tells me that the GS350 F-Sport that I tested may not have had the VGRS/RWS on it, but I can check and see.



great review!

2 years ago i drove the A5 2.0 and 3.2 models back to back.........it was interesting to see that you said it doesnt feel so slow....i thought it was the heaviest thing on the road :X i mean it is a pretty heavy car, 200hp doesnt help. thankfully a chip does.

One of the things that really bothered me was the lack of a real sunroof. i was told the only options are nothing or panorama roof (which only opens in a vent position)

never the less it is a GORGEOUS car........actually....i think it was prettier pre-LCI
Well, testing a 2.0 and 3.2 back to back isn't going to help the 2.0 at all. :p Again, what "slow" is is incredibly subjective depending on the transmission, the driver, driver driving style, preferences, driver situations, location,...etc. The no real sunroof thing shouldn't be a surprise for coupes. The thing about most coupes is that there's no space to allow for a sunroof to slide back. Either you can have a really large panorama or glass roof that can tilt or you can have nothing at all. There are some larger coupes that have sliding sunroofs, but they're usually pretty small.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I checked the pricing and I'm pretty sure that my GS350 tester didn't have the RWS, which is disappointing I guess.

I'd love to be able to give it a try somehow but it seems like there isn't an F-Sport anywhere in town that has that option on it. :(
 

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The A5/S5 is awesome in the looks department. The one thing I can't get past is the sunroof. It only tips up, it does not slide back. Granted, it is a big roof, but because the slant on the roofline it does not slide back.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Well over the last 30 months I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've slid back the sunroof in my G37.. :p I'm a tilty kind of guy.

I really can't think of performance coupes off the top of my head that has a sliding sunroof. I don't think it's mechanically possible to do so. :p

The only coupes I've seen that offer sunroofs are probably flat-top, notso performance oriented cars like the Hyundai Veloster or the Mini Cooper maybe?
 
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