CALL ME A CAB
Audi's improved A5 Cabriolet looks offers more of the same virtues we've comes to expect from the marque's open-topped cars. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Audi's A5 Cabriolet offers the style of a Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet with the driver involvement of a BMW 3 Series Convertible. That's the idea anyway. And it's a reality largely delivered by the improved model we're looking at here with an updated engine range and super-frugal running costs. There's almost every conceivable kind of hi-tech driving aid too.
BackgroundWhen Audi's pretty A5 Cabriolet first appeared in 2010, it was an evolutionary step forward from the A4 Cabriolet that had done so well for the brand in the early years of the 21st century. Ignoring the trend for folding metal hard-tops (notably followed by its closest BMW 3 Series Convertible rival), this A5 was smart, relatively practical and very cool.
But that didn't mean it could be improved upon and at the end of 2011, Audi duly did just that, offering a slightly sharper look, extra equipment and, most importantly, a range of more efficient engines. Add to that a hood that lowers in 15s, room for four adults and a 380-litre boot and you've a tough car to ignore in the executive cabriolet sector.
Driving ExperienceAs a general rule, if you own an executive-class convertible, you probably don't drive it too fast. By cruising along, there's a far better chance you'll be spotted by desirable members of the opposite sex and thus fulfil the primary purpose of this type of car. Of course, should the rain be prevailing or the streets be deserted, Audi has been kind enough to build in some potential for fun. Power comes from one of five engine options. The 1.8 TFSI petrol unit opens proceedings with 170PS, then there's the 211PS 2.0 TFSI, with or without the quattro 4WD you get on the top 333PS S5. Diesel-wise, there's a 177PS 2.0 TDI with or without quattro 4WD, plus a 2WD 204PS 3.0TDI Multitronic model, or a desirable 245P 3.0 TDI quattro.
The A5 Cabriolet benefits from the same layout that has been warmly received in the A4 and A5 Coupe. Audi's longitudinally mounted engines gave past models a somewhat nose-heavy feel but the latest cars move the front axle forward for more effective weight distribution and a more engaging driving experience. The quattro all-wheel-drive system continues to play a crucial role in all performance Audi models and today's system is the manufacturer's cleverest yet. Engine torque is not only distributed between front and rear wheels, it can also be divided between the two wheels on the rear axle on 3.0-litre models with the aid of the optional quattro sports differential. This gives the car even greater traction and stability under hard cornering.
Design and BuildSpace can be a touchy subject in convertible cars. Measures taken to accommodate the party piece roof often have undesirable knock on effects in terms of rear legroom and boot space. To help combat this, Audi used the A5 Coupe with its extended wheelbase as the basis for the A5 Cabriolet rather than the A4 saloon that has spawned past drop-top models. The longer wheelbase boosts passenger space in the rear and creates a sizable 380-litre luggage capacity when the hood is up. The boot volume falls by just 60-litres when the roof is lowered. The hood itself is made of fabric with Audi having decided to buck the trend for hefty folding hardtop arrangements. It lowers in a super fast 15 seconds and takes just 17 seconds to reinstate itself again if a shower hits. With both operations capable of taking place at speeds of up to 31mph, owners will be left with little excuse for not making the most of the sunshine.
You have to be very familiar indeed with the looks of an A5 Cabriolet to notice the differences made to this revised model. Essentially, it's been all about bringing the styling into line with Audi's latest design language, which has meant a sharper-looking set of wedgy A6-style headlamps that on most UK models will be surrounded by the LED strip daytime running lights that are fitted to S line and top of the range models. There's also a cleaner-looking single-frame front grille, as well as tweaks to the front bumper and the bonnet.
Market and ModelExpect to pay somewhere in the £30,000 to £45,000 bracket for your A5 cabriolet. The trim level choice boils down to the usual Audi arrangement of standard, SE or S Line. All get the fully automatic hood, climate control and alloy wheels. The SE factors in leather trim and the S Line tags on various sporty styling accoutrements. Audi reserves some of the choicest items for the options list where buyers will find the adaptive cruise control that maintains a set distance to the car in front, the latest satellite navigation system and a 505-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo.
Audi has developed a special neck level heating system built into the seat backs that will keep occupants warm on chilly days when the roof is down. Then, should the weather warm up, there's special solar reflective leather upholstery so you don't burn your backside when you get in after the car's been parked in the sun with the roof lowered.
Cost of OwnershipThe A5 Cabriolet promises to be a relatively cost-effective ownership proposition with its inherent desirability maintaining residual values and the advanced engine range proving reasonably economical given the performance on offer. The entry-level 1.8 TFSI petrol manages 45.6mpg on the combined cycle and 143g/km of CO2, but if you opt for the 2WD 2.0 TDI diesel variant, you can improve that to 57.6mpg and 127g/km. Either way, a Start/Stop engine system helps enormously. Further up the range, even the tarmac-shredding S5 can get over 29mpg from its supercharged V6.
SummaryAudi's A4 Cabriolets have been highly successful for the brand down the years and now the mantle has passed to the A5 Cabriolet to deliver the goods. The recipe is much the same, Audi's cool brand image, stylish design language and slick interiors coupled with an expertly engineered fabric hood and a range of thrusting engines that are now more efficient than ever. It's not difficult to see this car's appeal.
Most A5 Cabriolet customers will have decided they want one long before they take a seat behind the wheel. The Cabriolet line has become something of an Audi icon and there will be no shortage of people willing to sign on the dotted line for the car simply because this is the latest instalment. Happily, it looks although there's plenty of substance beneath the marketing veneer and those seduced by the image should luck into the premium convertible that the others have to beat.