by Brad Leach - 16/12/09
Audi's A5 Soft Top Turns Heads
When it comes to head-turning, gorgeous coupes, Audi's latest A5 is amongst the best; but the news gets better with the soft-top A5 Cabriolet.
We've just spent a week in Audi's latest open-top masterpiece - the latest in a line of mid-size coupe cabriolets that actually dates back to 1991. Without a doubt the new A5 Cabriolet is the best ever.
Jaws hit the deck when Audi unveiled the stunning A5 coupe, so not surprisingly the Cabriolet version is absolutely, positively one of the prettiest cars to debut this year - a styling tour de-force with performance and technology to match.
Our A5 Cabriolet test car was powered by the turbocharged 2.0-litre TSFI petrol engine. Other engines are a 3.2-litre naturally aspirated V6 petrol or a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel.
All A5 Cabriolets drive all four wheels via Audi's Quattro system. The V6 petrol model is available with an optional six-speed automatic transmission but all others have the superb S tronic seven speed dual clutch auto.
It might be the perfect summer car, but cabrio coupes are not for everyone - rear seat legroom in the A5 is a struggle for full-size adults.
Audi's four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged direct injection petrol engine is a beauty. With 155kW of power and 350Nm of torque (the latter delivered between 1,500 and 4,200 rpm) it propels the A5 Cabriolet from zero to 100km/h in just 7.3 seconds - faster than BMW's 325i convertible.
With Audi's valvelift system (AVS) ensuring efficient gas flow to the turbocharger and the FSI direct injection system, it's economical, with the official combined cycle figure just 7.8l/100kms.
The 3.2-litre V6 petrol engine provides 195kW/330Nm while the 3.0-litre V6 diesel is good for 176kW/500Nm.
As you would expect, there's no holding back on the luxury/technology fronts inside.
It starts when you climb into the low, nicely sculptured seat and hit the engine starter button - the whirring noise is the electronic operation of the seatbelt extenders (mounted where the B-pillar would be for driver and front seat passenger). So you easily grab the belt, buckle up and then the electronics take over again, folding the belt extender back into place and tightening the belts perfectly.
If the weather is cool, don't worry as there is neck level heating - a three way adjustable fan blows warm air to the back of your head and neck. And if it's hot outside, the glorious Milano leather seats feature a solar-resistant coating which can lower the seat temperature by up to 20 degrees.
Instrumentation is typical Audi with conventional two dials and central-mounted monitor for display of trip computer, audio and optional MMI satellite navigation system.
Our test car was fitted with the individual rear seats with their own center console storage area and cup holders.
With adjustment for rake and reach, the thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote audio and trip computer controls came easily into place for a great driving position.
On the audio front, there's s single disc MP3 compatible eight speaker system with the 6.5-inch colour screen.
The A5 Cabriolet is well-equipped for weekend trips with Audi claiming segment-best boot capacity. With the rear seat folded flat, there's 750 litres of space and even with the roof open, there's 320 litres available.
Design is a crucial element of cabriolet motoring and the A5 scores high marks. Measuring 4.63 metres in length, it is 1.85 metres wide but only 1.38 metres tall - combine that with its large 17-inch alloy wheels and the result is an unmistakable sporty and purposeful look.
At the front, Audi's classic grille gets a thin chrome edge and the excellent xenon plus headlights with high-efficiency daytime running lights look stunning on the road.
The rear diffuser and bold LED tail lights with their ring-shaped light pattern combine with the subtle bootlid spoiler to provide a prounced sports car appearance.
Audi went with the fabric roof to keep the A5 cabriolet authentic. This is not a hardtop convertible although thanks to clever technology the glass rear window remains. Roof fabric can be ordered in four colours - blue, brown, red or black.
As is the way these days, operation of the soft-top is a simple on-touch operation and its simply folds electronically.
0 With the roof in place, we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of outside noise intrusion. Previously one of the compromises you endured with a soft top was excess infiltration of surrounding traffic noise - not with the A5.
Roof up or roof down, the on-road dynamics of the A5 Cabriolet are superb - typical Audi.
Although we tested the 'entry' level model with the 2.0-litre petrol engine, its performance was brilliant. It seemed perfectly matched to the chassis - a combination of light-weight, superb response and rapid acceleration…in fact why would you need the V6 when this engine is so good?
The drivetrain of the A5 features a front-mounted differential (better weight distribution) and this combines with the outstanding five-link alloy suspension and Quattro all-wheel-drive system to deliver remarkable ride and handling. Over our high speed route, the A5 was precise and firm with ridiculously high levels of grip and sharp turn-in.
Our only concern with the A5 Cabriolet was the restricted rear three quarter vision with the roof up - care was needed when changing lanes or reverse parking.
The A5 is the cabriolet for us. We reckon Audi has provided an unbeatable blend of style, luxury, on-road dynamics and practicality (the handy boot size).
Has to be the BMW 3-Series or the Lexus IS250C. Both are hardtops and both have six-cylinder power. Both are good dynamically and the Lexus has a price advantage. But for real joie de vivre the Audi wins us over.
Glorious style; Quattro dynamics; handy boot size
Should have a rear-view camera at this price
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