If you are after a sophisticated and svelte grand tourer convertible – and don’t want to be filling up every hour, the diesel Audi A5 cabriolet 3.0 TDI Quattro will fit the bill brilliantly.
This is not, however a car with the same poise and chuckability as a Porsche 911. Understeer is a pain in the neck. The car can be coaxed round a tight corner by deliberately throwing the back out and balancing this with the understeer but I’m damned if I know why Audi still insist on dialing in so much understeer. (My guess is that they figure the average driver would rather crash into a lamp pole head on, rather than sideways and there’s some logic to that). Having said all this, the A5 can go round fast sweeping bends at prodigiously fast speeds. It’s just not as connected as some cars (ie my 1993 E36 BMW M3 or my 1986 Ford Cosworth Sierra).
The interior is more or less the same on all Audis. It’s high quality but there’s no theatre in an Audi. It’s all about function, rather than style. I yearn for someone in Audi to do something silly with the interior. Have some nonsense gizmos that are never going to be used. Have some embellishments that look incongruous. A few annoyingly unfunctional interior trim parts would add to the character. You see, the A5 is a car that does all things fairly well and nothing brilliantly. Take my Sierra Cosworth as an example. It’s ridiculously fast, on boost and when it’s off boost, it’s as flat as a tack. The seat position is infuriating. The trim is appalling. The handling goes from amazingly good to truly awful. And that’s what makes it such an endearing car. It’s like a lunatic girlfriend, who takes you to paradise and hell, all within a five minute time period. And this is exactly what the A5 doesn’t do. It gives fantastic fuel consumption. The handling is always predictable. The noise levels are sporty but not “too sporty”, the looks are elegant but not outrageous. I just wish this car could be an angry snarling beast at times. An angry snarling beast that had a bit more of a mind of its own. This car is just too good – to be good.
So, if you’re listening, Audi, let the owner dial up the suspension from soft as chocolate mousse right up to spine jarringly hard. Do something about the handling and understeer. More turbo boost please! I can tolerate a bit of turbo lag, now and again. Spice up the styling. Make the interior look a *bit* like a Pagani Zonda. And for Christ’s sake, when I take my foot of the brake and press down on the accelerator, I want the power to go to the wheels immediately – not half an hour later. If I want to change into 7th gear at 2mph, that’s my decision. I don’t want “gear change denied”. Stop living my life for me. I’m a big boy now. When I flick the gear change paddles, I should be in charge, not some boring old engineer in Austria that thinks he knows what’s best for me.
Having said all of the above people might think they I don’t like the car. Actually I do. Everyone would. In the wet, this car will easily out drag a Ferrari 458 (trust me, it’s a fact). The power delivery to the wheels, with its AWD is truly impressive. Up to 100 kph (i.e 60mph) not many cars will keep up to my A5. 550NM of torque (which is way more than a Ferrari 458, by the way) is real stump pulling grunt. The problem is that it is such effortless power delivery that – in true Audi style – it doesn’t feel that fast. I’d prefer it to be slower and *feel* and sound more aggressive.
This is a car that’s been born with the DNA to have bone cracking muscle and a flamboyant personality. The problem is that someone has sent it to finishing school, put it in a well made Saville Row tuxedo and taught it excellent table manners.
It’s not a thug’s car. I wish it were.