The ultimate first-world problem just got a little harder with the introduction of the highly accomplished new Audi A5 Cabriolet
The 2018 Audi A5 and S5 Cabriolets owe their existence to a little-known car called the Audi Cabriolet (B4) which found its way to Australian in 1994. The similarly-sized Audi was priced at a whopping $86,990 and the German brand found around 200 buyers in six years who probably now wished they had bought an apartment back then for the same coin.
Fast forward to today and the price of the brand new A5 Cabriolet has dropped to $83,490, and if you take inflation into account, the 1994 variant’s price would represent $153,000 in today’s money. Considering it has absolutely nothing to compare, in terms of specification or equipment to its contemporary offering, any complaints about today’s car pricing should cease.
The reason for the price comparison isn’t necessarily to showcase the car’s affordability, more so that two-and-a-bit decades ago, wishing to own an Audi convertible of this stature was a tall order for the majority of Australians. Today though, it’s readily accessible to those who seek the lifestyle that such a vehicle brings.
Having recently reviewed the Audi A3 Cabriolet and found it somewhat wanting, it was with great anticipation that I jumped in to its much larger and classier brother to take a long-winded drive through some of the most spectacular roads South Australia has to offer.
First up, I jumped behind the wheel of the base entry model Audi A5 2.0-litre TFSI front-wheel drive. With an on-road price of under $90k, this is, in our opinion, all you’ll need if you’re after an A5 convertible.
With 140kW of power and 320Nm of torque driving the front-wheels, the base model feels perfectly suited to its task as a luxurious and classy convertible. It looks the business and has more than enough grunt to get up and go for every day tasks.
It will rush from 0-100km/h in a respectable 7.9 seconds and – frankly – it's more than quick enough for the type of car that it is. Riding on 18-inch wheels, with our test car shod in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, also meant a very comfortable package that provided excellent grip around corners.
We did not experience any scuttle shake, and were left very satisfied with the overall dynamics of the car, given its power output. That may have something to do with the extra 40 per cent of torsional rigidity compared to its predecessor.
Thankfully, the previous generation's continuously variable transmission (CVT) is now long gone, replaced with a far better and more sporty dual-clutch seven-speed system that breathes a lot of life into this new model.
Despite the rain and cold, we took the roof off and enjoyed the standard neck-level heating seats that kept our upper body warm, while the seat heaters were turned on to maximum as we ploughed through the country roads on offer.
Audi says this car appeals to those in 40-55 age bracket, with a household income of above $200k, who enjoy travel and adventure. As far as we are concerned, this car should appeal to anyone that enjoys the ability to quickly remove the five-layered roof (15 seconds open, 18 seconds to close) and take all that life has to offer. Convertible ownership is hard to explain, it’s best just experienced.
Nonetheless, it’s a sense of freedom that requires the owner to have the time to enjoy it. The A5 convertible is not the type of car you’d have the roof open for in traffic; you need to have both the means and the time to take it somewhere where the open air is fresh and the scenery spectacular. It’s a hard lifestyle choice to 'dis', if that’s possible.
The cabin of the base model A5 is gorgeous. It’s typical Audi, with two giant screens and very high-end switchgear. The Germans may produce one interior similar to another over and over again, but hell, given how good it looks and feels to be in, we don’t mind.
The front seats are very comfortable and are more than ideal for long trips in terms of back support. The rear seats are a bit of an afterthought in comparison, to be fair. Sure, they now offer 18mm more leg room than before, and they can certainly take two adult passengers for a quick trip to dinner, but unless they are dedicated primarily for kids, they would make an uncomfortable permanent seat for any adult.
Audi’s infotainment system is a delight. It’s hard to know if it’s better than the latest version of iDrive in BMW’s updated 4 Series convertible, but apart from requiring a cable for Apple CarPlay to work (BMW offers wireless CarPlay) we feel it’s just as accomplished and easy to use.
Having that giant 12.3-inch Virtual cCockpit (which first debuted in the Lamborghini Huracan in 2014), allows for a lot of information to be directly presented to the driver. A head-up display is available as part of the $5600 Technik package that also adds matrix headlights and a B&O sound system. Worth it.
We loved the three implanted microphones inside the seat belt for both front occupants that assure perfect sound quality for telephony or voice activation, even with the roof open and the wind rushing by.
There really isn’t any genuine reason to cough up another $11,510 for the quattro model, unless extra power and better dynamics is a necessity. If you do go for the more powerful A5 Cabriolet, you’ll also gain larger wheels, a sportier flat-bottom steering wheel, memory driver's seat and colour ambient lighting, which would look rather epic at night with 30 different colour choices to pick from.
The all-wheel drive A5 cabriolet also brings more power with 180kW and 370Nm of torque. It will go from a standstill to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds. Is it better? Absolutely. Is it worth the extra money? Probably, but only if you will appreciate it. After all, this is now only 0.2sec slower to a 100km/h than the previous generation S5 Cabriolet.
We found the quattro A5 model to be the best planted and most dynamically capable of the range with excellent ride comfort, and far better settled than the S5. The steering is excellent and around the twisty stuff it will put a smile on your face if you start to push. It doesn’t sound all that great, though, and if you’ve ever owned a Volkswagen Golf GTI or Golf R, the engine note and the transmission shift noises will be very familiar.
It still needs a few options, though, such as the Technik and S-Line package to really make it shine inside and out, so whether you would rather option up the packages on the base model instead of upgrading to the quattro is a personal decision. Personally, I would spend the extra cash on options rather than the AWD capability and more grunt.
We kept the longest section of our road test for the Audi S5 Cabriolet, expecting a performance-orientated experience that ultimately left us a tad disappointed. With a starting price that is $24,000 more than the smaller capacity quattro A5, the $119,111 S5 is for a unique type of buyer who values performance over comfort in Cabriolet form.
With 260kW of power and 500Nm of torque, the S5 Cabriolet is bloody quick, with a 0-100km/h time of just 5.1 seconds, which is faster than you’ll ever need to go with the roof off. Even if it weighs a good 200kg more than the S5 Coupe (roughly the same weight difference for other variants also).
The new S5 cabriolet is an excellent car, so long as the roads are smooth. It’s not uncomfortable inside the cabin either and I absolutely love the diamond stich pattern on the S5-specific sporty seats (though we kind of like having neck-heating, which the S5 doesn’t get).
It’s just a bit jittery if the roads are anything but perfect and we found the steering to be highly sensitive and lacking a bit of feel and feedback, which was odd considering how good the A5 quattro communicated.
I never really got all that comfortable driving the S5 at speed. It has the means to deliver its might to the ground and it certainly corners with ease, but it doesn’t correspond its capabilities through the steering wheel, which – for me at least – meant it didn’t inspire a sense of confidence to keep pushing and pushing.
To be fair, the roads were a tad wet (during our entire drive program) so it may be a case of the S5’s stiffer suspension being better suited for dry conditions and the quattro A5’s softer setting for the wet.
Even so, the new S5 Cabriolet comes with a hell of lot more stuff than the previous model and is $13,000 cheaper than the car it replaces.
We look forward to spending some more time with all three models to come up with more detailed individual ratings.
For now though, we would suggest the base model is more than good enough for a luxury convertible (8/10), with those seeking a few more thrills to opt for the highly accomplished A5 quattro (8.5/10).
We feel the S5 is best experienced in coupe form, however, for those who need to have an unnecessarily fast convertible, it remains an ideal choice but comes in at 7.5/10 for us until we can try it out on some dry roads.