There's something charming about a drop-top. Even more so when you can fit the family onboard, too.
Believe it or not, there are actually a stack of different four-seat convertibles offered in our market. The range is quite broad, which is surprising given the slow homogenisation of the car marketplace. Every car brand appears to be focusing on offering more variations of SUV, as opposed to more decadent choices, like coupes, or in this case a coupe with no roof.
However, not all four-seat convertibles are truly fit for purpose in terms of carrying four.
Four-seat convertibles start from $25,250 in Australia. I use the term 'four-seat' loosely as, sure, these cars do have four seats, but getting four people in, or even a child seat for that matter, can be next to impossible. The cheapest option for a four-seater with an opening roof is the Fiat 500c.
Even offerings around the $40–$50K bracket are quite small in the second row and should be considered 2+2s. The sort of open-top motoring you can get for this sort of pricepoint are cars such as the Audi A3 Convertible or Mini Convertible.
Up from here is where you begin to access the promise of a true four-seat convertible. Cars with apparently enough room in the back for adults, children, and even large baby seats, too, for that matter.
Audi continues to play in this new realm of mid-sized convertible, and Mercedes-Benz now becomes an option also. BMW used to offer an option here with the outgoing 4 Series, but a replacement has yet to debut. BMW is on hiatus from this segment for the time being.
We're testing the Audi option in this segment, which is the A5 45 TFSI S line Cabriolet. Getting a foot in the door with this sort of car starts from $93,400 before on-roads. Mercedes-Benz's comparable C300 convertible starts from $105,835 before on-roads, some $12,435 more expensive than the Audi.
Our test car was equipped with a couple of vanity-centric options, as opposed to technology or equipment options, which is a refreshing change.
|Colour||Navarra blue (metallic)|
|Options as tested||Metallic paint - $1990|
|Options as tested||Inlays in oak, natural grey $520|
|Options as tested||Extended uplostry package $780 (lower part of centre console, door armrets, and door pulls in man-made leather)|
|Price with options (MSRP)||$96,690|
|Servicing 5yr/75,000km||$2820 (via pre-paid service plan)|
|Warranty||3 year / unlimited KM|
Neither of these options are cheap exercises in motoring by any stretch. In fact, the cost to move from hardtop to drop-top with an A5 45 TFSI costs $13,500 to be exact, or an increase of 16 per cent.
The driveline remains the same as the regular Coupe and Sportback versions. All 45 TFSI models, agnostic of their body type configuration, feature a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 183kW and 370Nm. Torque spread is healthy and offered in full from 1600rpm right up to 4500rpm. That point alone goes a long way to give this engine a sense of strength and power despite being a relatively small four-cylinder.
It'll spin up into the redline feeling a bit flat, however, mostly beyond 4800rpm. This is likely a consequence of it being designed and tuned to deliver most of its guts down low. Given that, it's very much a fair trade-off to be dealt with, even with peak power coming on from 5000 to 6500rpm.
If one looks deeply for criticisms with the A5 45 TFSI Convertible, they would likely notice that it feels slightly more doughy than the hardtop equivalent. The drop-top model does lug around another 135kg with it, which is likely the reason for that.
All of the engine's performance is managed through a seven-speed 'S-tronic' automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive. There's not a shortage of grip in any way, and the seven-speed dual-clutch is swift and decisive with its actions. As for fuel consumption, it returned 9.5 litres per 100km, moderately higher than the 7.4L/100km official combined claim.
|Engine configuration||In-line 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Power||183kW @ 6500rpm|
|Torque||370Nm @ 1600-4500rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||99.2kW / tonne|
|Drive||All wheel drive|
|Transmission||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Fuel consumption (combined cycle)||7.4L / 100km|
|Fuel tank size||58L|
My only other gripe with the driveline package overall would be the way it sounds. There are artificial noises pumped into the cabin, but those become redundant with the roof down. It could do with a touch more depth, or even some burble from the exhaust, to add some excitement to the overall experience.
Regardless, exciting is an accurate way to describe a car like this. It's something that first appears maybe unnecessary, given the cost increase, same equipment, and lessened performance proposition that it offers. However, the execution of its cabriolet nature is excellent.
Firstly, the acoustic fabric roof does a good job of insulating noise when up. I've found some convertibles to be disappointing with the roof up – overwhelmingly undermining how good they may be with the roof down. This isn't the case here, as wind noise is well damped, as is exterior interference in general.
The roof folds in just 15 seconds and at speeds of up to 50km/h. This makes switching between each option a breeze, as do the other little clever touchpoints you begin to notice after some time behind the wheel. There is a one-touch button for the windows that drops them all in one go. Excellent. The car also comes with a handy large wind deflector that works exceptionally well. Note that this can only be used with two people onboard as it fouls on the second row.
One of my favourites, however, is the air-conditioning system's memory function. It is clever and remembers the last settings input when the roof was down.
As for me, I always prefer the temperature to be a tad higher and directed into the foot wells when in open-air mode. I was glad to see that the Audi automatically adjusted the temperature settings for me whenever I decided to pop the top. Neck heating also comes as standard when you opt for a Cabriolet; however, it can be irritating and tickle your neck, as I found.
The only time any chassis flex became apparent was when the car was driven up a steep kerb. The majority of the noise came from the side door jamb areas, and sounded like the rubber seals of the door edges rubbing under ever so slight movement.
Despite that, it felt remarkably taut for what it is: a large coupe that's had its roof and central pillars chopped off. It does feel firmer on the road than the Coupe, I might add at this point. That's likely a case of engineers compensating for what's been lost along the way. As a consequence, its ride is more brittle, which can be noticeably so when hopping over larger potholes or big road defects when directly compared to the hardtop version.
As a whole it's comfortable enough, fun, and doesn't mind the odd punt down a good road either. If you're chasing pure dynamism and outright performance, then opt for the hardtop. If you want to do such things open in the air, then you have no other choice. Plus, you can do this with four onboard, not just solo.
But that's where it gets slightly trivial for the A5 Cabriolet.
|Boot volume (max)||375L (roof up) / 370L (roof down)|
|Wheels/tyres||255/35 R19 (standard wheel size)|
The cabin experience in the second row doesn't get away scot-free with the roofless design. Large, bulky side sections of the rear quarter areas impede on space in the back-seat area. They remove shoulder room, or overall width to the back areas of the cabin, which does make it feel more cramped than the regular car. With the roof up, lateral head room (from your ears sideways) is also far less than a car with a tin roof.
The rear seats themselves have shrunk, too, with their lower squabs flattened out in order to help with packaging. Again, this factor adds to the overall decrease in comfort for passengers riding in the rear. As a 183cm passenger, I felt comfortable enough with the roof down but slightly cocooned with it up. As for improving the well-being of second-row occupants, there's a pair of USB ports, rear temperature controls, and two cupholders for a beverage each.
If you're planning on taking taller, more grown-up passengers frequently with your A5 Cabriolet, which is half the reason you're thinking of stepping up from an A3, then assess this point in detail for yourself. You may find it acceptable, but I believe it's closer to borderline tolerable with the roof up.
If this scenario sounds like you, I have a feeling you'll be either banking the cash and stepping into a Coupe, or throwing more money at the problem and walking away with a much-faster Audi S5. Both are equally good scenarios, either way.
Boot space is another area impacted by the change in body type. With the Cabriolet, you're left to make do with 375L of space with the roof up, which is 75L down versus the Coupe. If you fold the roof, you only lose another 5L, which brings the total cargo area down to 370L with the top dropped. There's still enough space for a decent shop and a compact stroller, if you employ some clever stacking and space management techniques.
Just don't expect to return home from the shops with the roof down, as my son found out much to his disappointment. While speaking about tiddlywinks, the installation of a child seat is cumbersome given the location of the tether point. It's found on the rear of the seat back, which means you have to unlatch and fold the second-row seat down.
However, you can't fold the seat from inside the cabin. It requires you to go into the boot to find the release lever. You'll likely find yourself returning to the boot to unlatch the rear seat more than once as you chase an adequate amount of tension for the tether strap. Annoying to say the least.
Despite those top-tether shenanigans, I did manage to physically slot a large convertible child seat into the second row easily. Loading my son in with the roof up felt no trickier than the regular-roofed car, so if you have kids and want to dabble with chasing the sun, the A5 Cabriolet makes for a good option.
Up in the first row, the cabin experience is like every other A5 45 TFSI in the range, which overall is fantastic. Our car was optioned with genuine oak trim that looked and felt expensive, as well as extended man-made leather trim across its doors and lower centre console. Both of these options are well worth the $1300 additional cost, so do consider those regardless of the A5 you end up buying.
Outside of that pair of optional items, the build quality is there, core materials are first-rate, and numerous vehicle controls and switches have been laid out logically with the backing of sound ergonomics. Just what we've come to expect from Audi.
What comes as a surprise, then, is to see the brand dropping the ball with its latest 10.1-inch infotainment system. Found in entry to mid-tier models and dubbed 'MMI touch', it sadly does away with the fantastic rotary controller as found in earlier models. The new touchscreen is sharp and okay to use on the move; however, it does feel more basic and loses a significant portion of convenience because of the removal of this important physical controller. A backward step in my book.
As for other tidbits, electrically adjustable and heated seats are standard, and finished in leather, too, which bolsters the child-friendly credentials of this convertible. There's nothing worse than a suede or Alcantara interior with children, trust me. Wireless charging is included in the base price, as are auto-dimming mirrors and a head-up display.
At this 45 TFSI grade, all possible active safety systems come as standard. The comprehensive suite of driver-assist technology includes blind-spot monitoring, low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, and the rest.
The A5 Cabriolet makes for a good option for those looking to spoil themselves with a fun piece of motoring. It does offer excitement over the Coupe while still retaining basic levels of habitability in the second row for young adults, or even kids in support seats if you're game.
An opening roof is a fine luxury to have. Your friends, family and kids will also commence to egg you on once they get wind of your dilemma, as no doubt they'll also want to partake in a bit of open-air motoring on the odd occasion. There is a place for a car like this in our market, despite being a microscopic segment carved out of an already small niche.
In saying that, when you begin to soak up the cost involved to lose the roof, it does quell such initial notions of excitement and prospects of grandeur. Plus, if you're expecting to throw adults in the back occasionally, don't bother.
If you're adamant on a two-door, go for the Coupe. Put the change you get from this decision into dolling one up with a stack of options. To kick things off, an opening panoramic glass roof will set you back $2890.
How you spend the other $10,610 is up to you.