Audi Goes Soft Top With A5
Audi rolled the dice when they designed the new A5 Cabriolet. They equipped it with a conventional ragtop roof, instead of a retractable hardtop, like the one on BMW’s 335i. They may lose points with some potential buyers now, but the honchos at Audi decided that the additional weight and room required for the hardtop, not to mention the added cost, just wasn’t worth it.
The soft top that they came up with is well insulated, and can be raised and lowered in about 15 seconds. The driver can also operate the roof while the A5 is moving up to 30 miles an hour. A removable wind blocker fits over the rear seat, and keeps turbulence out of the cabin. With the wind blocker in place, and the windows up, you can easily carry on a conversation while driving at highway speeds.
The interior of the Cabriolet is similar to that of the A5 coupe. The cockpit architecture focuses on the driver. The climate controls and the information display are canted to the left. On my test car, the audio, navigation and telephone were operated by buttons, and the Multi Media Interface (MMI) controller on the center console. The MMI is a mixed blessing. It centralizes controls, but simple tasks, like changing a radio station, are more complicated.
The A5 comes in three levels of trim, Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. The car I drove was a Prestige with several option packages. Luxury features included leather upholstery, push-button entry and start, a Bang & Olufsen sound system, heated and ventilated seats with neck warming and a navigation unit with a backup camera. It also had performance add-ons, like the Sport package (19-inch wheels, stiffer suspension and sport seats) and Audi Drive Select— more on this later.
Audi provides buyers with a choice of two engines. The first is its mainstay, the turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, which is rated at 211 horsepower. It’s mated to a six-speed manual, or a CVT automatic in front-wheel-drive models. Those who order Quattro all-wheel drive get either the manual, or a Tiptronic automatic. The optional power plant is a 3.2-liter V-6 that delivers 265 hp. It comes only with the Tiptronic.
My test car was equipped with the 2.0T engine, Quattro and the Tiptronic automatic. The two-liter turbo has plenty of snap, and responds quickly to your right foot. The Tiptronic delivers fairly quick shifts, but it’s not as speedy as Audi’s twin-clutch manual-automatic.
Enhancing the performance quotient was the Audi Driver Select option. It enabled the A5 to be driven in four different driving modes, by varying the engine, transmission, steering and suspension calibrations. “Automatic,” the default setting, is moderately firm except for the steering, which feels a tad light. “Comfort” mode softens the suspension just a bit, making the ride more compliant. “Dynamic” really firms up the steering and shock absorbers for serious sports car driving. And if none of these settings satisfy you, then you can select “Individual” and mix and match whatever you like.
The Dynamic setting, on a Quattro equipped A5 is a terrific combination when tackling a twisty two-lane road. The tighter steering and suspension make the A5 feel like it’s up on its toes. And Quattro, with its ability to shift power from front-to-rear and side-to-side, gives the A5 tenacious grip when cornering. It was a sheer delight putting this car through its paces.
The Audi A5 Cabriolet pricing starts at $42,825. My Prestige test car had a base price of $53,225. With options, the bottom line was a hefty $61,800. That’s not cheap, but the A5 was a lot of fun to drive.
Ragtop, Not Hardtop
Abundant Luxury and Performance Options