The seasons always change, but convertibles rarely do. The idea of a retractable roof on automobiles has existed since before the invention of the car itself, and droptops have been a mainstay of Audi’s offerings for decades now. In the United States, the four-ring brand sells four convertibles for a variety of clientele. There’s the small and relatively affordable A3 for sun seekers on a (sort of) budget, the stylish TT for sportier and more style-conscious tastes, and the wild R8 Spyder for those looking to cause a stir. Think of the mid-level A5 and its S5 sibling, then, as Audi’s Goldilocks cabriolets: not too big, not too small, not too expensive, but not too plebeian, either.
And yes, the A5 is just right. Like the A5 coupe we tested earlier this year, the newly redesigned A5 cabriolet sets nary a tire wrong, being exactly as polished, swift, and refined as we’ve come to expect from modern Audis—only with the extra joy of open-air driving to sweeten the deal.
For starters, the droptop A5 is a performer. An extra 360 pounds compared with the coupe dulls the cabriolet’s acceleration somewhat, increasing the zero-to-60-mph time from the coupe’s 5.0 seconds to a less spry 5.6. But the A5 cabriolet still turned in a sports-car-like skidpad figure of 0.96 g and a short 145-foot stop from 70 mph, beating out its hardtop counterpart by 0.03 g and 7 feet. The two A5s wore different tires, with the convertible riding on Hankook Ventus rubber and the coupe on Continental ContiSportContacts, but both are nevertheless mighty impressive at the track.
Those cornering and braking numbers from this base, four-cylinder A5 even outstrip the more performance-oriented Mercedes-AMG C43 cabriolet, although that car competes more directly with the 354-hp, V-6–powered Audi S5 cabriolet. While the S5 would give the turbocharged six-cylinder C43 a better run for its money in stoplight drag races, given the snappiness of the A5 2.0T’s turbocharged inline-four and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, we’d think twice before spending the extra $12,700 for the S5.
Audi’s expert chassis tuning also means that the A5 is able to balance its performance with a genuinely relaxed character, appropriate for its mission as a luxury droptop that most owners will use as a fair-weather daily driver. Its ride quality is plush and composed, and the stiff structure never quivers. Even in the firmer Dynamic driving mode—and despite our test car’s larger 19-inch wheels (18s are standard)—harsh impacts rarely penetrate the cabin.
Thus far, Audi has stuck with traditional softtops, presumably to save weight and to ease packaging versus the retractable hardtops some competitors favor. The A5 cabriolet’s cloth top does a good job of insulating the cabin when raised, with only a small amount of wind noise noticeable on the highway. Lowering the top is a 15-second affair that can be done at speeds up to 31 mph. When folded, the roof occupies a bit of space in the trunk, shrinking cargo volume to 7 cubic feet (from 9 with the top raised). Audi offers a removable wind deflector, but we don’t think it’s really needed given how well the car controls wind buffeting without it, even at highway speeds. When installed, the deflector prohibits use of the rear seats, which are generously sized for a compact convertible. They can easily accommodate two adults for short- and medium-length trips.
If pressed to come up with criticisms for the A5 cabriolet, we might throw some stones at its staid looks, which we consider a step backward from the previous generation’s clean and classic design. Audi has given in to the current trend of ostentatious grilles, making the front end look overwrought, while the profile and rear end are nearly indistinguishable from those of the previous A5. Our test car’s sober Florett Silver paint didn’t help counter the A5’s tendency to blend in. More distinct hues are available, but none will give the A5 the same street presence as Mercedes-Benz’s stylish C-class cabriolet.
The A5 cabriolet’s goodness also doesn’t come cheap, with the convertible costing nearly $7000 more than the coupe. Our Prestige-trim-level test car was loaded with extras, including the $1800 Driver Assistance package, $1000 adaptive dampers, the $2100 Luxury package, and $1050 19-inch wheels, pushing the total to $65,050. At that price, we can’t help but start thinking about one of our other favorite droptops, the Porsche 718 Boxster, even if that sporty two-seat roadster isn’t exactly a fair competitor for the cushier, four-passenger A5.
Instead of being a highly focused machine like the Porsche, though, the A5 aims to please a wide swath of customers by doing just about everything well. In its latest iteration, it succeeds mightily at that mission.
(Car and Driver)