"The Audi A5 Cabriolet comes with Audi's deserved reputation for performance and build quality - convertibles don’t come much classier than this."
If what you want from a convertible car is a touch of premium class, then take a look at the Audi A5 Cabriolet - you won’t get much classier with the roof down. It is justifiably held in high regard for its stylish exterior and head-turning presence on the road, but it's not a great car to drive. In fact, there's quite a disparity between its looks and its driving experience. That said, it is relatively quiet when you have the roof up, it has four useable seats and a decent-sized boot. Plus, compared to its main rival, the BMW 3 Series Convertible with its folding metal roof, the A5's material roof does take up a lot less boot space when folded away, which boosts the practicality (not that practicality is a top priority when buying a convertible). It's also cheaper to buy than the BMW like-for-like, and if you buy the diesel engine, running costs are nice and low, particularly the 2.0-litre TDI. The Audi A5 Cabriolet now comes in two specifications – entry-level SE and top-of-the-range S line.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The most efficient engine from the wide range on offer in the A5 Cabriolet is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel, which Audi claims will return 60.1mpg in combined fuel economy, while emitting 124g/km of CO2, which means £90 a year in annual road tax. The 1.8 and 2.0-litre TFSI turbo petrol engines also offer good economy too, but the larger 240bhp 3.0-litre TFSI V6 petrol engine is awfully thirsty and won’t prove as good an investment as a diesel version come when you do come to sell. However it does go from 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds and has a top speed of 155mpg.
Interior & comfort
It's something of a shame that the A5 Cabriolet best feature – its novel acoustic roof that further dampens exterior noise – is only available as an optional extra on the lower-priced A5 models. It's pretty essential, because wind, road and tyre noise is a lot louder and more intrusive without it. The interior of the A5 is big and spacious but, as was the case with the coupe, passengers riding in the back will find that head and legroom is fairly limited, and when the roof is folded own there's actually a surprising amount of buffeting from the wind for such an expensive car.
Practicality & boot space
When Audi decided it would equip the A5 Cabriolet with a cloth roof rather the hard-tops of rivals such as the Lexus IS C or BMW 3 Series convertible, they made it far more practical than either, thanks to the folded top not taking up as much space in the boot as a folding hard roof does. You can also open or close the roof at speeds up to 30mph, which is very handy in the UK. You get 380 litres of boot space with the roof down, which is the same as you get in the Mercedes E-Class convertible. That's easily big enough to hold a set of golf clubs or a couple of large squashy bags, but the boot opening is quite small so loading bulky items is difficult. Fold down the standard-fit split-folding back seats and the boot space expands to 750 litres – hardly record-setting but enough to allow some flexibility. You get a special “Acoustic version” as an extra on SE models and as standard on S Line cars that provides extra insulation and makes it nearly as quiet as the standard A5 saloon.
Reliability & safety
It's worth applauding the A5 Cabriolet for re-entering the Driver Power top 100 cars after dropping out of the 2012 customer satisfaction survey entirely, but a 69th place position in the top 100 is a bit of a double-edged sword regardless. It draws attention to the fact that while build quality is excellent, reliability is a real issue – especially because Audis aren’t cheap to repair. So, the A5 Cabriolet is undeniably well constructed, and pretty safe, too, being fitted with hidden roll hoops that spring out to protect occupants if the car should ever look likely to roll over. The engines, gearboxes and interior electronics are all shared with the standard A5 coupe, for which no major reliability issues have been reported, so it's must be a series of niggles rather any big problems that have eroded owners’ confidence in the car. Audi itself ranked a respectable 10th in the manufacturers rankings in the 2013 Driver Power poll, a climb of five places on its 2012 position, reflecting a push toward raising standards across its range.
Engines, drive & performance
Okay – when you pay a lot of money for a premium car, you certainly expect high standards across the board. So, it is disappointing when a convertible like this suffers from excessive vibration that you really feel through the seats and steering wheel when driving on poorly surfaced roads – particularly when you compare it to the BMW 3 Series Convertible. We’re not talking about the usual minor juddering that of course you’ll get on bumpy roads, either. The cabriolet is especially bad in this regard, and it feels very uncomfortable on all but the smoothest roads. Having said that, the A5 is very easy to driver otherwise, with positive, responsive controls that make most driving very straightforward. The steering is light, and Audi offer a ‘Drive Select’ system as an optional extra, which allows the driver to alter the steering and comfort settings to fit their own preference. However, as good as this idea is, none of the modes offered - including a new 'efficiency' setting – really offer quite the right balance between the weight of the controls and the ride comfort, which is in many ways is more frustrating than not having it at all.
Price, value for money & options
As is common, the Cabriolet version of the standard A5 Coupe does cost a lot more, so you do pay for that extra bit of wind-in-the-hair thrills. However, it does undercut its rivals from BMW and Mercedes, making it a good-value premium soft top, even if is still a bit on the expensive side. A lot can be said for buying a coveted car because it will retain its value well in the used car market. As with all convertibles, the time of year will have a big effect on the kind of second-hand deals you’ll get, too, with spring and summer obviously allowing owners to command the highest prices.