Audi A5 Cabriolet
“It’s no sports car, but the comfortable Audi A5 Cabriolet blends classy top-down looks and quality with surprising practicality”
- Sleek, desirable looks
- Superb build quality
- Economical engines
- Noticeable body flex
- Not the sharpest drive
- Dated infotainment system
The four-seat convertible is something of a German speciality, and one that has always been successful for Audi. In the nineties, it sold a model known simply as the Audi Cabriolet, which was followed by the strong-selling Audi A4 Cabriolet. More recently, the cabriolet and its coupe sister were given their own A5 badge, which has since expanded to include the rakish Audi A5 Sportback. This most recent A5 Cabriolet was all-new for 2017, but does it have what it takes to beat its BMW 4 Series Convertible and Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet rivals?
With an all-new Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet just around the corner as well, the Audi can’t afford to leave anything to chance when it comes to style, performance or desirability. But as with most other kinds of car, fuel efficiency and low emissions are increasingly important and the A5 Cabriolet has to prove it won’t break the bank for buyers.
Anyone familiar with the previous generation of A5 will instantly recognise the latest version. With the A5 selling well since launch, Audi has wisely avoided tampering with a style that customers obviously like. So although this is an all-new car, you’ll probably only notice detail changes. The headlamps are bolder and stretch back further and the grille has been made more prominent. Along with newly profiled bumpers, you really can see the differences when old and new are parked side by side.
Although the exterior changes seem trivial, there’s far more to discuss under the surface. The mechanical platform is all-new and features Audi’s latest powerful, economical petrol and diesel engines, with a turbocharged petrol V6 in the range-topping S5 currently unavailable. Front-wheel-drive and quattro four-wheel-drive versions are available, and a seven-speed S tronic gearbox is obligatory with all but the entry-level petrol engine, which comes with a six-speed manual.
Inside, Audi’s latest infotainment and driver assistance technology are presented in a typically clean, sleekly designed interior made from first-rate materials. There’s plenty of space in the front, but less in the back – although the A5 Cabriolet doesn’t really suffer more than its rivals in this regard.
Comfort is impressive, though. Noise is low even with the roof down, and putting it up is simple and quick when the weather takes a turn for the worst. With the roof up, it becomes almost identical to the coupe, albeit with a little less room in the back. We were impressed by the comfort when we tried an early 2.0-litre SE model – although the 19-inch wheels of the S line model add noticeable tyre roar and make the ride fidgety at lower speeds.
Rather more disappointing is that a bugbear of the previous A5 Cabriolet doesn’t seem to have been fully addressed – it’s still not as memorable a car to drive as the BMW 4 Series Convertible and doesn’t quite feel as rigid as the A5 coupe. You can feel a shimmying sensation as the bodywork flexes slightly, too – although this is true of other four-seat convertibles, it’s a disappointment in light of Audi’s claims of increased stiffness.
Despite these criticisms, there’s no doubt that the A5 is a very desirable car. It’s better-looking than ever, with build quality that’s second-to-none. The 2.0-litre '40 TDI' diesel engine is very economical and every model is quieter and more comfortable than any Audi cabriolet of the past.
Audi’s strong image means residual values are high, and with service plans available, ownership costs shouldn’t be astronomical. There’s a long list of standard and optional safety equipment, too, and when you factor in its impressive boot, the A5 Cabriolet makes a remarkably sensible soft-top choice.