Test Car Specifications
Model tested: Audi S5 Cabriolet
Pricing: from £51,835 on-the-road
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, quattro four-wheel drive
Body style: four-door cabriolet
CO2 emissions: 177g/km (VED Band I)
Combined economy: 36.2mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 5.1 seconds
Power: 354hp at 5,400- to 6,400rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 1,370- to 4,500rpm
Kerb weight: 1,840kg
Here we have the new Audi S5 Cabriolet, the range-topper for the 2017 A5 Cabriolet line-up, the third body style of the new generation A5 family. As with the S5 Coupe and Sportback, the S5 Cabriolet is now powered by a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine. It produces a useful 354hp and 500Nm of torque, across a wide rev range, enabling the benchmark 0-62mph to be dispatched in just 5.1 seconds and great mid-range thrust. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, as is quattro four-wheel drive. It rides on 19-inch alloys as standard and gets lower, firmer suspension, too, which can be optionally upgraded to adaptive damping. A sport differential on the rear axle is also optional.
The rest of the S5 specification builds on the already quite generous A5 Cabriolet offering, which includes neatly integrated seatbelt microphones (for phone calls and voice operation of the infotainment), three-zone climate control, electrically adjusted front seats, satnav, leather upholstery and more, such as a clever new one-touch operation function for the roof - available between about 4mph and 31mph. The S5 is lavishly equipped with the usual specific S styling updates inside and out, four exhaust outlets, full LED lighting all-round including dynamic indicators, MMI Navigation Plus with a high-res 8.3-inch colour screen, a 180-watt, six-channel amplifier and 10 speakers, Fine Nappa leather upholstery and more.
Prices for the A5 Cabriolet kick off at £35,235 on-the-road for the entry-level 2.0-litre TFSI 190 model with a manual gearbox in SE specification (this is the only engine available with a manual gearbox in the line-up). There are Sport and S line trim lines, plus the S5 topping the range at £51,835. That 2.0-litre four-cylinder TFSI petrol engine is available with 252hp, too, while diesel options include a 190hp 2.0-litre TDI model and the 218hp 3.0-litre V6 TDI. The latter is always paired with quattro all-wheel drive, as is the more powerful TFSI engine, while it's optional for the 190hp diesel and not available for the 190hp TFSI engine.
In terms of the roof itself, it very quietly, very slickly folds or unfolds in 15 seconds and the one-touch operation on the move is great. There's an automatically deployed stowage box for it in the boot and, cleverly, a quick check system in there to show you where you can load your luggage to before it'll impinge on the roof when it is stowed. The maximum volume of 380 litres betters rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, as well. Rear seat accommodation is not at all bad for two adults, though they may find the roof-down buffeting unbearable. Indeed, we were surprised just how much wind noise and blowing there is in the cabin at no more than quick motorway speeds, even with all windows raised and the (rather flimsy - and optional) wind deflector in place.
How does it drive?
One of the most important numbers to come out of the press material is the claimed 40 per cent increase in torsional stiffness of the A5 Cabriolet's structure over its predecessor - that's a very sizeable jump. And it shows through in the incredible refinement this car exhibits, even over really poor road surfaces. There's no unwanted shimmying through the body, no vagueness in its responses and no unseemly 'scuttle shake' as the body twists over bumps or through corners. That allows the newly developed multi-link suspension get on with its job as it was designed to. It also helps that the new car is some 40kg lighter than before.
And it is possible to maintain a high cross-country pace in the S5 Cabriolet. Bear in mind that we drove a car specified with the optional adaptive damping, so we don't yet know how the standard model compares, but so-equipped, the S5 Cabriolet mixes excellent body control under duress with good comfort and bump absorption. It's very stable and composed and difficult to unsettle. The downside of all that composure, of course, is that it's quite an inert chassis. Even with the optional sport differential fitted and the Audi Drive Select system switched into Dynamic mode it's not an engaging car in the least. And don't waste your money on the optional Dynamic Steering variable ratio system. Sure, it makes the steering ultra-direct at low speeds, which is useful around town, but out on the road it just feels inconsistent and plain odd at times. It certainly doesn't add to the driving experience.
Best to focus on the tuneful exhaust note from that V6 engine up front, especially in the Dynamic mode, where it gets louder and is only too happy to burble and pop on the overrun. Down-changes are punctuated by an automatic gratuitous blip of the throttle as well. The powertrain is probably the most impressive thing about this car, mixing serious performance with real civility when you want it. The eight-speed automatic transmission is very smooth by default, but can take on a sportier role when you feel the need. Shame, as ever, that the gearchange paddles are so small and plastic. Saying that, we don't expect many buyers of an Audi A5 Cabriolet to place priority on such things.
High-speed wind buffeting aside, the A5 and S5 Cabriolets exhibited incredible finesse on our test routes, with low road noise and - in the case of the regular models - fantastic isolation from the engine sounds and vibrations. That sets the A5 apart from its competition. And while the S5 has a little more aural personality, it's still incredibly civil by open-top standards at everyday speeds.
The new Audi A5 Cabriolet is better than its predecessor in seemingly every which way and it's probably the best open-topped option in the (admittedly quite small) segment right now. It majors on comfort, incredible refinement and real solidity on the road. The high-quality cabin is exceptional too. If you like the sound of all that, don't really factor engaging driving dynamics into your buying decisions, yet have money to spend on the best, then the range-topping S5 variant won't disappoint. Those on a lower budget won't feel short-changed by the slower, but equally sophisticated A5 variants. This is a classy car.