Those shopping for a four-seat entry-level luxury convertible have plenty to choose from. With the addition of players from Infiniti and Lexus last year, virtually every manufacturer playing in that segment has something they’d like to sell you. From the class-leading BMW 3 Series Convertible to the cushy Volvo C70 the spectrum is broad and diverse.
|1. With Audi dropping the V6 option from most models, the A5 is powered by a 2.0-liter TFSI 4-cylinder with 211-hp and 258 ft-lbs of torque.
2. Both front-drive and quattro all-wheel drive versions are available.
3. Acceleration is a paltry 7.2 seconds to 60 mph.
4. Fuel economy is a strong suit at 20/26 mpg (city/hwy).
5. Pricing starts at $44,100 and a 354-hp S5 Cabriolet retails from $58,250.
SOFT-TOP DOESN’T MESS WITH COUPE’S GOOD LOOKS
The reason why we’re here is that Audi’s aging A4 Cabriolet is replaced by the 2010 A5 Cabriolet. The gorgeous A5 Coupe is easily the company’s best looking product, but ask IS 350C owners if the clean design language of the original always gets translated properly to the drop-top.
Thankfully, Audi ignored the current trend towards folding metal hard tops that force styling proportions all out of whack to accommodate their awkward panel and motors. Instead, the A5 Cabrio uses a multi-layer soft top that folds away in only 15 seconds with one touch of a button. And it can be operated at speeds of up to 30 mph. When raised, the roofline nearly mimics the Coupe’s dramatic c-pillar, but doesn’t have the same aggressive rake to the rear window. When stowed, the Cabrio loses some of the visual flash, and it’s a very color-sensitive design.
Inside, the Cabrio benefits from the A5’s increased size compared to the old A4. There’s real space to sit in the rear seats, and there are reading lights embedded into the roof-liner. Without two rear passengers, the seats do fold flat and there’s even a full pass-through for long objects when stowed in the trunk. Otherwise, the design is nearly identical to that in the A5 Coupe, meaning excellent materials on the dash and seats, clean gauges, and a nicely sized steering wheel.
AUDI’S 2.0 TFSI ENGINE SLUGGISH BUT EFFICIENT
Since Audi abandoned the 3.2-liter V6 in the A4 and A5 Coupe, the Cabriolet is only offered with one engine: the familiar 211-hp 2.0 TFSI four-cylinder engine that uses advanced turbocharging and direct-injection to produce a grunty 258 ft-lbs of torque.
The Cabrio is offered in either front-wheel drive with a continually variable transmission, or with quattro all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. Our tester featured the latter, which offers the most stability and control at the expense of a couple hundred pounds.
It’s a good thing that the engine is so eager because the extra weight from the convertible top and extra chassis reinforcements mean this is not an overly rapid machine. The 0-60 mph run takes 7.2 seconds, which is not terribly aggressive and falls well short of the G37 Convertible.
MORE CRUISER THAN PERFORMER
It’s also not one that’s overly happy once the road gets challenging either. And although Audi’s excellent Drive Select suspension and chassis-sharpening system is an option, I’d be willing to bet the A5 Cabrio has the lowest take rate across the company’s range. The steering is rental-car numb, and the standard 18-inch wheels and all-season tires are designed more for comfort than outright performance. Those wishing for a little more pop will step up to the excellent S5 Cabrio without thinking twice about it, or they’ll go shop at either BMW or Infiniti.
Perhaps an A5 with an S line package, which includes 19-inch wheels, sportier suspension, more supportive seats and some unique body pieces might appeal to those who prefer performance. Given the Cabrio’s reluctance to get out of its own way, it might not be enough to give it the car-nut’s nod.
The Audi does boulevard cruiser very well, and the cabin remains quite composed at speed when the roof is down. An optional wind blocker mounts over the rear seats, but that effectively turns the A5 Cabrio into a TT Roadster in terms of practicality.
One advantage of the itty-bitty turbo engine is the good fuel efficiency numbers compared to the V6- and V8-powered competition: 20/26/23 mpg city/hwy/combined is nothing to shake a stick at. With a 17-gallon tank, you’re looking at a 400-mile range.
As with all Audis, the A5 Cabrio comes with a small amount of equipment standard – even an auto-dimming mirror is optional on all but the top-end $52,000 Prestige models. When so equipped, the car has few real rivals in terms of construction, materials and atmosphere.
The base Premier model at $44,100 is the better buy, even if you do miss some of the toys. The BMW 328i, Infiniti G37 Convertible, Lexus IS350 C and Volvo C70 T5 all sit within a couple thousand dollars of the Audi’s starting price, and perhaps only the BMW is as stingy with the options.
However, the A5 Cabrio is good at its job – in other words providing a $50,000 tanning bed for four adults. Given than the four-ringed badge is building momentum with every new product, plenty will be sold in Miami, Los Angeles and Houston where what you drive is much more important than how well it drives.