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2010 Audi S5 Cabriolet Review
Audi’s new V6T-powered S5 Cabriolet might just be this summer’s perfect car
By Ken Glassman, Photography by Audi, May. 06, 2010

For me, there is nothing more enjoyable than riding down a smooth, winding, two-lane road on a sunny, warm day on my motorcycle. The open air feeling of freedom, the challenge of controlling the responsive horsepower of the machine and slicing the right line through curves is just exhilarating.A somewhat distant second is doing it with the top down in a convertible. But if you get to do it in the new Audi S5 Cabriolet, it’s really, really close to the thrill of riding a motorcycle. This Audi is one heck of a car, and on the right road, and the right circumstances, it can be a real E-Ticket ride!

FAST FACTS

1. While the S5 Coupe gets a V8, the Cabriolet model gets Audi’s new V6T supercharged V6 engine with 333-hp and 325 ft-lbs of torque.

2. With a 7-speed S-Tronic dual clutch transmission, fuel economy is better than expected at 17/26-mpg (city/hwy).

3. For $3,950 there’s the Audi Drive Select Package which controls the suspension, steering, transmission shift points, and pedal response and allows you to choose from four distinct drive configurations: Comfort, Automatic, Dynamic and Individual.

4. Pricing starts at $58,250.

NEW V6T ENGINE MAKES V8 OBSOLETE

What makes this Audi so special? Well there’s the new 3.0-liter, direct-injected, supercharged (with dual intercoolers), V6 engine, which replaces last year’s normally aspirated 4.2-liter V8 (in the S4 Cabriolet). While that may sound like a step backwards, since the V6 loses 20 horsepower, it still puts out 333 ponies, and keeps the same 325 ft-lbs of torque that the V8 had, only now that torque comes on at lower rpm, so it’s more usable, and makes the car feel quicker. And since you’ll hit the 60 mph mark from a standing start in only 5.1 seconds, you won’t have to apologize to many other cars about acceleration performance. 

The new engine will also satisfy your “green” conscience by achieving 17-mpg city and 26-mpg highway, when mated to Audi’s 7-speed S-tronic transmission.  I’ve got a feeling you won’t be seeing too many more V8 engines powering anything except the A8 in the next few years, if Audi will be able to wring out similar power specs with a V6 and get better gas mileage. This engine is outstanding, and I’m sure that future developments will only make it better. Plus, Audi has managed to tune it to sound a lot like a V8, (just at a somewhat higher pitch), dialing in some burble from back-pressure on up-shifts or down-shifts when downshifting aggressively, just like the sounds my Ninja motorcycle makes.

Speaking about upshifts and downshifts, the S-Tronic is the only transmission available for the Cabrio, but purists needn’t wring their hands. The S-Tronic is a DSG dual-clutch transmission and so shifts are instantaneous, with no interruption of the power flow. And for those times when you get stuck in traffic, it’s nice not to have to deal with a clutch pedal. There, I said it.

FIRM IN THE CORNERS, SOFT ON THE OPEN ROAD

The Cabrio feels strong and athletic out on the road, despite its hefty weight, - kind of like an all-wheel drive LeBron James. It can cut on a dime and dart into corners with some understeer, but without much body roll, and show off its power out of the apex like a cannon shot. The response from the drive-by-wire throttle is immediate, and the variable assist Servotronic steering response is equally up to the task.

Bringing the Audi down from speed is no problem as the car comes with ABS and Electronic Brake Force distribution, and the large diameter discs do their job well, and with good pedal feel so the driver feels in complete command. Audi also has an innovative disc wiping system that automatically pulses the brakes in wet conditions to dissipate water build-up. And the all-wheel drive will be welcomed for those who live in the Snow Belt.

The five-link independent suspension is sport tuned to the firm side, which is great for aggressive driving, yet it never feels harsh or uncomfortable when toodling around town or just cruising at speed on the interstate. I am extremely sensitive to cowl shake, and have driven many convertibles that have so much as to make it a deal-breaker. The S5 has more than I would like, but not so much as to be overly annoying. 

There is a wind deflector that can be fitted to reduce cabin turbulence, and it works. But even without it, the cabin noise is reasonable and two people can have a conversation without shouting. And if you roll up the windows on the highway, you still get enough breeze to satisfy the convertible lover in you.

LUXURIES ABOUND, WITH USABLE TRUNK SPACE THANKS TO RAG-TOP

Inside the cabin you’ll find all the appointments to be top notch and luxurious. The 12-way adjustable, heated, bi-colored Silk Nappa leather sport seats are handsome, supportive, and well bolstered. Unlike the sport seats in most BMW’s and some other sportscars, Audi’s are wide enough to be comfortable all day. Brushed aluminum graces the dash and door trims. The controls are easy to use, and laid out thoughtfully so the driver has everything easily at his command. A nice touch is the seatbelt which slides forward making it easy for the driver to reach it. The tilt and telescope leather wrapped steering wheel, and the power adjustable seats will place any sized driver in his desired position. 

The rear seats are acceptable for two adults and despite the upright seat backs, reasonably comfortable for an hour or so before it will begin to feel a bit cramped. They are much more tolerable than the back seat in a BMW 3 series convertible by comparison.  Active rollover protection is located behind the rear headrests.

The 10-speaker stereo is a delight to crank up on the open road. Just be mindful that when you reach a stoplight you’ll want to turn down the volume or you’ll feel like a silly teenager driving a mobile boombox and suffer the disapproving looks from the drivers around you. The stereo integrates with an iPod, the radio is satellite ready and there’s Bluetooth integration for your telephone. 

One of the best features about the Audi S5 is they went with a fabric top rather than a folding metal hard top. That means that the styling is sleeker looking without the hardtop bubble look. And Audi has made the fabric headliner in such a way that it is acoustically similar to a hard top, and it even has built-in LED map lights for the rear passengers.   

The ragtop also saves weight, which the Audi needs, but it also takes up much less space in the trunk. One of my biggest complaints with the new hard top convertibles is that it is almost impossible for two people to be able to take even a weekend’s worth of luggage on a car trip and be able to drive with the top down. Not only is the Audi’s trunk comparatively spacious with the top down, but the rear seats fold down to allow a pass-through from the trunk. So travelers can pack for a long trip, and even squeeze in a set of golf clubs, as long as your golf bag isn’t one of those ones that the pros use on tour. And two sets will fit if you’re just going to and from the golf course. No other convertible can match it. Audi also boasts that the top will fold in a mere 15 seconds, (and while moving at less than 30 mph). 

WELL EQUIPPED WITH PRICEY OPTIONS IF YOU SO CHOOSE

The price of admission into the S5 Cabriolet club is steep, with the base price starting at $58,250.  But you get a lot of standard equipment for that price, including heated mirrors, dual fog lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, Xenon self-leveling headlights, LED taillights, 19-inch wheels and performance tires, the 12-way Silk Nappa leather sport seats, three-zone climate control, Adjustable height center armrest, Electronic Stability Control, 10-speaker sound system, and more. 

The Prestige Package starts at $63,950 and adds a Bang & Olufsen sound system and Audi’s MMI navigation system, a DVD player, and two SD card slots. You also get memory seat settings, auto-dimming interior mirror with compass, auto dimming exterior mirrors, and a keyless entry and start.

And if you win the lottery, you can add a $900 Driver Assist system that monitors your blind spots in the side mirrors, or the $2,100 Adaptive Cruise Control that automatically maintains a safe distance to the car in front of you. Those are both outstanding features, but the Driver Assist can be found standard on some Mazda’s that cost only $20,000, and the Adaptive Cruise Control is way overpriced.

The $1,400 Comfort Package replaces the Sport seats with perforated leather seats that are heated and cooled, and have a built-in vent just below the headrest that blows warm air onto your neck. And if you are a really serious back roads warrior, or track day participant, you can spend $3,950 on the Audi Drive Select Package which controls the adaptive suspension, dynamic steering, transmission shift points, and engine response and allows you to choose from four distinct drive configurations: Comfort, Automatic, Dynamic, and Individual. Add in a choice of carbon fiber, Birch wood, or Stainless Steel dash inlays and you can run this baby up to $74,350. 

THE VERDICT

The new Audi S5 Cabriolet is an outstanding car. It has exceptional engine performance, wonderful handling characteristics, excellent cabin appointments, superior trunk room and the versatility of a usable back seat in one package, albeit an expensive one. It will acquit itself quite nicely when viewed alongside a Mercedes E-Class, BMW 3-Series, Infinity G37, or Lexus IS C. And if you can afford to buy cars like this, the shopping trip will be a lot of fun.

LOVE IT
  • Exceptional engine performance combined with good gas mileage
  • The best luggage capacity in its class
  • Striking good looks inside and out.
LEAVE IT
  • A bit too much cowl shake
  • Expensive option packages
  • I can’t afford one

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