By Andy Enright
Big four seater cabriolets have an easy life. Not a great deal is expected of the way they drive. They just need to look great and make the driver feel fantastic. On those counts, the Audi A5 Cabriolet works extremely well. It's a very handsome car that's imbued with a depth of engineering and an attention to detail that sends a constant drip feed message to its owner that they have made a very considered and informed choice. That it also drives quite smartly is almost an irrelevance. Here's what to look out for when trying to track down a used example.
The Audi A5 coupe had been on sale in the UK fully four years before the soft top model appeared in summer 2009. At first there were just three engines on offer, the 208bhp 2.0-litre TFSI petrol, the normally aspirated 263bhp 3.2 FSI petrol and the 238bhp 3.0-litre TDI turbodiesel. Later that year the S5 Cabriolet debuted, sporting a 330bhp supercharged 3.0-litre V6 TFSI engine rather than the 4.2-litre V8 that was shoehorned under the bonnet of the coupe.
Since then Audi has backfilled the engine range, adding the 160bhp 1.8 TFSI petrol engine and the 168bhp 2.0-litre TDI and 188bhp 2.7 TDI turbodiesel powerplants. A revision of the A5's styling was announced in summer 2011, with coupe, Sportback and cabriolet getting sharper detailing, most notably smaller, more angular headlights. The interiors were also given the once over with smarter materials and revised trims.
What You Get
Space can be a touchy subject in convertible cars. Measures taken to accommodate the party piece roof often have undesirable knock on effects in terms of rear legroom and boot space. To help combat this, Audi used the A5 Coupe with its extended wheelbase as the basis for the A5 Cabriolet rather than the A4 saloon that has spawned past drop-top models. The longer wheelbase boosts passenger space in the rear and creates a sizeable 380-litre luggage capacity when the hood is up. The boot volume falls by just 60-litres when the roof is lowered. The hood itself is made of fabric with Audi having decided to buck the trend for hefty folding hardtop arrangements. It lowers in a super fast 15 seconds and takes just 17 seconds to reinstate itself again if a shower hits. With both operations capable of taking place at speeds of up to 31mph, owners will be left with little excuse for not making the most of the sunshine.
The trim level choice boils down to the usual Audi arrangement of standard, SE or S Line. All get the fully automatic hood, climate control and alloy wheels. The SE adds leather trim and the S Line various sporty styling accoutrements. Audi reserves some of the choicest items for the options list where buyers will find the adaptive cruise control that maintains a set distance to the car in front, the latest satellite navigation system and a 505-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo.
Audi has developed a special neck level heating system built into the seat backs that will keep occupants warm on chilly days when the roof is down. Then, should the weather warm up, there's special solar reflective leather upholstery so you don't burn your backside when you get in after the car's been parked in the sun with the roof lowered.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
You'll do well to find anything notable here. Corrosion is simply not an issue with Audis and another reason why resale values are high. Look for a fully stamped up service history and look for uneven tyre wear on the more powerful models. Check that the hood works smoothly and that there's no rips, chafes or discolouration from bird lime. Also make sure there aren't any parking scrapes or kerbed alloys.
(approx based on a 2009 A5 3.2 FSI) Set aside £250 for clutch assembly kit will while an exhaust system will be about £300. An alternator should be close to £150 and a radiator around £175.
On the Road
As a general rule, you probably don't want to drive your convertible too fast. Cruising along and taking in the air and the scenery is all part of the appeal. Of course, should the rain be prevailing or the streets be deserted, Audi has been kind enough to build in some potential for fun.
The A5 Cabriolet benefits from the same layout that has been warmly received in the A4 and A5 Coupe. Audi's longitudinally mounted engines gave past models a somewhat nose-heavy feel but the latest cars move the front axle forward for more effective weight distribution and a more engaging driving experience. The quattro all-wheel-drive system continues to play a crucial role in all performance Audi models and today's system is the manufacturer's cleverest yet. Engine torque is not only distributed between front and rear wheels, it can also be divided between the two wheels on the rear axle with the aid of the optional quattro sports differential. This gives the car even greater traction and stability under hard cornering.
The Audi A5 Cabriolet is a car that feels exactly right for its target clientele. The key thing about a cool car is that it should never be seen to be trying too hard. The soft top A5 manages that with some panache. Used examples are now starting to look increasingly good value for money and there's a decent selection available. Take your time, look at a couple and don't be afraid to bargain hard. It's a buyer's market.