By Jonathan Crouch
Audi didn't need to radically reinvent its A4 Cabriolet to produce the first generation A5 Cabriolet model it first launched in 2009. A few tweaks and updates on the existing theme were always going to be sufficient to establish this drop top A5's position at or near the top of the premium drop-top sector. It's based on the A5 Coupe rather than the A4 saloon, with the extra wheelbase being put to good use in boosting practicality. A hood that lowers in 15s, a 380-litre boot and a range of impressive engines are the highlights.
For a certain kind of customer, the combination of the Audi badge and a pretty convertible bodyshape seems to be difficult to resist. We saw it with Princess Diana and her Audi Cabriolet in the early Nineties. Then with the huge success of the handsome A4 Cabriolet which dominated the executive drop-top sector in the early years of this century. Here, we're looking at that car's successor, the MK1 model A5 Cabriolet, still beautifully built and lovely to look at and a very accomplished way to enjoy the best - and worst - that the British Summer can offer.
What You Get
The styling of the MK1 model A5 Cabriolet is clearly derived from the classy MK1 model A5 Coupe. The understated bodywork hangs together with assured elegance and looks the part whether the hood is up or down. But this car needs to be practical too, otherwise you might as well have saved a few thousand and bought Audi's TT Roadster. Space though, can be a touchy subject in convertible cars, particularly those with trendy metal folding tops. 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 made two key decisions in developing this car. First, that it would continue with the fabric roof that would preserve both its good looks and its status as one of the few cabriolets with proper space for four and their luggage. Second, that they would base it on their A5 Coupe with its extended wheelbase, rather than the A4 saloon used to create this car's A4 Cabriolet predecessor. The results are impressive. There's room for a couple of fully-sized adults in the back, though six-footers won't want to join you for longer trips. The boot is bigger than you might expect too, accommodating a sizable 380-litre luggage capacity when the hood is up and 320-litres roof-down. Compare that to the 350 and 210-litre figures you'd get in a Convertible BMW 3 Series.
At the wheel, there's the usual classy Audi cabin, in this case enhanced by lovely touches like the 'belt butler' that passes the seat belt over your shoulder to you once you're comfortably seated. As for the roof itself, it offers virtually all the refinement you'd get with a metal-folding top, thanks to sound-deadening foam encased within the inner and outer layers. An acoustic hood was standard on plusher versions and creates an even quieter environment at cruising speeds. The roof 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.
What to Look For
Audi has been making Cabriolet models for long enough to have ironed out most common convertible issues by the time this A5 Cabrio model was launched. Sure enough, most owners we found in our survey were very satisfied. We couldn't find any reported instances of issues with the electric roof or examples of water ingress from it. As for other problems, most seemed to relate to electrical glitches. A number of owners have experienced issues with the electric window mechanism, so check that. One owner had a problem with the MMI infotainment system failing; another found dashboard rattles - and particular issues with rattly speakers.
As for mechanical stuff, well, we found one owner who reported an oil light issue and a handful who had reported brake grinding issues. 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 check for uneven tyre wear on the more powerful models.
(approx based on a 2013 A5 Cabriolet 2.0 TDI - Ex Vat) An air filter costs in the £8 to £16 bracket and an oil filter costs in the £3 to £6 bracket. Brake pads sit in the £35 to £60 bracket for a set, though you could pay up to around £70 to £95 for a pricier brand. Brake discs cost in the £46 to £80 bracket, though you could pay as much as around £95-£125 or even as much as £180-£212 for pricier brands. Wiper blades cost in the £6 to £15 bracket. For a replacement wing mirror glass, you're looking at £16-£17 (or as much as £30-£32 for a pricier brand). A replacement timing belt is priced from around £41, though you could pay as much as £190 - or even as much as around £250 for pricier brands.
On the Road
Though all Audi A4 and A5 models are pretty much the same underneath, Audi's A5 line includes the more dynamic Coupe and Sportback bodystyles and so was a better fit for this Cabriolet derivative. Despite this, it's a car that doesn't feel markedly different from the A4 Cabrio it replaced. Fortunately, that's not really something most potential buyers will be too worried about. The old car may not have been the best car to drive in its class but it was the nicest to ride in, spacious and great looking: no change there then.
Weight climbs by 200kgs over the equivalent Coupe model, so it's just as well that no A5 Cabriolet is short of power. The popular 2.0 TDI diesel engine was offered in various states of tune over this model's lifetime. As a guide, a 170PS 2.0-litre TDI model makes sixty in just over 9s, just under two seconds slower than the 211PS 2.0-litre TFSI petrol model that many ordered with quattro 4WD. If you want more, there was a sweet-sounding 265PS 3.2-litre petrol V6 offered at this model's original launch, but more will probably be tempted by 190 or 240PS 2.7 or 3.0-litre TDI diesels, assuming they can't stretch top the potent 333PS supercharged S5 model, capable of sixty from rest in just 5.6s. Make sure any hair pieces are well attached.
S5 apart, this still isn't a car you'd ordinarily be very tempted to take by the scruff of the neck and throw around the lanes but there are important handling improvements over its A4 Cabrio predecessor, thanks to Audi's clever 'five-link' suspension system and more dynamic drivetrain settings that see the front axle moved forward for more effective weight distribution and a more engaging driving experience. Quattro models got a clever optional sports differential able to distribute torque not only between front and rear wheels in the normal way but also from side to side at the rear, giving the car even greater traction and stability under hard cornering.
All of this is welcome and in the S5 Cabrio, creates a surprisingly accomplished driver's car well able to give an M3 Convertible a run for its money. Humbler A5 Cabriolets though, really work best with standard suspension in standard spec. Opt for an 'S line' model fitted with stiffer suspension and you might find the ride a little firm, an issue that'll be only partly alleviated if the car in question has been fitted with adaptive damping functioning as part of the optional Audi drive select system. This enables you to choose between softer or more responsive settings for the suspension and steering. But why bother? If you want a sports roadster, buy a TT. This car's grown out of all that, but it's one you can still enjoy.
Audi's A4 Cabriolets have been highly successful for the brand down the years. With the MK1 A5 Cabriolet, the recipe is much the same, Audi's cool brand image, stylish design language and slick interiors coupled with an expertly engineered fabric hood and a range of thrusting engines. Most A5 Cabriolet customers will have decided they want one long before they take a seat behind the wheel. You can see why.