The Audi S5 Cabriolet is, on the face of it, out of step with current thinking. Its a bold, brash, loud convertible that waves two fingers to the notion that our transport should be unobtrusive, economical, and quiet.
Yet, when you dig beneath the surface you find a car that emits just 199g/km of CO2, is capable of returning up to 33.2mpg, and seats four; might the S5 be selling itself short?
The Audi S5 is a beautiful and imposing car, full of subtle swoops and curves that give a muscular, elegant look. The wide stance, double-spoke alloys, silver mirrors, and wide grin make for an engaging and impressive car that looks almost as good with the roof up as it does with it down.
The four (count em, four!) exhaust tail pipes not only signal intent they sound great, popping and crackling when you are pushing hard, while Xenon headlights work well and give the S5 the corporate Audi face. Few potential customers will scratch the S5 from their shortlist because they dont like the way it looks.
The interior is everything that you might reasonably expect of a top-end Audi, which means perfectly-executed leather, chrome, carbon trim and top-quality plastics that works with the precision of a rifle bolt and the intuitive ease of an iPad.
The front seat passengers enjoy some of the most adjustable and comfortable seats in the world and the ergonomics are faultless. Those consigned to the rears eats will suffer the twin blows of poor headroom and no space for their legs.
Still, a cabriolet is for the free and the beautiful and you dont want your kids ruining the aesthetics, do you?
The S5 is (and what follows is, Im afraid, a true motoring journo clich) a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde, except that it has three characters, not two.
Itll amble along with the best of them and with the roof up it feels (and sounds) exactly like the fixed-head coupe. Drop the top (something that can be done on the move at speeds of up to 31mph) and 15 seconds later it is a very convincing boulevard cruiser. Press the throttle all the way to the floor and it instantaneously turns into every sports car youll ever need. Neat, eh?
Its not perfect, though. The steering is too light when its set in comfort and it doesnt give the best feedback in the world and dont think you can rectify it by choosing a more sporting setting because it just weights up alarmingly and destroys what feel there is.
To complete my list of whinges I have to point out that there is some scuttle shake (thanks to the loss of that rigidity-inducing roof) and the ride is a bit jittery when the road surface is poor.
However, despite this I enjoyed driving it enormously; it is far, far more than the sum of its parts and the whole comes together very convincingly. Whip it along a decent B-road and the magnificent brakes will slough off speed far more effectively than is seemly, enabling you to brake very, very late. You can then use that light-but-sharp steering to turn in accurately before flooring the throttle, relying on four-wheel-drive, wide tyres, and a fine chassis to slingshot you out no matter what the weather or road conditions. Other cars might be slightly faster, and some might even be more rewarding, but few are as accessible.
Town and motorway work is a doddle too thanks to great visibility and a perfect seating position. Its a big car, but not intimidating, and (surprisingly) attracts nothing but positive comments and attention.
The Cabriolet does without the S5 coupes 4.2-litre V8 engine, settling for the S4s 3.0-litre turbo-charged TFSI V6 instead. Dont lament the loss of those two cylinders though, because it still develops 328bhp and 324lb ft of torque, enough to swoosh it seamlessly past 62mph in 4.9 seconds and on to a (limited) top speed of 155mph. It is, it goes without saying, a fast car.
It is also an easy car to drive quickly too, thanks to the winning combination of Quattro four-wheel-drive and the marvellous 7-speed S tronic gearbox; you want to go faster? Just press the accelerator and the engine will in sport, at least howl all the way to the red line, at which point it will make a noise that can only be written as blurgh before changing up and doing it all again. It is utterly addictive and means that youll never see anything like the official fuel consumption figure of 34.9mpg. I managed mid-to-late twenties, which should be typical.
Value for Money
The Audi S5 Cabriolet is competitively priced, at least until you start piling on the extras. You could do without the 460 alloy wheels but you would want the Sound Package (DAB radio and a magnificent Bang Olufsen stereo for 600) and youd be a fool to pass on the Technology Pack (Sat-Nav, hard-drive, 3G, and parking sensors) at a smidge under two grand. Flappy paddles on a flat-bottomed steering wheel cost a reasonable 100, while a CD changer at 300 sounds a snip but it does all add up. My car cost just under 46,000 in bare bones form but the addition of a few desirable options soon pushed that to north of 52,000.
Resale values will be strong as everyone loves an Audi Cabriolet – and has done since Princess Di first stepped out in one helping offset the initial purchase price.
Its not often that I miss a press car when it goes back, mainly because Im already enjoying the next one; motoring journalists are a promiscuous and faithless bunch. But I miss the S5 Cabriolet and I cant help thinking that every journey Ive undertaken since its repatriation would have been an ideal jaunt for it. The fact that the only convertible I enjoyed more in recent years is the Bentley Continental gives you some idea of how polished and accomplished the Audi is.
Environmentalists be damned; if you can afford one then you should splash out and enjoy that noise, poise, and immense presence!