Audi A5 Cabriolet review
Second generation Audi A5 Cabriolet is an accomplished open-top grand tourer
As the name suggests, the Audi A5 Cabriolet is the open-top derivative of the stylish A5 Coupe. That means it uses the same platform as the A4 family, although of course it gets the A5's swoopier bodywork and a folding fabric roof for wind-in-the-hair motoring.
The second-generation A5 Cabriolet arrived in 2016, not long after the coupe. The styling will be familiar to Mk1 A5 owners, as it's a clear evolution of that car. The big changes took place under the skin, where a new platform reduced weight by around 40kg across the range, but new construction techniques mean the car is also 40 per cent stiffer. On the convertible, that should mean less chassis twist courtesy of the removal of the roof.
While some rivals have developed folding hard tops for their convertibles, Audi has refined and developed its folding fabric roof. The latest top design has multiple layers that are designed to reduce wind and road noise - as well as keep the weather out - and the fully electric roof can open in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph. And the roof now has a one-touch function that means you don't need to keep your finger on the button to allow the top to fully open or close.
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The A5 Cabriolet engine range is slightly trimmed down from the A5 Coupe range, with the smallest 1.4 TFSI petrol and range-topping RS5 models not offered in Cabriolet guise. However, there was a Mk1 RS5 Cabriolet, so this could appear at a later date.
There are Sport and S line trims, which are offered with 2.0 and 3.0 litre petrol and diesel engines. Our choice is the 187bhp 2.0 TDI 190PS, while the 2.0 TFSI turbo petrol has the same output. Both engines can be had with Audi's twin-clutch S tronic gearbox, while the diesel S tronic can be had with quattro four-wheel drive, too. At the top of the diesel range is the 3.0 TDI in 218PS and 286PS guises, which have 215bhp and 282bhp respectively and feature quattro 4WD and S tronic auto as standard.
At the very top of the current A5 range sits the S5 Cabriolet, which features a 3.0 TFSI 354PS twin-turbo V6 with 349bhp, quattro four wheel drive and an eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox, and is capable of 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds. It also gets unique styling touches, but tips well over the £50,000 mark. The range itself starts at around £38,000.
There are two main rivals for the Audi A5 Cabriolet, the Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet and the BMW 4 Series Convertible. The Merc is slightly more comfortable, while the 4 Series is a little too heavy to make the most of BMW's reputation for building sharp handling cars, thanks to its complex folding metal roof.
If you’re one of a large number of Brits who likes to make the most of what little sun we have, you’ll want to check out the latest Audi A5 Cabriolet. The drop-top challenger to the Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet is well worth a look thanks to its combination of desirability and practicality.
Underneath the smart, understated exterior and electric folding cloth roof, the A5 Cabriolet is the same as the A5 Coupe. That’s no bad thing, as it means you get one of the best interiors of any car at this price, loads of technology and even plenty of space for a drop-top. It’s not quite as versatile as the hard-top, but it truly is a convertible that can be used by a small family on a daily basis.
Factor in a typically strong and diverse Audi engine range, plus a chassis that’s much stiffer than the last car's, and you’ve got a pretty complete convertible. It’s still not as sharp to drive as the lighter (and stiffer still) coupe, but the slightly softer suspension and well-insulated roof makes it a really capable cruiser.
Engines, performance and drive
The Audi A5 Cabriolet is lighter and stiffer than the model it replaces, which greatly benefits the driving experience. Turn in to a corner and it’s clear the Cabriolet can’t match its Coupe cousin for rigidity. Even so, the stiffer MLB platform means it remains impressively composed over rough surfaces. There’s some shimmy through the chassis, particularly in bumpy bends, but it’s far from intrusive. Grip is also plentiful, and the £600 optional adaptive dampers deliver decent body control in their sportiest setting.
In Comfort mode the Audi has an edge for ride comfort over the Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet. Large potholes and ridges sent a shudder through the cabin, but most of the time the A5 does a good job of soaking up bumps in the surface.
Refinement is also impressive, and with the triple-layer Acoustic hood in place the car is as quiet on the move as the Mercedes.
The A5 Cabriolet has been set up to be slightly softer than the Coupe to mask body shake over rough roads – a common problem in convertibles that are less rigid due to the loss of the metal roof. It’s worked to an extent, although on rutted or broken surfaces you can still hear the tell-tale side window rattles and see the rear-view mirror shake. On the worst roads, you can feel it through the controls, too. It’s no worse than rivals, but the coupe is still the choice for keener drivers as a result.
Entry-level A4s can be ordered with a 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel, whereas the base A5 is a 187bhp version of the same unit. It's used throughout the range, and in combination with the seven-speed S tronic auto box and launch control, it allowed the Audi to cover 0-60mph in 8.0 seconds when we tested it.
The A5 proved quick in our third, fourth and fifth-gear tests, but extremely tall sixth and seventh ratios meant the car was sluggish from 50-70mph; our test track’s straight wasn’t long enough for the new Audi Cabriolet to record a time in top gear.
In the real world this means the car is turning 1,500rpm at 70mph and it struggles to settle on a gear when cruising, because the gearbox often kicks down at the slightest touch of the throttle. Still, at least the gearchanges are swift and slick, while the TDI is smooth.
The same can’t be said for the more powerful 2.0-litre turbo petrol. Its 247bhp output looks healthy on paper but it actually has less torque than the diesel, and doesn’t feel as urgent from lower revs as a result. It needs to be worked harder to get the best out of it, and doesn’t sound all that inspiring when you do so. Its only available with an automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive, too, so isn’t particularly economical.
For those after extra power there are two V6 versions of the A5 Cabriolet. The familiar 3.0-litre diesel is found all over Audi’s range – the UK only gets the lower-powered 218bhp version and not the 268bhp version found elsewhere in Europe. Still, it’s a lovely unit – smooth, refined and with loads of torque, it pulls in almost any gear and feels really luxurious as a result.
There’s also the hot S5, with a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 producing 349bhp. With all-wheel drive helping fire it off the line, it goes from 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds, and it sounds good, too. But its more frantic nature doesn’t really suit the Cabriolet’s relaxed gait, as it’s more of a cruiser than the coupe.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
Unsurprisingly, the extra weight of the A5 Cabriolet’s folding roof means it isn’t as economical on paper as the Coupe. Still, it’s on a par with its rivals and buyers can trade performance for economy or vice versa depending on engines.
The most fuel-sipping model is of course the 2.0-litre diesel. In SE spec it manages 62.8mpg on the combined cycle: by way of comparison, the Mercedes C220d Sport Cabriolet claims identical fuel economy, while the A5 Coupe manages 68.9mpg. Business users may be persuaded away from the cabriolet, however, as CO2 emissions rise from 113g/km to 122g/km.
Spec the 2.0-litre up to S-Line trim, however, and economy drops slightly due to the bigger wheels, while opting for Quattro all-wheel drive brings that figure down further still. The same is true of rivals, however.
Though it’s true that CO2 emissions are a large focus of company car drivers (and make the 2.0-litre diesel the choice for those in that situation), the 2017 VED tax changes make them less relevant for private buyers than the price. A flat road tax fee is now payable on list price, meaning that cars over £40,000 are penalised. All 2.0 TFSI models (and the SE-spec diesel) are under that, but everything above a 2.0 TDI Sport will cost £450 a year to tax for a five-year period, (reverting to £140 a year after).
The V6 diesel asks for an economy penalty for all that lovely extra torque, but it isn’t too bad, claiming an impressive 57.6mpg combined. The petrol S5 Cabriolet is considerably less economical, although a combined figure of 36.2mpg and is an acceptable trade-off for the performance.
The reduced security of the roof (and extra cost to repair it in a crash) means that the A5 Cabriolet will be a bit pricier to insure than the Coupe. Instead of group 26, it starts from group 30 for the 2.0 TDI, rising to 33 for the 2.0-litre petrol, 39 for the V6 diesel and 42 for the S5.
We don’t have residual value data for the A5 Cabriolet yet, but we know the Coupe is predicted to retain between 44 and 49 per cent of its value after three years. That’s pretty strong in this class of car, and even though the convertible costs a bit more to buy we expect similarly rock-solid figures when they are announced.
Interior, design and technology
Like the Coupe, the second generation A5 Cabrio isn’t a radical departure from the previous car in terms of the way it looks. The overall profile is nearly identical, despite the A5 being longer than before, so it doesn’t move the game on as much as some may have hoped.
Still, it’s a smart and stylish design, with details such as the neat adaptive LED headlights, creased bonnet and curved shoulder line giving it a bit of extra class. S-Line models gain larger 19-inch alloys, while the S5 has a slightly lower ride height, rear diffuser and dual-exhausts.
The real developments have happened inside, however. While quality was hardly iffy in the first car, its now exceptionally well screwed-together with materials that feel substantial and upmarket to the touch. It’s not as elegant to look at as the cabin of a C-Class, but it is easier to use and more practical.
It’s crammed full of technology, too. The optional Virtual Cockpit display again features, while there’s also an LTE module with built-in sim to allow the system to use wireless traffic and info services without consuming all of your phone data. Wireless inductive phone charging is also standard on some models and optional on others.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Like the rest of the A4 and A5 range, the most desirable tech option is the £250 ‘Virtual Cockpit’. It replaces the traditional instruments with a crisp and clear 12.3-inch widescreen display that can show the dials, media info and even the sat-nav map. It works as well here as it does in any application, and almost negates the need for the stuck-out screen in the dash.
The slick MMI system has plenty of sub-menus to aid navigation, but once you’re familiar with them it’s a doddle to use thanks to the rotary controller and menu shortcuts on the centre console.
Amongst the sizeable options list is a Bang and Olufsen sound system. It’s predictably excellent, and perfect if you’re the sort of person who loves blasting tunes with the roof down. But to be honest, the standard system is hardly bad, and is perfectly capable even at higher speeds with the top down.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Anyone who thinks owning a convertible means sacrifices in day-to-day practicality would be impressed by the Audi A5 Cabriolet. Thanks to the compact size of its cloth roof mechanism and a longer body than the old car there is genuine space for four, and most of their luggage.
Visibility is pretty good for a car of this type, even out the back – although you’ll still be heavily reliant on sensors and cameras when you reverse park thanks to the narrow, high-set rear window. There’s several touches to make your life easier, however: the optional wind deflector slots neatly into a compartment in the boot when not in use, while the switch to open and close the roof no longer needs to be held down for the entirety of its operation.
Lowering the roof requires nothing more than a touch of a button, but it takes nearly a second and half longer to stow than the Mercedes C-Class Coupe's, at 19.9 seconds. Occupants aren’t as well protected from buffeting as they are in the C-Class, either. The Audi is available with a £600 wind break, but the manually set up unit is fiddly to install and doesn’t allow you to use the rear seats once in place. And while heated front chairs are standard, there’s no option to add a Mercedes-style Airscarf system.
On the plus side, the Audi’s rear bench offers more head and legroom for passengers, while its 380-litre boot is bigger and better shaped.
The A5 is a similar width and height to the outgoing car, but it’s around 50mm longer. This primarily means more legroom for rear-seat passengers and a deeper boot, but could in theory make it slightly trickier to park. It’s not significantly longer than a Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet, however.
Legroom, headroom and passenger space
Buying a convertible does mean sacrificing the comfort of your rear seat passengers for the enjoyment of a folding roof – that’s because the roof and its mechanism has to sit somewhere once dropped. Thankfully, the A5 cabriolet is one of the most spacious in this class.
Although access is a bit limited for larger people attempting to get in the back, once there they’ll find a decent amount of space for the head, knees and shoulders. It’s perfectly fine for kids, while even smaller adults won’t be too disadvantaged on longer journeys. Less bulky front seats and larger side windows give it an airier feel, too. Those in the front shouldn’t have any issue, either, while the seats are hugely adjustable.
While the A5 Coupe offers a sizeable 465-litre boot capacity, the Cabriolet sees that drop to 380-litres with the roof up and 320-litres with it down. That’s hardly a big sacrifice, however, and means the A5 has the biggest boot of any four-seat convertible rival bar the larger Mercedes E-Class. You can even raise or lower the canopy that holds the folded roof electrically to test whether or not your suitcase will fit in with the roof down.
Reliability and Safety
Thanks to its considerably stiffer chassis and raft of safety equipment, the A5 Cabriolet is likely to be a safer car than the model it replaces. Euro NCAP hasn’t crash tested the convertible yet, but we know the Coupe achieved a full five-star rating with an impressive 89 per cent rating for adult occupancy.
We don’t know for sure yet, but its unlikely that rating will be affected unduly by the loss of the roof – there’s also rollover protection to prevent the biggest issue there. What’s more, all cars get autonomous emergency braking at city speeds, a host of airbags and ISOFIX child-seat mountings. Adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning are all on the options list.
Reliability isn’t quite at the level you’d expect for a premium brand, however. It’s far too early to say if the new model will be problematic, but the brand finished a less-than-perfect 23rd place out of 31 manufacturers for reliability in 2016.
All Audis come with a fairly typical three-year, 60,000-mile warranty from new. That’s acceptable, but nothing to write home about – if a number of mainstream manufacturers such as Hyundai, Kia and Toyota can offer longer warranties as standard, so should premium brands.
However, Audi knows that many buyers of these types of cars trade them in after two or three years and buy them on lease deals, so a longer warranty is less of a concern than it used to be. If you intend on keeping yours for longer, you can pay extra to lengthen the warranty if you so choose.
The Audi A5 Cabriolet requires servicing every 12 months or 10,000 miles, whichever comes sooner. A more comprehensive check-up is required every two years or 20,000 miles, however. Prices vary depending on which engine you go for, but check with your local dealer as they can vary hugely depending on which one you go to.