The A5 Cabriolet is the third body style of the new generation Audi A5 and the most image-conscious of them all. It marries elegant style with a class-leading cabin, more space and performance than before and an obvious - and applauded - focus on refinement. If you're one of the brave souls determined to buy a four-seat convertible for use in Ireland then you'd be well-advised to check it out. Here we test drive a high-spec diesel version.
In the metal
Much like the new generation Audi A5 Coupe and the A5 Sportback, I don't think pictures do justice to the design of the Audi A5 Cabriolet. They can make it look a little unresolved, especially around the rear haunches when viewed from the front three quarters. That isn't the case in the metal, where the wide stance is emphasised by the long profile (47mm longer than before) and low, raked windscreen and it looks like an elegant car for those that want to be seen. It does, however, need alloys of at least 19-inch in diameter. Xenon headlights are standard with LED daytime running lights, while full LED lighting with dynamic rear indicators is available to buy. We'd argue they're worth the outlay.
There won't be much debate about the interior. As we've seen in the two hard-top A5s, it's an exceptional cabin with gorgeous detailing, some really lovely material options and a general sense of quality that sits at the very top of the class. It's at its best when specified with the Audi Virtual Cockpit digital dashboard, of course, but even without that it will feel high-tech and luxurious in equal measure. Neck-level heating will be offered in the front seats for the first time, there are three neatly integrated microphones in the front seatbelts for phone calls and voice control and the rear-seat passengers benefit from a slightly longer wheelbase than in the old car.
The roof itself is an engineering marvel. It's a triple-layer acoustic fabric design that can open or close in about 15 seconds. That operation is utterly silent and can be done up to speeds of 50km/h. A neat new trick means there's no need to hold the open/close button down so long as you're travelling above 6km/h, so it takes a single touch. Such a small thing, but it really enhances the experience. Furthermore, there's no need to remember to manually move a panel in the boot before lowering the roof, as the storage box for the folded top is deployed automatically. Audi has even included a retractable 'guide' to show you how much room you have in the boot to use if you wish to lower the roof at some stage. For the record, holding up to 380 litres with the rear seats in place, the A5 Cabriolet carries more luggage than its BMW and Mercedes-Benz rivals. Those seats split and fold 40/20/40 as well if you just want to use the rear seats to extend the luggage space.
One word comes to mind when describing the demeanour of the new Audi A5 Cabriolet, and that's 'smooth'. It really is a very smooth, civilised and composed conveyance. We will deal with the high-performance S5 Cabriolet in a separate test drive, but much of what is said on this page applies to the three other A5 variants we tested at the international launch in Spain (2.0 TDI 190 S tronic quattro Sport, 2.0 TFSI 252 S tronic quattro S line and 3.0 TDI 286 tiptronic quattro). They're all incredibly refined. It's their defining characteristic. The way the workings of the 190hp 2.0-litre TDI engine are isolated from the A5's cabin is nothing short of sensational, with zero vibration and very low noise no matter how much of its performance you are asking for.
In truth, this engine is barely man enough for the A5 Cabriolet, especially when it's weighed down with an automatic transmission and quattro four-wheel drive, so performance is best described as 'adequate'. The 2.0-litre TFSI model with 252hp feels considerably friskier in terms of straight-line pace and responsiveness in the corners, but it never feels as quick as its headline power figure suggests it will. The 286hp V6 diesel is, money-no-object, the best car in the line-up, thanks to the effortless go on tap mixed with quietness for the most part and a cultured note at its most vocal. That and the S5 alone get the eight-speed automatic transmission, while the rest of the line-up benefit from the latest seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic automatic. This is a well-judged unit that alters strategy depending on which of the driving modes you select and there's little reason to ever use the (too small and plastic) gearchange paddles on the back of the steering wheel.
None of the A5 Cabriolets we tested (and this goes for the S5, too) could be described as engaging to drive. All were fitted with the optional damper control system, which theoretically allows the best of both worlds, but we found only small differences between the extremities of comfort and sportiness and soon realised that, as well-controlled as body movements were through tight corners, there's nothing particularly sporty about the way the A5 Cabriolet goes down the road, so it's best left in the Auto setting to fend for itself. The keenest of drivers may not be impressed, but the vast majority of the target audience will be delighted with the composure of this car over a variety of testing road surfaces. It's quite unshakeable. What's more, there's no shimmy or shake apparent through the structure either, which backs up Audi's claim that the new A5 Cabriolet is some 40 per cent stiffer in torsion than the old one.
Given how civil the new open A5 is in general, the level of wind buffeting and noise apparent at high motorway speeds was surprising, even with all windows up and the (rather flimsy for our liking) wind deflector in place over the rear seats. Are we asking too much? For the record, with the roof up, there's remarkably little wind roar over the top for a fabric top.
What you get for your money
Audi Ireland has yet to confirm pricing or specifications for the new A5 Cabriolet range, but we can assume that the line-up will mirror that of the A5 Coupe, with SE and S line trim levels and a minimum kit list that'll include 18-inch alloy wheels, tyre pressure monitor, Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, auto lights and wipers, heated front seats, leather upholstery, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, climate control, keyless go, MMI satnav with seven-inch screen, Audi Smartphone Interface, three-month trial of Audi Connect, Bluetooth, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and loads of active and passive safety equipment.
Premium four-seat convertibles are thin on the ground right now, but the few Irish buyers there are for such things should have the Audi A5 Cabriolet at the very top of their shortlists. It's a classy car with exceptional refinement, a gorgeous cabin and more practicality than most. No, it's not particularly interesting to drive, but those that prioritise comfort, civility, technology and image will find a lot to like about it.