2010 Audi A5 2.0 TFSI quattro CabrioletPosted on February 5th, 2010
Open-air love affair
By Nina Russin
Used to be, owning a convertible was a love/hate relationship. While nobody would argue with the visceral appeal of open-air motoring, drivers had to compromise ride and handling due to poor torsional rigidity that plagued many cabriolets. In addition, the soft tops did a poor job of insulating the interior against road noise and cold temperatures.
I owned one of those convertibles: a 1972 Olds Cutlass. While I enjoyed every day through seven summers of driving, I stored the car from October through April. In the winter, I drove a sedan.
The Audi A5 cabriolet is a different kind of animal: with a stronger skeleton and four-season performance. Engineers used high-strength steel throughout the body structure, enhancing torsional rigidity without adding weight.
Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system maintains a rear-wheel bias on dry roads, and sends power to the wheels with the best traction on wet and icy surfaces. The top is insulated enough to keep out road noise in the summer and cold in the winter.
A two-liter, turbocharged engine produces excellent power while conserving on fuel. Audi’s direct fuel injection system delivers the gasoline directly into the engine cylinders, enhancing throttle response while reducing carbon monoxide emissions.
A standard six speed automatic transmission has large overdrive gears for the highway. Driving enthusiasts can manually select gears to raise the fun factor on winding two-lane roads.
Best of all, a single toggle switch on the center console deploys the top and stows it in the rear boot. The operation takes 15 seconds.
The A5 is one of two models built on the same chassis. Its sibling, the S5, has a 3-liter V-6 engine in place of the A5’s turbocharged four cylinder. Both cars have seating for four passengers. A rear pass-though adds the capacity to carry skis and other long cargo.
Test drive in the desert
This week, I had the opportunity to drive the A5 cabriolet around Phoenix. February is the perfect time to have a convertible in this part of the country, with low temperatures in the 50s and highs in the mid-70s. Except for an occasional spat of rain, there’s no reason to drive with the top up.
Base price on the test car is $44,100, not including an $825 delivery charge. A comfort package adds heated and ventilated front seats, perforated leather, and a head-level heating system ($2400).
Though driving enthusiasts might want the S5’s more powerful engine, it’s hard to complain about the four cylinder’s performance. Peak torque of 258 foot-pounds comes on at 1500 rpm: just above idle. As a result, the A5 can accelerate extremely hard, and maintain the same torque through highway cruising speeds. The cabriolet accelerates from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in just over seven seconds.
Fuel economy around town was not as good as I expected. Quattro adds a couple hundred pounds over the front-wheel drive model, making the cabriolet a fairly heavy car. My fuel economy during the test drive was below the 20 mpg city estimate.
On the other hand, turbocharging makes the engine extremely thrifty on the highway, compensating for its gas mileage in stop-and-go traffic. The turbocharger also enhances the A5’s ability to pass slower cars on the highway.
Visibility around the car is surprisingly good with the top in place, thanks to a large rear window. The window is glass, which unlike plastic, does not fog or yellow with age. The cloth top does an excellent job of isolating passengers from road noise.
The A5 doesn’t have a windscreen behind the driver due to the rear seats, so there’s more air circulating through the cabin. I wasn’t bothered by it. Those who are can always raise the side windows, using a dedicated button on the center console.
This year, engineers relocated the car’s steering rack to lower the center of gravity. New front and rear suspension designs are mostly aluminum to minimize unsprung weight. The result of very positive on-center feel, combined with the agility Audi is known for.
Eighteen-inch wheels on the test car dress up the exterior, and provide a large footprint for the chassis. Driving enthusiasts can substitute summer performance tires for the standard all-season radials. Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking stop the car in a firm, linear fashion.
Designers carried the cabriolet’s sleek exterior design inside. The perforated leather front seats are attractive and extremely comfortable. Optional ash wood inlays ($400) are a nice addition, giving the interior a similar appearance to modern European furniture.
A standard tilt steering wheel allows smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view. Redundant audio, cruise controls and Bluetooth interface are intuitive to use.
Audi uses a mouse device to control navigation, vehicle information and audio functions, eliminating a lot of unnecessary buttons. Drivers can obtain real-time traffic updates courtesy of Sirius/XM satellite radio, and program custom functions such as lighting and door locks on the vehicle itself. A digital display in the gauge cluster shows odometer, trip meter, driving range and audio settings.
Storage around the passenger compartment is pretty good for a convertible, with map pocket and bottle holders in the front doors. A locking glovebox and center console bin provide concealed storage.
The back seats aren’t spacious, but small adults can fit inside with the front seats moved forward. Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back when the top is up. Dual overhead reading lamps over both rows of seating illuminate the interior at night.
All models come with front, side and knee airbags (driver and front passenger), electronic stability program, and antilock brakes. Audi’s four-year factory warranty includes free roadside assistance. Scheduled maintenance is complimentary for the first 12 months or 5000 miles.
Audi produces the A5 cabriolet at its assembly plant in Neckarsulm, Germany.
Likes: A stylish cabriolet with excellent ride and handling, and a surprisingly quiet interior with the top in place.
Dislikes: Poor fuel economy in stop-and-go traffic. Lack of legroom in the second-row seats.
Model: A5 2.0 TFSI, quattro Tiptronic Cabriolet
Base price: $44,100
As tested: $56,025
Horsepower: 211 Hp @ 4300 rpm
Torque: 258 lbs.-ft. @ 1500 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 7.2 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: N/A
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 20/26 mpg city/highway
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