2011 Audi A5 CabrioletPosted on December 21st, 2010
Sexy drop top for driving enthusiasts
By Nina Russin
Audi’s A5 cabriolet is really two cars in one. With the top in place, it performs very much like its sibling, the A5 coupe. The standard soft top is remarkably well insulated, to protect passengers from temperature extremes and minimize noise intrusion. A high level of torsional stiffness prevents the cowl shake some convertibles suffer from.
With the top deployed, the sporty A5 offers the sensuously satisfying experience only a cabriolet can. A single switch on the center console lowers the top and stows it the boot automatically: the whole operation takes 17 seconds.
Power comes from a two-liter turbocharged engine rated at 211 horsepower and a six-speed Tiptronic transmission with a manual gear selection mode.
Base price for the all-wheel drive test car is $44,190, not including the $875 destination charge. Buyers who can live with front-wheel drive in lieu of quattro save about $2000 on the MSRP and get slightly better gas mileage.
However the front-wheel drive A-5 comes with a continuously variable transmission in place of the Tiptronic. In addition to its nice crisp shifts, the Tiptronic automatic transmission also yields faster zero-to-sixty times.
A premium model upgrade adds xenon headlamps, Bluetooth interface, 18-inch alloy wheels, a rain/light sensor and Audi music interface ($3700). Navigation with a rearview camera costs $2400.
A 19-inch wheel upgrade ($800) and dual exhaust tips ($130) bring the price as tested to $54,545.
Open-air test drive in the desert
There’s something wonderfully decadent about driving a convertible with the top down in the middle of December. When I lived in Chicago, I stored my convertible from October through March. Every week or so I’d visit my car, and dream of the balmy spring day we’d hit the road again.
On a typical December day in Phoenix, Arizona, I pull the Audi out of the garage to give myself an early Christmas present. On this particular afternoon temperatures are reaching the mid 70s.
The turbocharged engine roars to life, and I head east towards the mountains. I begin the test drive with the top in place in order to assess visibility around the car’s perimeter. The rear backup camera makes pulling out of parking spots a snap. A grid over the wide-angle image shows the car’s trajectory and sounds an audible chime if the driver comes too close to an object in the car’s path.
Although cabriolets have smaller rear glass windows then hard tops, the one in the A5 is reasonably wide. Side mirrors do a good job compensating for blind spots to the back, and over-the-shoulder visibility is quite good.
Audi engineers use direct injection to give the four-cylinder engine exceptional throttle response. Because of the turbochargers, the engine reaches peak torque at 1500 rpm: throttle tip-off. Beating other cars off the line is a non-issue. The cabriolet accelerates from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in 7.2 seconds.
Once I reach the outskirts of town, I pull off the road and lower the top. A recent rain has greened up the desert and made the creosote bushes more fragrant. Unlike the scorching summer sun, winter daylight is soft, gently warming the afternoon and casting everything in a golden glow.
As I weave through fields of saguaros and wildflowers on a two-lane rural road, the desert comes out to greet me. The speed-sensitive steering system is as nimble at 50 miles-per-hour as it is at 20, while maintaining positive on-center response. The optional low-profile rims and tires provide ample contact patches with the ground.
The independent four-wheel suspension is firm without being uncomfortable.
My only complaint about the experience is the heated driver’s seat, which comes on automatically when I lower the top. While this feels good for about five minutes, my back is roasting after another twenty. Trying to turn off the heater switch is fruitless. There may be a way to override the function but it isn’t obvious. As with most comfort features that try to outsmart the driver, this one has limitations.
While the A5 is technically a two-plus-two, a lack of legroom in the rear seats makes them impractical for most adults. Both the driver and front passenger have ample head, leg and hip room. The seats are on the firm side, but not uncomfortable.
Designers used the same clean approach to the inside of the A5 that they did to the exterior. A mouse device controls many of the comfort and convenience functions, eliminating unnecessary clutter. Rotary dials on the steering wheel adjust audio settings and volume, minimizing driver distraction.
Controls on the center stack are easy to reach from either front seating position. The seatbelts also deserve mention for exceptionally good design. The belts automatically move forward when the driver opens the door, so passengers can reach the shoulder belts without reaching back to the second row.
A switch on the driver’s seatback moves the seat and back forward to ease access and egress to the second row.
There is ample storage around the passenger compartment, including a locking glovebox and center console. Bottle holders in the doors and cupholders in the center console are large enough for water bottles.
The trunk is shallow: no surprise for a convertible which stows the top in the boot. Fortunately the second-row seats fold flat, enabling the owner to stash skis, snowboards and other long items in back. Release switches for the rear seatbacks are conveniently located near the trunk threshold.
The Audi A5 cabriolet comes standard with front, knee, head and thorax side airbags. A roll bar deploys automatically in the event of a rollover. The A5 comes with antilock brakes, traction and stability control. Audi’s standard warranty is for four years or 50,000 miles, including four years of 24-hour roadside assistance.
Audi builds the A5 cabriolet at is Neckarsulm, Germany assembly plant.
Likes: A solid, elegant cabriolet with exceptional power, ride and handling.
Dislike: Seat heaters come on automatically when the top is lowered on cooler days, and can become uncomfortable.
Model: A5 2.0 TFSI Quattro Tiptronic Cabriolet
Base price: $44,190
As tested: $54,545
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: 21/29 mpg city/highway
Comments: The manufacturer recommends using 91 octane premium gasoline.
One response to “2011 Audi A5 Cabriolet”
The vehicle looks great and it is a fun to drive vehicle. Manufacturers promise that vehicle’s acceleration is normal with the CVT transmission equipped in the vehicle.
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