That was the number in my head as I drove in the direction of the overcast skies. But it was neither the local speed limit nor the times I wanted to yell at incompetent road users.
Fifty is the speed, in kilometres per hour, that I had to stay under if I needed to put the roof of my car up should the dark clouds make good on their threat to rain on my parade. And they did just that–twice–in an hour. Gratefully, this updated Audi A5 Cabriolet’s roof secures itself in 18 seconds, preventing me from getting drenched in the fitful tropical downpour.
Like my favourite seasons of the year to travel (do we even remember what it’s like anymore in these times?), I find the best moments for roof-down motoring is between extremes of the weather – those brief transitions from a sunny day to a gusty torrential shower, when the worst of the scorching heat is past and buffeting air seems to drop several degrees in temperature. It gives a posthumous purpose to enduring another searing day, rewarded with the anticipation that precedes flicking the button to stow the A5’s fabric roof in 15 seconds, followed by the adrenaline rush of outracing the rain. Victory is never guaranteed, but that makes success even sweeter.
I think the purist in me can live with those exceptions. Between interludes of having miles of headroom and giving myself an unrecognisable hairdo, there’s the familiar air-conditioned and insulated comfort offered by the A5’s three-layer acoustic hood, which helps to keep to keep most of the noise out, although I had to check a few times during my drive if all my windows had been raised. The rear windows seem to be the habitual culprit.
The removal of a permanent roof necessitates extensive structural reinforcements in other parts of the car to compensate for the reduced rigidity. After adding the machinery responsible for the cabriolet’s graceful choreography, the weight gain is a hefty 210 kg over the A5 Coupe. In a continuous exercise of compensation, the cabriolet’s same 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine registers a higher output of 190 hp and 320 Nm of torque (versus 150 hp and 270 Nm in the A5 Coupe and Sportback). The powertrain also features the mild hybrid system (MHEV) integrated into the 12V electrical system, which Audi claims can reduce fuel consumption by up to 0.3 litres per 100 kilometres. Despite the added heft, the A5 Cabriolet goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.9 seconds, which is a full second quicker than the coupe. The 7-speed S tronic transmission is buttery smooth, albeit a little lacking in urgency when moving off from a standstill; to give credit where it’s due, the gearbox was responsive and quickly downshifted to the right gear whenever I wanted to do a fast overtake on expressways.
But driving isn’t just about how quickly a car can pick up speed in a straight line, and this is where the A5 Cabriolet’s character reveals itself. Riding on 245/40R18 Pirelli Cinturato P7 tyres, the ride is pillowy on most roads and very forgiving of minor potholes and other road features that would typically elicit a disapproving remark had I gone over them in my much firmer Hyundai i30 N. This relaxed demeanour means steering input isn’t as sharp, and the car leans into turns as its mass shifts from one side to the other in obedience to the laws of physics. The brake force was easy to moderate, slowing the car’s 1,670 kg mass without any drama. But while this may all make the A5 Cabriolet seem ‘soft’, Audi never intended this car to be an apex hunter – there are proper weapons like the S and RS variants for those white-knuckled pursuits.
The A5 Cabriolet is a bona fide cruiser, equally comfortable rolling along on city boulevards or cross-country road trips. It looks the part, too. The brand’s signature Singleframe honeycomb grille is now flatter and slightly wider in the updated A5 Cabriolet; in line with the current design language, the ventilation slits above the grille–flanked by premium Matrix LED headlights–pay homage to the classic Audi Sport quattro from 1984. An aluminium blade traces the width of the front bumper, bookended by air inlets rising vertically. Trapezoidal tailpipe covers on both ends of the rear bumper add to the impression of a wider track.
The overall styling seems a better fit for urban environments, the press car’s Navarra blue Metallic paint contrasting tastefully with the brushed aluminium accents, grey fabric roof and grey leather/leatherette mono.pur 550 interior upholstery. Driving in busy streets, however, required additional care as the blind spots where the C-pillars would typically be are understandably large, while visibility through the rear windscreen was little better than peering through a letterbox opening.
Luggage capacity is 370 litres with the top up, and 310 litres with the roof stowed in a movable tray that helps ensure items in the trunk won’t impede the storage of the acoustic hood. This solution affords more usable space than competitors’, so the Audi wins this aspect of the practicality contest. Legroom for passengers in the rear isn’t anything to shout about though, and relations with anyone seated in the back can be strained on longer journeys.
Looking beyond those quibbles, the cabriolet’s interior is well appointed. The various physical touch points are luxurious, from the steering wheel to the parts of the door or centre armrest where my elbows naturally rested. The electrically adjustable front sport seats with four-way lumbar support were comfortable, and while the spacing between the seat bolsters might suggest these weren’t focused on people with a more athletic frame, remember again the A5 Cabriolet isn’t for tackling hairpins with an inordinate amount of tyre squeal.
The top-of-the-line MMI navigation plus infotainment system in the form of a 10.1-inch touch display with acoustic feedback has replaced the rotary pushbutton found in previous models – not a decision I wholly agree with. That said, the cabriolet features microphones integrated into each front seat belt, supporting phone calls and voice control functions even with the roof folded. I haven’t had the best experience with Audi’s navigation system, but Google Maps is supported via a wired Apple CarPlay connection so my poor sense of direction will have to wait for another opportunity to punish me.
Until then, I’ll take my chances with the weather as I coast along in the A5 Cabriolet.
Special thanks to Audi Singapore for this opportunity.
The original version of this article first appeared on Eat.Fly.Drive.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The Audi A5 Cabriolet is a bona fide cruiser, equally comfortable rolling along on city boulevards or cross-country road trips. It looks the part, too.
Handling - 7/10
Performance - 7/10
Design - 9/10
Comfort - 9/10
Practicality - 7/10
Value - 7/10