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Audi A5 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI

Click to view picture galleryHot on the heels of their flagship
  R8 V10 mid-engined sports coupe,
  Audi has just launched the

  replacement for the previous A4
  soft-top — the
new A5 Cabriolet...

PRICES FOR THE NEW A5 CABRIOLET range from 29,795 and climb to 40,385 and, depending on the engine specified, there are Standard, SE and S line levels of specification to choose from.

As for the competitors; the BMW 3-Series Convertible and the Mercedes-Benz CLK Cabriolet are the main ones, say Audi, but the Volvo C70, BMW 6-Series and Jaguar XK will all be considered by customers depending on their premium badge, engine size and budgetary requirements. Audi says the new A5 Cabriolet scores over its rivals with more boot space and, depending on which model is chosen, like-for-like it offers lower CO2 emissions, is faster, better value and has better residual values.

Audi's just-launched new A5 Cabriolet comes with an electronically-operated fabric folding roof system — a 'must' feature, according to Audi. For the record, the automated roof opens in just 15 seconds and closes in 17, even on the move at speeds up to 31mph. Audi also says the canvas roof is more distinctive — a Cabriolet looks a Cabriolet when it has a fabric roof. Furthermore, the roof structure is lighter, so saving fuel; it's also less complicated and it takes up less boot space when folded away.

With the roof stowed, the A5 Cabriolet offers 320-litres of boot space — better than the 276 litres in the Mercedes CLK; and much better than the 90 litres of the BMW 3-Series Convertible. The genuine four-seater A5 soft-top also has easy-to-fold rear seats; just a catch and, being spring loaded, a single-handed operation is all that is needed to achieve up to 750 litres of load space — more than enough for two golf bags. Talking of rear seats, the new Audi Cabriolet will accommodate four adults with ease and there is very good rear legroom.

With its distinctive Audi face, high waistline and beautifully executed rear-end styling (which leaves a smooth body surface with roof folded away), the newcomer just looks a premium product. It is elegant, hood up or down, and has now, for many people, taken over the role from Mercedes-Benz as the brand we should associate elegant and desirable convertibles with the most. High praise indeed.

Inside the car it is classic Audi A5; premium specification, beautifully built and a very civilised place to be. There is little wind buffeting with the top down and it is very quiet inside the car with the roof raised. An acoustic hood can be specified for SE versions for an extra 210 but it is standard for S line models.

Whilst the car is really comfortable to ride in and an ideal long journey cruiser, it isn't the most dynamic to drive. You could say it is very conservative — it does all things well but it feels heavy and it doesn't involve the driver very much. Now most owners will be happy with that I'm sure: safe, solid, sure-footed, dependable and above all an Audi. It just lacks the 'thrill factor' for some drivers but it looks great.

The A5 Cabriolet serves
up conservative and
‘lazy’ performance and is
clearly set up for
comfortable travel — but
it can be racy enough
if pushed...”
I am not going to list the fixtures and fittings — all the major items are there: electric windows and door mirrors, air conditioning and so on and, being Audi, there is a significant list of extra-cost options. The mid-range SE level of specification would be fine but most retail buyers will go for the fully kitted S line — it's that sort of car.

Initially the A5 Cabriolet comes with three direct injection engine options: a turbocharged 2.0-litre TFSI petrol with 208bhp of power, the naturally-aspirated 3.2-litre, V6, 261bhp FSI petrol and the 3.0-litre, V6, TDI turbodiesel with 237bhp. This engine has quattro all-wheel drive as standard and the other two engines have quattro as an option. A 2.0-litre TDI 168bhp turbodiesel engine will become available in a few months time and will ultimately be the best-selling unit given that business users will be eager customers.

For retail buyers, the new 2.0-litre TFSI, 208bhp, turbocharger with intercooler petrol engine will be the most popular and overall will account for 35% of sales. And this is the model I would recommend. During my brief pre-launch test drive this was the model I tried and for most people it is the sensible option. It can be docile when needed, flexible in town traffic and it will liven up proceedings once the open road beckons.

Floor the accelerator, however, and 258lb ft of torque available from just 1,500rpm brings the Cabriolet to life — so watch out for the torque steer [the 2.0-litre model reviewed here is front-wheel drive, not an all-wheel drive quattro version — Ed]. I gather Audi has a sports differential on its way which will smooth out that particular characteristic. The larger wheels of the S line and sports suspension do, I suspect, make the torque-steer worse so it is another reason to avoid the top specification level.

As for top speed and acceleration, well, this gem of a new engine delivers 150mph with a manual 6-speed gearbox (145mph with the twin-clutch auto box) and 62mph flashes up from standstill in 7.5 seconds with the manual 'box or 7.9 seconds for the auto. As for fuel economy, officially the combined cycle says 42.2mpg — my test drive returned just 23.3mpg but I have to admit I was trying to inject some pace into the first drive experience and to see just how good, or bad, the handling characteristics of the A5's body with the fabric roof were.

Yes, there is some typical convertible bodyshake but the strengthening process using lightweight high-strength steel has done its job pretty well. The torsional twist and body wobbles were more noticeable during the brief drive I had in the 3.0-litre TDI quattro version — more grip and more twist — but 27.6mpg for the same test drive route and pacey driving.

On the handling front the A5 Cabriolet is very predictable and, naturally, ESP stability control is fitted as standard. The grip is good, the steering user-friendly but it sent little in the way of feedback to the driver.

Whilst any A5 Cabriolet will be quick, overall the car is designed for beauty and comfort. In this particular spec, the A5 Cabriolet serves up conservative and 'lazy' performance and is clearly set up for comfortable travel — but it can be racy enough if pushed. There's a little body shake and some torque-steer is evident. Choose the top specification and add some further options and it becomes expensive. Price aside, it's an elegant, classy, refined and practical four-seat Cabriolet with a desirable badge. And for many, that will be more than enough. — David Miles

Audi A5 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI | 29,795
Maximum speed: 150mph | 0-62mph: 7.5 seconds | Overall test MPG: 23.3mpg
Power: 208bhp | Torque: 258lb ft | CO2 159g/km | Insurance group 17