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Audi RS 5 Cabriolet

Click to view picture gallery“Before we fired up the V8 of our
  test RS 5 Cabriolet we swore that,
  for half of our week with the car,
  we
d drive like saints. We persevered
  mightily, but the rewards for our
  restraint were not in this world:
  21mpg. For the remainder of our
  week’s test we veered from the path
  of righteousness. Heck, ain
t life
  grand...


THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE. And it was staring us in the face all along: a drop-top sports car with 444bhp, 4WD and a £70K price tag reminds you of the wisdom in the saying 'If you need to ask, you can't afford it'.

However, there are plenty of fresh-air aficionados who can. Which is why Audi are making RS models as though the Apocalypse is nigh. Not so long ago these coveted high-performing 'halo' range models were few and far between — these days there's a choice of seven RS-badged Audis with enough of each being made to satisfy a lot of lucky Bs (buyers, that is).

“If the weather takes
a turn for the worse,
don’t panic: press
a button and it closes
(all the windows too)
in 17 seconds at speeds
below 31mph.
Changed your mind?
No problem,
opening is quicker;
just 15 seconds.
..”
Our RS 5 Cabrio, riding on 20-inch titanium-coloured 10-arm alloys looked heavenly in pure gleaming Ibis white; the deep-red three-layered, electrically-folding lightweight fabric soft-top made an eye-catching counterpoint — and a tongue-in-cheek hint of the 'devil' under the bonnet.

Not that you saw much of our hood as it was almost permanently stacked away beneath the rear deck. While the topless RS 5 Cabrio can be driven at speed with all the four windows and even the wind-blocker disappeared, there are definite benefits in keeping them up.

The climate control knows when you're travelling roof-down and automatically ups the AirCon's game accordingly, pouring out more and colder air (or hotter if that's what you've dialled up) which you need to keep corralled using the side windows and wind-blocker.

Doing so not only keeps you physically nicely chilled (or cosily warm) and your hair tidy, but still looks cool. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, don't panic: press a button and it closes (all the windows too) in 17 seconds at speeds below 31mph. Changed your mind? No problem, opening is quicker; just 15 seconds.

And, conveniently, you can leave the wind-blocker in situ — not only does the soft-top open and close with it in place, but the fine mesh construction gives excellent visibility so you can drive roof-up with no problems (well, apart from that you can't carry any rear passengers with the wind-blocker fitted).

Removal is easy: move the locking bar and it disengages as you lift the wind-blocker before neatly folding into a quarter of its opened-out size, at which point you can store it in its own customised tray beneath the boot floor.

The RS 5's 4.2-litre V8 is hand-built and while turbochargers are seemingly lurking under every bonnet these days — starting with tiny engines less than a carton of milk in capacity — you won't find any in the RS 5's engine bay. Purists can rejoice in good old cubic centimetres and the resulting absence of lag as this naturally aspirated direct-injected belter of a powerplant revs to its 8,200rpm redline.

And as it sings its high-revving heart out it sounds wonderful (our RS 5 was fitted with the optional sports exhaust). As you'd expect, it sounds especially resonant with the top down. And there's plenty to power the sound — between them the eight cylinders produce some heavy-hitting figures: 444bhp and 317lb ft. Welcome to the punch!

“Welcome to the punch!
444bhp and 317lb ft
means 4.9 seconds to hit
62mph from standstill
and, after the standard
155mph electronic
speed-limiter has been
snipped, a top speed
of 174mph.
..”
On the road this translates to 4.9 seconds to hit 62mph from standstill and a top speed of 174mph — assuming, that is, that you've paid your friendly Audi dealer a visit and had the standard 155mph electronic speed-limiter snipped.

A seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch auto 'box handles the job of transmitting the power to the wheels via Audi's trademark quattro all-wheel drive system.

You can shift manually using the selector lever or the steering wheel paddles. Adding to the driveability, Drive Select is also integrated in the S tronic's management — so Sport mode brings with it all the handling assurance of the Dynamic programme.

Sure you can leave it to its own devices in D… but Sport mode always beckons. Nudge the selector lever to engage Sport and the RS 5 will have your undivided attention: the electromechanical power steering weights-up and you can literally feel the Cabrio hunkering down for action; step on it and lightning-fast shifts-up are made right at the thin red line, the next higher gear slotting into place with a decisive whumph from the exhaust as the acceleration just keeps on coming.

Drive it hard and you'll get through unleaded at a rate that matches the acceleration figures — full to empty can be pretty damn quick. Officially it's no serial drinker, with 19.3, 33.2, and 26.4mpg respectively for the urban, extra-urban and combined cycles. As already mentioned, a smidgen under 21mpg was the best we could manage. But drive an RS 5 and you'd settle for that.

Not at all in-your-face, the low-riding, wide-stanced RS 5 shows off delightfully understated styling fronted by that oh-so-deep single frame grille, large air intakes and distinctive signature LED daytime running lights. The flanks are clean-cut; all the better to see the subtly flared wheelarches wrapped tightly round titanium-coloured alloys, and there's a very subtle lip-spoiler on the bootlid finishing it off with a carbon-fibre flourish. And, if it's got the optional sports exhaust, then the fist-sized oval tailpipes at each corner will be black, just like the painted brake callipers.

The cabin is equally laid-back but put together with meticulous attention to detail (satin aluminium filleting to the switchgear, elegant carbon-fibre and high gloss black facings) and top quality materials (soft Nappa leather upholstery).
And it majors on refinement. Most RS 5s will, regardless of the country and clime they inhabit, spend more time driving with their tops up.

“Nudge the selector
lever into Sport and the
RS 5 will have your
undivided attention:
step on it and lightning-
fast shifts up are made right at the thin red line,
the next higher gear
slotting into place with a
decisive ‘whumph’ from
the exhaust as the
acceleration just keeps
on coming.
..”
So it's a big plus that the lightweight 'acoustic hood' offers a degree of sound insulation that runs its fixed head counterpart very close, even at fast motorway speeds.

Another big plus point is that when the roof's down it doesn't commandeer much of the large-for-a-four-seater-cabrio 380-litre boot, needing only 60 litres of dedicated stowage space.

Additionally, the 50:50 split rear seatbacks fold down, opening up a good sized (13" x 27") load-through facility that offers a total loading length of 1.76 metres and 750 litres of stowage space.

Should you need a few litres more and can travel with the roof raised, then the boot can be expanded further by manually pressing up the base of the soft-top's storage 'box' within the luggage area. If you do so, it automatically readjusts the next time you power down the roof (providing there's room for it).

The cockpit is a premium place to be, with well-padded sports seats ('RS 5' branding on the seatbacks) providing first-rate support that's enhanced by power-adjustable lumbar and an extending front under-knee section. The driver gets a lovely grippy, perforated leather, flat-bottomed multifunction RS three-spoke steering wheel with paddle-shifters, smart dials, engine Start button, seat memory, all-singing-all-dancing driver's information display, plus cruise control, an electric park brake with auto-hold, powerfold heated mirrors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera (always nice to have although top-up visibility is unexpectedly good).

Additional cabin equipment includes three-stage heated seats, sliding centre armrest, one-shot auto up/down power windows (with a separate switch that opens or closes all four together), a crystal clear and foolproof SatNav, Bluetooth, iPod connection, Audi's intuitive MMI multimedia interface; plus there's ample storage solutions including useful cubbies in the front seat bases — handy for the safety vests that are now mandatory when driving abroad and that no doubt will soon be here too.

Other Cabriolet-specific kit includes automatic front seatbelt feeders (saves all that undignified over the shoulder scrabbling), a mesh wind-blocker, and a rollover protection system (that, if ever needed, deploys upwards behind the rear head restraints).

The RS 5 is a proper four-seater cabriolet; a near six-footer can sit comfortably enough behind another near-six-footer on longish journeys — preferably with the roof down. Access to the rear seats is, obviously, much better with the roof down but the front seats tilt and power glide forwards/back to make things as easy as possible.

“The RS 5 is a proper
four-seater cabriolet
although I suspect that
for many owners
the rear seats will serve,
honourably, for
convenient shopping
overspill or as
somewhere to toss a
coat.
..”
I'll admit to being a lifelong convertible-lover (whenever it's the least bit dry I always drive top-down) and unless they're my own children I'd rather not carry rear seat passengers in a drop-top so for me, and I suspect for many owners too, the rear seats will serve, honourably, for convenient shopping overspill or as somewhere to toss a coat — and with the wind-blocker in-situ it's masked from prying eyes.

The RS 5 rides firmly on the optional 20-inch wheels, particularly so in the Drive Select's (Audi's adaptive dynamics system) Dynamic mode, when you can almost feel the road surface transmitted through the ultra-low-pro 275/30 Bridgestone rubber to the seat of your pants. That's not saying there's no ride compliance because there most certainly is.

When you're not blitzkrieging you can switch it to the Comfort setting for a very noticeable improvement in its deportment and a perfectly okay ride. Alternatively there's Auto or Individual. Auto is no cop-out because it 'reads' the road and your driving demands to give you what's best for any particular moment in time, be it Dynamic or Comfort. Individual allows the driver to pick 'n' mix steering weighting, the S tronic's shift points, throttle response, and suspension (sport diff) parameters within the Comfort-Auto-Dynamic range.

Whatever mode you're in you'll be wanting fuss-free brakes that will haul you down reassuringly — the RS 5's are as potent as you'll need: eight-piston RS-branded front callipers grab hefty internally-ventilated discs to stop you as hard, or as gently, as you please.

Even with its 1,920kg kerb weight the convertible RS 5 feels responsive during cornering and quick to obey commands through the wheel; quick enough to keep up with the quattro's sporty rear-biased 60:40 power-split (if needed, up to 85% can go to the rear wheels or as much as 70% can flow to the front).

The V8's snarly-growly Sport mode and 8,000+rpm-revability are deliciously seductive; more so the quattro's all-wheel drive surefootedness that makes the potent RS 5 an easy car to drive fast safely, especially in less than perfect weather conditions. And, by the way, whether it's a superyacht or a supercar, the rich always know the price. Glücklich Autofahren!MotorBar

Audi RS 5 Cabriolet 4.2 FSI quattro S tronic | £68,985
Top speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 4.9 seconds | Average Test MPG: 20.9mpg
Power: 444bhp | Torque: 317lb ft | CO2 249g/km