Audi A5 Cabriolet

Ingolstadt encourages blue-sky thinking

BARRY PARK

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Audi A5 Cabriolet 2.0T quattro 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 185kW @ 5000-6000rpm 370Nm @ 1600-4500rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1710kg 6.3sec (claimed) 6.7L/100km $95,000 Now

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

AUDIíS A5 Cabriolet is back Ė bigger, stronger, lighter, and, if you ignore the S-badged version, offering just two model choices.

The front-drive 140kW 2.0T ($83,400) is up a couple of thouí over the former entry-level 1.8 TSFI, but thatís still less than main rivalsí stickers.

The front-driver is a mostly sweet steer, but urgent departures at T-junctions will see the front tyres scrabbling for traction. The quattro all-wheel-drive version ($95,000) has no such issues.

Itíd be easy to dismiss this A5 Cabriolet as little more than the old one, post extensive plastic surgery. But underneath the openair A5ís too-familiar skin hides the DNA of Audiís class-leading B9 A4, in conjunction with the same beautifully sculpted interior.

Given the two-door A5ís role as a technology and design clotheshorse, even the base 2.0T gets the full 12.3-inch Audi Virtual Cockpit, cold-to-the-touch aluminium trim, a special heatreducing coating on the leathertrimmed upholstery, and thicker glass to help reduce noise.

This generation will lower its new five-layer ĎK-foldí cloth roof in 15 seconds. You can also raise or lower it at speeds below 50km/h, and itís more heavily soundproofed. Thereís a flatter rear window than before, too, and in a neat little trick, reading lights for the two cramped back seats (which now have a whole 18mm of extra legroom) are built into the headlining. The front seats feature built-in neck warmers that puff air more forcefully when the roof is down.

The new cabrio is 25kg lighter than the previous generation, partly thanks to more extensive use of high-strength steel in the chassis, suspension towers and bulkhead, but mostly via aluminium suspension components that shed 10kg alone, while lighter brakes remove another 5kg. Commendably, rigidity has improved 40 percent, though the A5 Cabí still gets a bit jiggy over rough sections of road.

Unleash the snarly turbo fourís 185kW on poor surfaces and the firmly damped ride sees the A5ís 19-inch Bridgestones dance around somewhat. Every now and again, big hits send a shudder through the suspension as body composure is tested. This is not a car that particularly enjoys crumbling country roads.

Thatís a shame because roof up, the all-wheel-drive A5 Cabriolet is a pillarless quasi-coupe. On smooth roads, it serves up a sports-car flavour as it squats in the rear under hard acceleration and shuffles its drive bias to make the most of its planted chassis and respectable handling poise.

But will any of that matter in the cafe strips of South Yarra or Woollahra? No it wonít. r mendably, ved í ections rly rfaces

PLUS & MINUS

Roof operation and insulation; quattroís power-down ability; interior Cramped back seat; prone to ride comfort and rigidity issues

Huff and blow

Joining the A5 Cabriolet is its hotter S-badged sibling, the $119,111 S5 Cabriolet. It runs the same 260kW/550Nm 3.0-litre turbo V6 as the S5 Coupe, and just like in that application, the loss of the old supercharged V6ís aural flavour will be mourned.

Youíll also notice we havenít mentioned the Ďdieselí word.

Just five percent of previous A5 Cabriolet buyers opted for the turbo-diesels, so Audi has dropped them altogether.