This week's update: We say a premature farewell to our award-winning A5 Cabriolet.
|Scroll down or use the links below to navigate|
|1. Welcome||2. Specs||3. Driving impressions|
|4. A5 vs TT Roadster||5. A5 to France||6. Award winner|
|7. TFSI vs TDI||8. A5 vs C-Class||9. A5 meets original Audi Cab|
|10. PCP finance||11. Adios, A5|
We welcome Audi's four-seat drop-top to Parkers, at just the right time
This Audi A5 Cabriolet arrived on to the Parkers fleet just in time for the glorious summer of 2018 in the UK.
I’m really rather pleased with the timing of this, as I’m a big fan of convertible cars, having run a Mazda MX-5 Icon back in 2016. I’m even more excited about running the A5 as it’s actually on hand through the summer, and I plan on rinsing the nice weather for all it’s got.
Why is it here?
Not everyone needs or wants an SUV or practical family car (like me), so I’ll be finding out how easily I can get on with a two-door drop-top over the summer. It won’t all be about posing, though.
With thousands of miles-worth of journeys due over the next few months, the A5’s everyday usability will be put to the test, and how much of a compromise is it having a much smaller boot with restricted access because of that canvas roof?
It’s certainly a looker, what’s the spec?
I’ve gone for an S Line version, the most popular trim level for the A5. On other Audi models, S Line trim brings a sportier look than others, but with the A5 Cabriolet there’s a bit more restraint.
Sharp lines, plenty of aluminium/chrome trim and slightly deeper grilles and bumpers than the regular Sport set the S Line out, as well as larger alloy wheels and an S Line designation on the front wings.
This A5 has had a few extras added to the kit list (into which I’ll dive a little deeper in the next report), but looks-wise, I’ve upgraded the alloy wheels to a set of 19-inchers instead of the standard 18s, and opted for Scuba Blue metallic paint, although this paint colour has now been discontinued.
Inside, I’ve stuck with the standard part-leather, part-Alcantara sports seats in light grey, as opposed to all black, and it seems to complement the exterior colour very nicely indeed.
What’s under the bonnet?
I haven’t gone wild with the powertrain for this A5 (tempting as an S5 or 3.0-litre V6 diesel would have been) and I’ve stuck with the entry-level 2.0-litre TFSI turbocharged petrol, producing 190hp.
The 2.0-litre TDI diesel was a tempting option due to its torque and economy, but with so much time spent with the roof down, I wanted something quiet and refined.
It’s front-wheel drive and comes with Audi’s S Tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard, and I’m hoping it makes for a relaxed and refined combination – ideal for a semi-luxurious convertible.
What have we got planned?
Having read the manual, Audi recommends running the A5 in gently for around the first 1,000 miles so I’ll take things easy, but with a lot of journeys planned, this is set to be a very quick run-in period.
I’ll be finding out how refined it is, how user-friendly all the tech is onboard and how well-suited the A5 is to undertaking plenty of long-distance journeys.
There’s a trip to the South of France planned which should test all of these in one go. But before that, in the next update I’ll run through the full spec of this particular A5 Cabriolet.
Fuel economy: 47.9 mpg (claimed)
We take a look at the A5's kit list, and run through the extras we've added
I think the A5 Cabriolet is a splendid-looking thing, and is especially sleek in the most popular S Line spec. Unfortunately, the Scuba Blue paint of this car is no longer available to order, so I’ll make the most of having something other people can’t now have.
It’s not a performance model, but it still boasts a fairly rapid 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds, with a top speed of 148mph. Audi claims this version will return up to 47.9mpg, and emits 133g/km of CO2.
What I’ve noticed so far is that sometimes the engine/gearbox combo takes a little longer than I’d like to respond when pulling out of junctions or on to roundabouts, while at other times it’s all too eager, making the wheels scrabble about for grip.
A happy medium would be nice, but it certainly promotes a relaxed approach to driving, which I’m fine with when I can enjoy the ride with the roof down.
How much kit does it have?
A lot. Thankfully I didn’t have to get too tick-happy with the options list to obtain a good haul of kit (although I did tick a few)…
As standard, an A5 S Line comes with the following:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Automatic LED lights with automatic wipers and auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Fully automatic roof
- Heated front sports seats in leather and Alcantara with electric adjustment
- Three-zone climate control
- MMI infotainment system with Audi Sound System, sat-nav, DAB radio, Audi Smartphone Interface (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) and Bluetooth
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Cruise control
- Audi Drive Select driving modes
- Sport suspension
I went for a few important (expensive) options to boost the kit count, however.
- Comfort and Sound Pack (£1,295) – upgrades the stereo to a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, adds keyless entry with hands-free boot, rear-view camera and hill-hold assist
- Technology Pack (£1,395) – MMI Navigation Plus with MMI Touch, Audi Connect Infotainment Services, Audi Virtual Cockpit (digital dials) and Audi Phone Box with wireless charging
- Matrix LED headlights (£650) – upgrades the standard LED lights with automatic high-beam and the ability to blank out particular LED units to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers, while keeping the beam on other parts of the road. Also part of this system are ‘dynamic’ indicators both front and rear that look like they sweep from one side to the other
- 19-inch alloy wheel upgrade (£1,050) – not essential but they add an extra dose of style to the already-sleek A5
I’ve also added a few other options for convenience. The wind deflector is a no-brainer at £300, helping to maintain the peace and quiet when driving with the roof down. Already I’m finding the A5 a very civilised place to be with the roof down on the motorway, with barely any buffeting making its way into the cabin and, most importantly, keeping my hair in shape.
Electric folding door mirrors also felt like an essential for tight car parks at £225, while head-level heating should keep my neck nice and warm for £400. It may seem frivolous at this time of year, but I’ll be with the A5 until Christmas, and I still intend to get the roof down well into the winter months if I can.
Finally, I added a flat-bottomed steering wheel for £100, and deselected the standard sports suspension, instead opting for Comfort Dynamic suspension at no extra cost. It’s not adaptive (that’s an extra £600), but should keep things comfy enough on rougher road surfaces.
This all brings the on-the-road price to just over £47,000. A hefty figure, but I’m finding the equipment I’ve specified incredibly useful so far, especially the two most expensive option packs.
Thankfully, the running-in period took just a couple of weeks covering over 1,000 miles, so I’ll be looking at the way the A5 drives now I can make the most of it, and if it’s all been plain sailing so far.
Mileage: 1,255 miles
Fuel economy: 36.0mpg
After a couple of thousand miles, how's the A5 performing?
With just over 2,000 miles under its belt, the A5 has settled into life as a Parkers long-term test car, and I think that’s a good amount of time to have learned a lot about it - especially the way it drives.
That might sound like an obvious statement to make, but as I’ve got my hands on an A5 Cabriolet rather than the A5 Coupe, there are a few different things to learn about the way it performs on the road.
That’s because convertibles lose a lot of structural rigidity when the roof is lopped off compared with their hardtop counterparts - so does the A5 wallow around like a big heavy boat? Or has Audi managed to retain the A5 Coupe’s safe and sturdy drive?
Roof up: refined and reassuring
With the roof in place, the A5 feels very similar to the two-door coupe in that it’s very refined and civilised. Not only is it refined for a convertible, it’s refined full stop.
There’s a remarkably low level of wind noise despite the canvas roof, and the engine remains isolated from the cabin, too. Even the large 19-inch alloys fail to kick up too much noise from the road.
Introduce the A5 to some bends and the steering is responsive and direct, if lacking in a huge amount of feedback for the driver to feel truly involved. It feels more agile than you might expect if you tweak the Drive Select system.
Drive Select driving modes
This allows you flick between Eco, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual driving modes, with adjustments made to the throttle response and steering weight between the modes.
I’ve opted to set the Individual mode up with the engine and gearbox set to Dynamic, as I’ve found the A5’s S Tronic automatic transmission to be a little ponderous when pulling away at junctions and roundabouts in Auto and Comfort – sometimes alarmingly so.
Put the steering in Dynamic mode and it feels a little too artificially heavy, so I’ve left that in Auto for the Individual mode.
If you specify the optional adaptive suspension, then you're also able to tweak the dampers, but as this one has the no-cost Comfort Dynamic suspension (instead of S Line sports suspension), you can't tweak it.
Roof down: unruffled and relaxing (but not sporty)
Normally for a convertible, lowering the roof means it could feel a bit wallowy and disconnected, as any strength in the body has been lost.
Many convertibles demonstrate varying degrees of ‘flex’ in the body, which can be most noticeable when you hit a bump in the road and it feels like the front and rear of the car react individually rather than as one.
The A5 doesn’t really suffer this fate, thankfully. There have been a couple of mid-corner bumps that have upset the peace, but never alarmingly so. One is a corner that I use regularly, and can report that plenty of hardtop cars react the same.
But the A5 Cabriolet isn’t a sports car. If I wanted the sharpest version, I’d get the S5, but the way this particular version handles on the road encourages a relaxed and laidback driving style, and for that it excels.
The 2.0-litre TFSI engine is barely audible, and even when hitting the redline it’s remarkably muted, plus it’s a smooth power delivery that suits the A5’s relaxed nature very well. With 320Nm of torque, it also pulls strongly from low revs meaning you never have to strain the engine too much, while the S Tronic gearbox works its way up through the gears with little drama.
The best part is you can go from roof up to roof down in just 15 seconds, and while you’re doing 31mph or less. There are barely any issues when it comes to buffeting from the wind, even when the wind deflector isn’t in place, and I’ve been able to make and receive several phone calls without there being any complaints from the other end of the line. Very impressive.
Any problems with the way it drives?
It’s only when you come to a junction or roundabout where you’ll encounter any issues. It’s keen to pull away in second gear which is fine if you’ve got time, but if you need to nip out, it can leave you waiting a little longer than you might like before it gets going.
What I’ve also noticed is that the stop-start system can be all too keen to switch the engine off even before the car has come to a physical stop – another annoyance if you need to then get going again in a hurry. My solution? Switch it off as soon as you get in the car.
If you take it easy, the A5 will happily return over 40mpg, which I don’t think is too bad, but most of the time I’m averaging around 36mpg, which is making me wonder if I should have gone for the more frugal diesel.
Then I put the roof down and I’m thankful for the peace and quiet of the silky smooth petrol.
Mileage: 2,143 miles
Fuel economy: 34.7mpg
What's on offer if you don't need the biggest, most spacious Audi drop-top?
Life with the A5 has been plain sailing so far, and I thought it would show a chink in its armour when it came to practicality by now. In some ways, it has, but it's also surprised me in others.
Size up the boot and it offers 380 litres of space, which is great when you realise that’s exactly the same figure as a VW Golf hatchback. Who needs something sensible?
Don’t go thinking it’s the kind of thing you’ll be using for the Sunday car boot sale, though. That boot capacity figure is only applicable when the roof is up. When it’s down, what looks like a bar drops down to allow the roof to fold back in to the top part of the boot, reducing overall capacity and limiting access somewhat.
It’s a neat way of letting you check how much boot space you’ll have when the top is down, as you can lower this mechanism when the roof is up. If you put too much stuff in the boot when the roof is in place, it won’t lower if there’s not enough room for it to stow away. Simple but useful.
Careful planning required
This slight limitation hasn’t stopped me from packing as much as possible in to the boot of the A5. A shopping trip highlighted the need to be careful when loading things so the roof could lower without smashing up whatever was in the boot, but with some careful planning and Tetris-like ability to pack like a pro, you can fit a surprising amount in the boot of the Cab.
What’s more, it’s a proper four-seater too, as long as nobody too tall is sat in the front seats (which I’m not). Plop a passenger in the front seat who wants to recline, though, and you can quickly eliminate any legroom in the rear.
Access is easy enough, too, as the front seats tilt and slide forwards electrically to aid entry and exit, although taller people could struggle. Plus, the large doors and low roof means getting in and out of the back in tight car parks can be a bit of a contortion act. One solution is to get in and out with the roof down (which I've had to do on a couple of occasions), allowing you to stand on the door sills and just lower yourself down with having the roof in the way.
What became a bit of a faff was a trip to a home store to get an ironing board (I live a glamorous life as a 25-year-old). Unsurprisingly, you need to fold the rear seats down which is an easy thing to do from the boot. Just pull a lever and the seat backs fling forwards. This only happens if you've not got the wind deflector in place, though.
So, I had to remove it, let the seats fall forwards and then put it back in place again. It's a small annoyance as the wind deflector goes where rear seat passengers should go, meaning a little extra planning is required. It's more of an issue that the rear seats can't be used if you want the wind deflector in place.
The A5 is also proving itself as a comfortable and refined thing to just waft around in. I like the way it encourages a relaxed driving style.
The TFSI engine is incredibly quiet at all speeds and the ride isn’t jarring on its 19-inch alloy wheels - I think the comfort-oriented suspension (rather than S Line suspension) helps here, but it'll be interesting to try an A5 with smaller wheels and the optional adaptive suspension to see if its ride quality is far superior.
What if you don’t need a big four-seat convertible?
If you don’t care about having a big-ish boot and room in the rear for passengers, Audi will happily send you in the direction of the TT. It’s been around for a long time now and is in its third generation, so I got my hands on one for a comparison with the A5.
This might seem unfair, but it’s interesting to draw some comparisons between the two.
Benefits of the TT
This particular TT is a Sport model, powered by a 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine with 230hp and Quattro all-wheel drive, and it’s immediately noticeable just how small and nimble it feels compared with the A5, cementing the bigger car’s identity as the one to waft around in and just enjoy the sun.
And that’s exactly how Audi works, by offering an alternative in-house, rather than lose buyers to another brand.
The TT is a huge success story, and in its third-generation offers a driving experience that’s involving yet mature, and the 2.0 TFSI engine (shared with a Golf GTI and Skoda Octavia vRS) is a surprisingly punchy and exciting performer.
Stick the car in Dynamic mode and the exhausts pop and crackle when changing up and down the ratios (via the S Tronic automatic gearbox), while its compact size means it feels nimble and agile. It’s much more enjoyable than you might originally expect, quickly dispelling those myths of it being just a poser’s car.
The interior is even simpler and pared back than the A5, with just the Virtual Cockpit there to control everything and a set of slick air vents with the heating and ventilation controls integrated into them. It just works, although some will find it takes a little getting used to.
Downsides of the TT
It’s not all rosy, though. It’s remarkably easy to spec up a TT to the price of a larger and more expensive A3 Cabriolet or A5 Cabriolet, and you don’t get the practicality benefits. Granted, this might not be a priority, but when there’s barely any space to put a water bottle inside, it becomes frustrating.
The boot is also quite small at 280 litres, and cannot be expanded like the A5 (or TT Coupe) by folding any rear seats down.
However, access to the boot is actually a simpler affair, as the boot lid lifts up and you can just put stuff straight down into the load bay, rather than feeling like you’re posting your luggage into the back of the car as in the A5.
Obviously, it’s unlikely a potential A5 buyer will also be considering the TT. And vice versa. It won’t even be on your radar as the A5 is the most practical convertible in the line-up.
However, if you’re realistic about your needs and you really won’t use those rear seats, the TT is the fun and zippy alternative that still offers a high-quality interior, great image and a more usable boot than expected.
If, like me, you tend to fill the cabin with odds and sods on a long journey, though, you might find the lack of storage space inside a source of frustration, and the fact you can quite easily spend £40k on something this small a little off-putting.
Mileage – 3,612 miles
Fuel economy – 36.1mpg
Taking the A5 to its spiritual home - the French Riviera
With summer well and truly under way (and almost over), I’ve had the chance to really put the A5 to the test with a trip to Southern France.
With the promise of some proper summer sun, blue skies and the even bluer seas of the Cote d’Azur, would the A5 make light work of the journey? And would it feel suitably at home on the trendy shores of St Tropez?
I can only answer some of those questions as the holiday – for one reason or another – was cut very short. This did put the A5 to the test in another way, though. Could it get me from Hertfordshire to St Tropez and back (and then on to Devon) all in the space of 72 hours without me needing another holiday afterwards?
I’ve previously praised the A5 for the surprising amount of stuff you can fit in, however with two people and enough supplies for a week’s holiday, the boot was rammed (and with some spillage on to the back seat) meaning there was no chance of the roof coming down without having a reshuffle.
That’s fine – while most of the journey through France was scorching sunshine, I didn’t fancy getting to the destination with an already-burnt forehead. So the roof stayed up, and we stayed cool and fresh inside.
I’m the kind of person who accumulates a lot of stuff on a long journey – drinks bottles, various bits of food and everything else you could imagine. And it amazed me that I managed to find a home for almost all of it in the cabin of the A5.
The doorbins don’t look especially big, but a large water bottle and at least three bags of sweets fitted easily, while the two extra cupholders in the centre console and the space beneath the armrest were also much more practical and usable than expected. The only issue is larger bottles completely block some of the climate control buttons and the Drive Select, stop-start and parking sensor controls.
Plus, with three methods of charging devices (two USBs and a wireless charging pad), there were no problems with power.
Speaking of power, the A5’s silky smooth 2.0-litre TFSI engine was a fine companion for long motorway stints, and remained hushed and relaxed the whole way. But then, there are few new cars that would struggle to sit at motorway speeds for hours on end.
When you put your foot down with the gearbox in ‘S’, the front end of the A5 can become a little scrabbly and fidgety, but once you’re up to speed and settled down, there are no issues.
When in its normal mode, the S Tronic gearbox can sometimes ponder the amount of time it likes to take to shift ratios and get going (for example at roundabouts), but otherwise it promotes a refreshingly laidback driving style.
Let there be light
The first motorway stint through fast was under the cover of darkness from about 11pm to 2am. It was the first chance I’ve had to see how good the Matrix LED headlamps are (I think I’ve driven it at night twice since taking delivery of the car), and they seriously impressed on France’s unlit autoroutes.
To let them do their thing, all you need to do is leave the light switch in Auto and push the indicator stalk away from you.
With no cars in front, the road ahead is illuminated in bright white light, with blocks of LEDs switching off as and when other cars appear in front, whether they’re coming towards you or in front travelling in the same direction, to avoid dazzling other road users.
I’ve been seriously impressed with how responsive the sensors are to cars appearing and disappearing in front, and I think there have only been a couple of occasions where they’ve been caught out due to undulations and corners in the road, not reacting quickly enough to not stun the driver coming the other way.
Going for these lights also means the front indicator strip along the top of the unit is a fancy sequential ‘scrolling’ indicator like the ones at the back. While they might look fancy, having seen other examples on the road, the solid LED indicator is far easier to see in a hurry, which might explain why there have been several occasions where other drivers have just pulled out on me at roundabouts and junctions. Either that or there are other basic driving skills issues here…
Several members of the Parkers team have commented on just how hushed the A5 is with the roof up – it’s all a very civilised affair.
It’s not quite as quiet as the regular A5 Coupe – but that’s never going to happen as the canvas roof lets some wind and road noise enter the cabin. However, it’s much more quiet than you might expect.
After the very brief stay in France, I had to head home solo, and managed the first 400-500 miles of the journey entirely with the roof down.
I thought that it would be spent struggling to hear any kind of music over the sound of wind noise, but the A5 is very surprising in this area. With the roof down, windows up and wind deflector in place, just the top of my hair was moving gently in the breeze, the music was crystal clear and I wasn’t being deafened by the wind noise. It was all very civilised.
Even receiving a couple of phone calls didn’t pose any issues. The A5 comes with microphones in the seatbelts, meaning there was minimal interference for the people on the other end of the phone.
The downside is that, somehow, bugs that inevitably end up covering the front of the car, also manage to cover the wind deflector to a lesser degree, so a little clean-up job was required when I got home.
The A5’s fuel economy is one area that I’ve been slightly disappointed with. While it’s consistent in the mid- to late 30s, I’ve come nowhere near the company’s claimed 47.9mpg, although the odd sensible tank of fuel has returned around 42mpg. But you really have to drive in an unhurried fashion to achieve this.
Otherwise, if you’re in any kind of rush or put your foot down from time to time, it’s easy to see the figure on the Virtual Cockpit fall closer to 30mpg, while one slightly lead-footed member of the Parkers team managed a tank of just 28.1mpg…
An early morning drive back to the UK from France opened up the chance to chuck the A5 around a series of twists and turns before charging on to the autoroutes.
With the sun rising and a temperature of about 24 degrees at 6:30, the roof was down, the car was in Dynamic mode and, once I managed to get past a 2CV (obviously), the A5 delivered a surprisingly agile and fluid drive. Much more involving than I was expecting.
The key, I think, to this experience was that the roads were silky smooth with no ruts or potholes to highlight any convertible wobble like I’ve found on some UK roads.
The TFSI engine in combination with the S Tronic gearbox in Dynamic made light work of changes in speed and direction, pulling strongly when I needed it to and shifting gears on its own responsively. The first 10 miles or so were taken care of by using the paddles, then I let the car do its own thing for the last five. In both set-ups, the A5 proved a surprisingly fun drive, probably all helped by the gorgeous scenery and beautiful rising sun.
The same smile-inducing surroundings couldn’t quite be said for the rest of the schlep up to Calais, but it was a nice start to a long and dull day piercing through the length of France.
Mileage: 5,774 miles
Fuel economy: 35.3mpg
Our A5's top-down prowess has won it an important award
I'm not the only one impressed by the A5 Cabriolet - it's managed to win the hearts of the whole Parkers team, as it's just wafted away with the Best Car for Sun-Seekers in the 2019 Parkers New Car Awards. And rightly so.
I've been bleating on about how good the A5 is for a solid three months now. Not only is it reassuring that I'm not alone in my opinions on the car, but it's proof that driving around in a car with a canvas roof is no longer much of a compromise.
It's not just a refined convertible, it's an impressively refined car full stop. There's a wide range of engines to choose from, whether you want petrol or diesel power, and all come with smooth automatic gearboxes plus a raft of options to make it your own.
Add to that a top-notch interior, space for four (plus luggage) and there aren't too many things to complain about. It's even more impressive when you realise it beat off competition in the form of the more-expensive Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet and the much-loved Mazda MX-5. Praise indeed.
Next time, I'll be putting a more powerful diesel A5 Cabriolet up against KU18 LPL to see if the entry-level petrol is all you need.
Mileage: 6,119 miles
Fuel economy: 35.6mpg
Is our entry-level TFSI the best engine option? What about V6 diesel?
I’ve been cruising around for the last 6,000 miles or so revelling in the peace and quiet of my A5’s 2.0-litre TFSI engine, which got me thinking. Is it a better option than a diesel version?
The benefits of the TFSI are clear – it’s incredibly hushed at virtually all speeds, it’s super-smooth and barely audible around town and on the motorway. But can the same be said of the equivalent diesel?
The obvious alternative is a 2.0-litre TDI unit with an identical 190hp power figure, but I couldn’t get my hands on one of these, so I thought I’d try the 3.0-litre V6 TDI with 218hp (there's also a 286hp version) and Quattro all-wheel drive. It’ll be good to compare my front-wheel drive A5 against an all-wheel drive one, too.
Plus, it’s not a totally bonkers comparison – if you forego many of the options on KU18 LPL, you could actually get the pokier 3.0-litre V6 TDI for around the same cost.
What’s the A5 V6 TDI like?
Despite the obvious visual differences, one thing you notice upon jumping behind the wheel of the diesel A5 is how refined this particular diesel engine is – more so than the 2.0-litre TDI 190 we tested in 2017.
It’s a quiet engine that doesn’t sound clattery in any way, meaning the A5 remains a hushed and relaxed cruiser that befits a soft-top.
When pulling away, there’s a little less urgency than you might expect, although you do notice the extra dollop of torque available for when you need to make a swift departure from junction or at a roundabout.
Performance is still slightly hampered by the S Tronic gearbox in the same way it is in the petrol A5. Putting it in Dynamic mode or nudging the gearlever back to S sorts this issue out, however, although this isn’t a car to drive enthusiastically. It’s a car for relaxed driving as it can wobble around quite a bit on rough, twisty roads.
Thanks to the Quattro all-wheel drive on this model, though, things are far more controlled when you do put your foot down, in instances where the front-wheel drive TFSI can become a little overwhelmed by everything you’re asking of the front end of the car.
The all-wheel drive system does sap a bit of the power, however, which leads you to become a little surprised that the TDI doesn’t provide a noticeable power boost over the petrol, but its overtaking ability and long-legged feel over the TFSI are particular benefits.
What’s also impressive is the economy. I’m consistently getting a slightly underwhelming mid- to late-30s mpg figure in the petrol A5, whereas a relaxed drive in the 3.0 TDI easily saw the trip computer creep its way up to just over 50mpg. You can make greater use of the TDI’s performance without as much of a penalty when it comes to fuel economy.
What about the spec differences?
There are a few key differences between these two cars (apart from the obvious colour and wheel variations).
The diesel features standard 18-inch wheels, adaptive suspension and an all-black leather interior with piano black dashboard trim.
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I firmly believe the A5 looks better in a colour like our Scuba Blue compared with white. Similarly, the grey Alcantara interior (no cost) provides a nicer contrast inside than the all-black leather (£800) and easily-scratched piano black dash trim (£200) which, I think, downgrades the A5’s interior noticeably.
The ride on our car’s 19-inch wheels and Comfort Dynamic suspension can’t quite match the diesel’s smaller wheels and adaptive suspension (£600) though. The differences aren’t astronomical, but the adaptive damping of the optional set-up makes for a more relaxed ride over rougher surfaces, getting rid of some of that wobbliness associated with convertible cars.
A week with the diesel A5 did highlight a couple of features that I really missed from the petrol car. The optional Comfort and Sound Pack adds useful features such as hill-hold assist and a reversing camera, which make driving and parking around town far, far easier (rear visibility isn’t the best).
Similarly, keyless entry on our car also means you can fold the roof down with the key from outside of the car, while waving your foot under the bumper will pop the boot open. Previously, I didn’t think this particular feature would be that useful, but I’ve used it on several occasions and find it very helpful indeed.
Which is best?
If you’re regularly covering long distances, a diesel A5 Cabriolet will make more sense than a petrol. However, the fact the entry-level TFSI is such a peach means we’d recommend sticking with this.
It’s incredibly quiet and refined, economy is okay if you adopt a more laidback driving style (which actually suits the car overall), and it’ll leave you more room for adding useful options than if you fork out for a more expensive diesel model.
I suspect a 2.0-litre TFSI with 252hp and Quattro all-wheel drive will be even more appealing, but I’m not feeling short-changed with this set-up.
Mileage: 6,868 miles
Fuel economy: 34.9mpg
How does the A5 compare with the recently updated C-Class Cabriolet?
Four-seat convertibles with canvas roofs aren’t exactly flooding the market, but Audi’s got some tough competition to see off – the characterful Ford Mustang Convertible, perhaps its own A3 Cabriolet, as well two offerings from Mercedes-Benz – the C-Class and E-Class drop-tops. There’s also the BMW 4 Series Convertible, but this comes with a folding hard-top instead of a canvas roof.
I got my hands on a C-Class Cabriolet – arguably the most direct rival – to see how it compares with the A5, especially as the Benz has just received a mid-life update to keep up with competition.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Merc’s approach to design is a little glitzier than Audi’s – at least when it comes to convertibles – with plenty of chrome brightwork, big wheels and colour and roof combinations.
Audi manages to keep up, but the A5 just looks a little heavier than the C-Class when on the road, but I think I prefer the Audi’s restrained and classy look.
I’m not totally convinced by the Merc’s stubby rear-end either. From some angles it looks too short for the rest of the car, but overall it’s still an attractive machine.
There are greater differences inside, though. The C-Class’s dash looks suitably premium, mixing a more traditional feel with modern touches like a large infotainment screen, digital dials and nice-looking materials, but it doesn’t feel nearly as solid and high-quality as the Audi’s dashboard. It’s easy to find a few creaks and rattles inside the Mercedes that just aren’t present in the A5.
Mercedes-Benz’s latest digital instrument cluster does make the established Virtual Cockpit in the A5 feel dated though. There are greater options for personalisation and content visible on the display, but it takes some time to find your way around it all. It’s just a shame the C-Class update didn’t benefit from the firm’s latest MBUX software, found in the A-Class.
Taking away from the premium feel is the fact that, after a couple of hundred miles, I noticed the instrument display didn’t seem to be quite in line with the steering wheel, which itself wasn’t quite positioned dead in front of the driver’s seat. Once I noticed it, I couldn’t ignore it, whereas I’ve had none of these issues behind the wheel of the A5. Whether that’s my odd body or driving position remains to be seen, but it’s the first car I’ve noticed this in.
What’s under the bonnet?
Like the A5, the C-Class comes with a broad range of petrol and diesel engines, and a choice of trim levels. The most popular is the AMG Line tested here, Merc’s version of Audi’s S Line.
The equivalent of our A5’s 2.0 TFSI petrol engine is the C 200 – a 184hp 1.5-litre unit with 280Nm of torque. It’s down on power and torque compared with our Audi, but it does feature a mild hybrid system to boost efficiency and economy.
This particular C-Class, however, is a C 220 d 4Matic – a 2.0-litre turbodiesel with 194hp and 400Nm of torque.
Which is best to drive?
You might expect cars like this to drive in a very similar manner, but there’s a marked difference between the Merc and the Audi. Mercedes retain a traditional rear-wheel drive layout, and Audi - when not powering all-four wheels - are pioneers of front-wheel drive since the 1930s.
Where the Audi is a relaxed cruiser that feels surprisingly agile, the Mercedes feels more like the focused driving machine, but that doesn’t necessarily add up to it being the BEST of the two.
While its diesel engine is more vocal than the Audi’s (whether you choose petrol or diesel), the Mercedes doesn’t ride as well as the Audi.
It fidgets over surfaces that wouldn’t really trouble the A5, and it’s compounded by the extra wobble felt through the whole car. You do experience some of this in the A5, but it’s much more noticeable in the C-Class.
The steering feels more direct and overall it feels the more agile car, but I think the Audi fits the brief of four-seat convertible more effectively due to its relaxed nature. The C-Class may look sporty, but its half-sporty drive and not-quite-as-comfy ride compared with the A5 make it feel like it’s in some sort of no-mans-land of not knowing what it should be good at.
Merc offers fancy wind deflectors, but A5 is still more refined
While our extra-cost wind deflector may look a bit cheap sitting where any rear-seat passengers may normally reside, it's actually the better of the two when it comes to roof-down refinement.
Obvious problems aside; that the A5 becomes a two-seater while the Mercedes remains a four-seater (and the fact you have to fold up the contraption when you don't want to use it), the Audi's system is far more effective than the Merc's Aircap. This system pops a small deflector up behind the rear seats and a spoiler/deflector at the top of the windscreen, diverting air over the car.
However, in doing so, it creates an almighty amount of wind noise that you just don't get when driving the A5 with the roof down. Add a higher level of general refinement into the mix with the Audi and it trumps the Mercedes here.
Pop the roofs up and they're fairly similar in terms of wind and road noise making their way into the cabin.
Which one offers the most space?
Both offer similar space for four, but it’s the Audi that feels the biggest inside, with an interior layout that lends itself to a greater sense of roominess. It also offers a much more usable (and bigger) boot than the Merc.
Firstly, the A5’s boot offers better access thanks to a wider and lower boot lip, whereas the Merc’s is high and awkwardly-shaped.
On the Mercedes, when the bar is in place to show where the roof will go down to (the Audi’s bar retracts at the press of a button whereas you have to just manually shove the Merc’s) there’s a much narrower gap to file things through, and overall capacity is greater with the A5 – 380 litres versus the C-Class’s 360 litres.
Interior cubby space is better in the C-Class, with larger door bins and central storage, offering a smidge more practicality over the Audi. It’s not quite enough to seal the deal though.
And the biggy: which is best?
As the reigning Best Car for Sun-Seekers champ, the A5 Cabriolet sees off the C-Class here. The Merc has a suitably glamorous image with sharp lines, a premium-looking interior and wide range of engines to choose from.
However, interior quality can’t match the Audi’s, it’s slightly less practical and the all-round driving experience isn’t as refined. The C-Class is by no means a bad four-seat convertible, it's just not quite as polished as the A5.
We go for a spin in the original Audi Cabriolet from the early 90s
While I’ve been revelling in the luxury and comfort of all the A5 Cabriolet’s modern features since June, I thought it was about time I went back the soft-top Audi’s roots.
As luck would have it, not only does Audi UK have a lovely example of the Audi Cabriolet – the first four-seat drop-top the firm produced – it just so happens to be in the same colour combo as KU18 LPL. Excellent.
History of the Audi Cabriolet
Launched in the UK in 1992 (yes, it’s older than I am) and on sale until 2000, the Audi Cabriolet was based on the 80 Saloon, and had an overall ethos very similar to that of the current A5 Cabriolet.
What’s intriguing to see straight away is that there are several design details that can be found on the current car, despite there being 25 years between the two.
It was a classy, upmarket convertible big enough to carry four people and luggage, with an effortless drive and plenty of luxurious standard equipment thrown in.
Since then, there has been the A4 Cabriolet (2002-2009 with a facelift in between) and the first A5 Cabriolet (2009-2016), making our car (sort of) the fourth-generation model, hitting the market in 2017.
It was originally available with a choice of five-cylinder 2.3-litre petrol and 2.6-litre V6 petrol engines, with a 1.8-litre becoming available later in the car’s life.
Here, we’ve tried the 2.6-litre V6 petrol with a manual gearbox. When new, it produced 150hp and 225Nm of torque, and was able to complete the 0-62mph sprint in 10.2 seconds.
As the car I tried had more than 150,000 miles on the clock and it belongs to Audi’s heritage collection, I chose to drive it the way the A5 likes to be driven – sedately and calmly. This is where a four-seat convertible is at its best from our experience with the A5 anyway, and it’s clear the original was the same.
Subtle yet stylish looks
While it’s clear to see how Audi’s design language has changed over the years (hello, grille), there are things the A5 clearly takes from its ancestor.
Simple light design, clean lines and – most obviously – the chrome trim around the windscreen and passenger cabin are present on both cars.
The squared-off look of the original has been smoothed off over the years, with the latest A5 being the curviest Audi convertible yet.
What’s it like inside?
Inside is where the biggest differences are, unsurprisingly. With so much new tech becoming available in the last couple of decades, it’s not exactly shocking to find the two cars are vastly different from behind the wheel.
The interior design is still simple with materials used that would have been high quality at the time – plenty of soft plastics and leathers, and electrically-operated everything.
The seats are possibly the best part. Lovely sculpting making you feel secure in your seat, and just the right ratio of comfort to firmness. They were more comfortable than the A5’s, but what they offer in comfort, they lack in some adjustability.
With 150k on the clock, not everything felt as tight as it once did (like any car probably would), but it’s clear to see the quality build. Everything feels solid and dependable – the doors have a reassuring thunk and the controls are weighted nicely.
There’s not quite as much space in the back as in the A5, but it’s still easy enough to get into the rear seats, although you do without the headrests unlike the A5.
Is the roof a paint to operate?
The Audi Cabriolet comes with a part-manual, part-electric folding roof. All you do is twist a metal handle to release the roof from its locked position, and push it up away from the car by about 10-15cm. You have to be quite aggressive with it (as we found after being shown how to do it), with a good amount of force required to twist the metal handle around.
Then, you press and hold a button located between the front seats and it retracts to its housing behind the rear seats like it does in the A5. It’s quite a slow mechanism but it tidies away neatly, and the basic operation is as it is today.
To put it up, you simply do the same in reverse, pulling it down the rest of the way and locking it into place with the metal handle again.
The A5’s is a little more advanced – with full electric operation that you can do on the move. The roof can be lowered and raised at speeds of up to 31mph and, thanks to the Advanced Key of our car, it can be done at the flick of a switch that you don’t have to hold. As long as you’re going above 6mph, otherwise you'll be driving along with a half-folded roof.
You can also operate it from outside the car – you double click the unlock button, holding it down on the second press – and it’ll lower gracefully into the recess behind the seats. Again, it’ll do the same in reverse.
How does it drive?
With very different engine technology, all kinds of advances in safety systems and such, it’s actually quite surprising to discover the two cars promote a very similar driving style.
That’s something I’ve alluded to before with the A5. While it’s surprisingly agile, it’s most at home at a relaxed cruise or pottering around the countryside, just like the original.
The sound from the 150hp 2.6-litre V6 is very refreshing among the raft of soulless four-cylinder petrols available nowadays, with a smooth and silky engine note no matter the speed.
The controls are all far weightier than in the A5, making you feel like you’re putting the effort into driving – the manual gearbox is especially pleasant with a meaty feel to the throw. While the heavy steering isn’t especially communicative, feeling completely dead at the straight-ahead position, there’s a nice amount of weight to this too, and the large steering wheel only adds to the relaxed feel.
Unsurprisingly, there are no driving modes to fiddle around with, so you can just get in and drive the car, which is also very refreshing!
Where there are stark differences are in the way the two cars handle corners and bad road surfaces. Despite its large alloy wheels, the A5 shrugs off most bumps in the road and doesn’t suffer too much body flex over bad bumps. It feels solid and composed.
The Cabriolet, however, does feel quite wobbly even at lower speeds. While there would have been some strengthening in the body compared with the saloon version, there have been significant advances in body strengthening and rigidity over the last 25 years, and the A5 really benefits from this.
However, the Cabriolet’s soft suspension, thick tyre sidewalls and 15-inch alloys mean it rides beautifully, soaking up terrible road scars impressively well, where the A5 can sometimes be tripped up. I’m just happy I went for the Comfort Dynamic suspension instead of the standard S Line setup, which can be quite jarring.
The Audi Cabriolet is just a genuinely pleasant car to drive around in, and would make a lovely weekend car for the summer months. It still feels classy and well made, it’s stylish without being fussy and with all the mod cons are present. You wouldn’t feel short-changed with this as an everyday car.
What’s even nicer is that the DNA is still there in the A5, with a clear family resemblance even with a couple of decades between the two.
We hit the calculator to see if our A5 is good value or not
If you’re in the market for a new car, the chances are you’ll be looking to purchase it on finance.
That’s because in the year to September 2018, a whopping 90.9% of private new car purchases were made through finance of some description, and PCP finance is the most popular.
With that in mind, it was time to get the calculator out and find out just how much our A5 Cabriolet would set you back if you wandered into your local Audi dealer.
How much is an A5 Cabriolet on finance?
Through Audi’s finance calculator, an A5 Cabriolet S Line 2.0 TFSI 190 S Tronic (our spec) will set you back £491 per month.
Quite a chunk of money for the entry-level engine, then, and that’s also without the optional extras of our car. It’s a good thing the A5 Cab comes well-equipped as standard, but it’ll be tempting to add some desirable kit on top, which will hike up the cost.
Remember, though, you can haggle on finance terms to get the best deal.
But what if you don’t need or want the ability to lower the roof?
Audi A5 Coupe offers better value
Go for a solid-roofed A5 Coupe and you could save a good chunk of cash over the Cabriolet.
Not only will you get a larger discount from Audi (£5,000 deposit contribution instead of £3,700), the A5 Coupe’s lower price in cash terms means you’ll pay £409 [£408.68] per month for a Coupe in the same engine and trim .
And that’s with all the same contract terms as the A5 Cabriolet offer above. So if you really don’t need that folding roof, save yourself some cash and get the Coupe. Failing that, if you have the budget for it, you can add a couple of desirable options on top of the standard Coupe to boost the spec of your A5.
What these figures show is that, if paying cash, you’ll pay a premium of about 10% for the Cabriolet, while purchasing on finance represents around a 20% premium – so check the figures carefully when you walk into the showroom. And as always make sure to negotiate on price and watch out for dealers’ sneaky car finance tricks to be sure you’re getting the best price.
Which is best?
The chances are the difference in cost between Coupe and Cabriolet versions won’t necessarily matter for potential A5 buyers.
The Cabriolet isn’t necessarily worse than the Coupe – it’s a car that appeals to a different kind of driver and the two aren’t really comparable in that way. If you’ve got your heart set on drop-top motoring, you probably won’t see a Coupe as much of an alternative.
However, if you’re not dead-set on a fabric-roofed version and you do have more of an eye on costs, the lower monthly cost of the Coupe may sway you into that over the Cabriolet. You’ll just need to decide what the priorities are.
A5 leaves the Parkers fleet a few weeks too early, and it'll be sorely missed
Six months with a Parkers long-term test car always seems to fly by, and I’ve not been looking forward to the day the A5 gets taken away by Audi for the majority of the last six months.
And that day sadly came a little sooner than expected thanks to another driver not paying much attention one Tuesday morning.
Testing the A5’s crash safety rating (sort of)
With just three weeks left to go of life with the A5, a journey into the office one morning was interrupted very abruptly by a van driving in the back of me while I was sitting at a standstill in traffic.
The worst part was watching the impending impact looming in the rear-view mirror and, having never been in any kind of car accident, it was rather eye-opening to see how severe an impact feels at relatively low speeds.
Post-impact, the A5 was beeping like a maniac after what felt like a double shunt. I thought I’d been knocked into the car in front, when in fact, the A5’s post-collision braking system had engaged. After an impact, it effectively locks on the brakes so you’re not catapulted into the car in front, meaning there was only damage to the rear of the car, and not the front as well.
That means a lot of the energy from the impact seems to go through the car and occupant, rather than it being dissipated into the car in front. Shock aside, getting out of the car to discover a rear-end that looked like it had been gently reversed into a wall was incredibly surprising, especially as the other vehicle had clearly driven into something, judging by the damage.
It goes to show just how solid the Audi is and, while there was no telling what the damage was like behind the bumper, the biggest problem on the surface was that the plastic of the bumper had overlapped the bootlid, and the lower parts of the bumper by the exhausts had become deformed.
Either way, I’m not entirely sure of the full extent of the damage done to the A5, but I do know that it was carted back to Audi (driveable) and far too soon for my liking. And thankful that its safety systems managed to stop a secondary impact for me.
Accident aside, would we buy an A5?
If you’re looking for a desirable drop-top, you can’t go far wrong with the A5 – there’s a reason it’s a Parkers award-winner.
There’s very little compromise when it comes to practicality (it dealt with a magazine haul and a moderate Costco shop), it’s just as refined as a hard-top version and is just a very lovely thing to use every day.
The interior quality is top-notch with an effective, user-friendly infotainment system and attractive dashboard, while the exterior styling is a great combination of style, elegance, strong lines and handsome proportions. It’s a proper class act that looks excellent in any colour and wheel combination.
While the 2.0 TFSI engine is the entry-level unit, it’s far from entry-level in its performance, remaining refined at all speeds and efficient enough if you don’t get too carried away with the right pedal, averaging around 35mpg over 12,000 miles with it. Driven carefully it could manage over 40mpg.
And that engine promotes a more relaxed driving style, which suits the car’s character. If you want a sporty one, get an S5 or even a TTS Roadster.
But the A5 performs best when cruising, but it did always surprise me with its agility on the odd occasion. The slightly dull feel to the steering must have hidden this on most drives but, to be honest, I didn’t mind a bit. Driving the A5 in a relaxed way is very satisfying indeed.
Has there been anything bad about it?
The positives about the A5 far outweigh the negatives. And that’s not because I’m a bit of an Audi fan anyway, it’s because the A5 Cabriolet is such an accomplished machine.
It’s not perfect, though.
My main frustrations centred around two things: the gearbox and the wind deflector.
While an S Tronic gearbox is smooth at working its way up the gears, it’s one that doesn’t like to be hurried when left in D and left to its own devices.
There’s nothing especially wrong with it, it just doesn’t demonstrate much sense of urgency, which is most noticeable when you need to make a quick dash out of a junction or across a roundabout.
On several occasions I’ve nearly been caught out because it either tries to pull away in second gear, or just doesn’t react quickly enough.
This, in combination with overly keen stop-start system, meant that I’ve been left floundering waiting to pull out into traffic. It shouldn’t be that troublesome.
The solution? Religiously switch off the stop-start system as soon as you get in the car, and put the gearbox in S to make sure it’s quicker to respond when you put your foot down.
I don’t always want to have to switch between gearbox configurations and driving modes, though. Sometimes I just want it to go when I put my foot on the accelerator.
The wind deflector:
While the wind deflector was very simple and effective – there was barely any buffeting at motorway speeds – it’s a shame that you have to lose the rear seats to have it in place.
Mercedes manages to keep the rear seats usable thanks to a small deflector that rises up from behind the seats, in addition to the very noisy AirCap that pops up on top of the windscreen.
Luckily for me, I rarely have to carry passengers so the deflector stayed in place pretty much for the duration of the last six months, but it’ll become a bigger compromise for those who genuinely make use of the rear seats. And then, if you’re on the motorway with the roof down, those in the back are going to come out of it with a reshaped face.
It also feels quite fragile when folding it up. Every time I deconstructed the thing I thought I was going to break it.
These niggles aside, my time with the A5 Cabriolet has been incredibly satisfying. It arrived just in time for the blistering heat that battered the UK, meaning my tan was better than ever, and we could really make the most of having a soft-top on the Parkers fleet.
And like I’ve said before, it’s just been a very lovely, accomplished thing. It’s classy and refined, high-quality and looks excellent, with comments from many at just how good it looked.
It’s not the most dynamic car out there, but it wasn’t designed to be. Its relaxed nature was very refreshing in a world where every car manufacturer likes to promote a sporty drive.
It calmed and relaxed me on long motorway journeys, getting out fresh and fine after several hundred miles, accompanied by the impressive Bang & Olufsen sound system and excellent seats.
It’ll be sorely missed, more so because it was taken away sooner than I’d hoped it would be, but I certainly made the most of it, and I think I even managed to have the roof down more than it was up.
by Tom Goodlad
|Latest Audi A5 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI running costs
|Real-world average fuel economy
||35.5mpg, 72% of official
|Official combined fuel economy
|Joined Parkers fleet
||1 June 2018