BMW teams up with Italian styling gurus at Pininfarina for slick new coupe
Audi S5 cabriolet review (2012 onwards)
Model: Audi S5 cabriolet
Bodystyle: two-door, four seat convertible
Engine: 3-litre V6 Turbo petrol
Transmission: seven-speed twin-clutch automatic
Date of test: September 2012
What is it?
Currently the fastest convertible in Audi's A5 range, it will be supplanted in that role by the imminent RS5 cabriolet. The S5 coupe was originally launched in 2007 and was a wonderful V8 bruiser of a car; I remember an epic evening run in that car vividly, a 150-mile journey from the Bentley factory at Crewe all the way down to Newbury in Berkshire to join another launch event. The S5 swallowed it admirably.
The S5 cabriolet, confusingly, never got the 4.2-litre V8 of the coupe; only ever a supercharged 3-litre V6, a 333hp engine it still retains. The car was facelifted in 2011 that gave the nose a sharper front together with new LED headlights and improved interior systems, of which more below.
This car is £47,015 on-the-road. The extras fitted took our test car up to £52,200.
Where does it fit?
The Audi A5 range currently encompasses a coupe, a convertible, and a five-door 'sportback'. The S5 cabriolet's key rivals in the four-seat premium convertible space are the BMW 335i convertible (from £44,095) and the Mercedes E350 cabriolet (from £43,255).
Is it for you?
This is a fast and capable convertible, which looks good, shouts 'success' loudly, and has room for two people in the back - though ideally these will be young children because space back there is at a serious premium unless the front seat people are midgets. It does have a decent boot, not least because it is a soft top; the BMW's folding steel roof seriously restricts that car's top-down luggage space.
What does it do well?
Goes really fast. 0-62mph is dispatched in 5.4 seconds, off to a limited top speed of 155mph. The seven-speed S-tronic twin clutch gearbox (standard - there is no manual option) works well with the engine and once you get going they operate in keen harmony as the 'box rattles through the gears with near seamless changes.
My S5 came with Audi Drive Select, a £220 bargain option. This offers various settings for the car's throttle response, gears control and steering though not, on this car at least, suspension. Engage the sportiest mode, 'dynamic', and you can feel the whole car tense up; the car will usually change down immediately, and the steering noticeably stiffens.
The car hangs around in gear for much longer, and you can throw yourself into the mix by manually changing ratio on the convincing-feeling paddles behind the steering wheel . Find yourself some B-roads and you can definitely find yourself some fun, with boundless four-wheel-drive grip from the large tyres giving considerable confidence.
The supercharged V6 sounds great when under pressure, and will provide endless aural reminders why you didn't go the safe diesel route.
What doesn't it do well?
Neither the engine nor the gearbox are as quick off the mark as they should be when the throttle demands it, and the supercharger takes time to spool up and deliver the surge you expect; 324lb ft is all the torque available, and you can't get at it all until just under 3,000rpm.
Dynamic mode does offer stiffened steering, but there is an ersatz quality to it and it does not deliver much feedback, hampered by an overly thick, flat-bottomed, steering wheel. At just a shade under 1,900kg this car is no lightweight (and the steel-roofed BMW contrives to be 80kg lighter) and it shows a slight reluctance to change direction under hard pressure, though body control is good, as is its ride quality.
Chassis control is strong and only the most assertive drivers will notice any real difference against the coupe. One final niggle: the brake pedal is enormously wide and if you have big feet like mine you will have to get used to a slightly different leg position from what you may be used to.
What's it like to live with?
The S5 gets comfortable all-in-one seats, embossed with 'S5' which are just on the right side of good taste, and 'S5' finds itself onto the gear-knob, steering wheel, sill plates, and speedometer too.
The facelift has brought some giant gains inside. The infotainment system is much improved: now high-resolution, it is easy-to-use and best-in-class. The sat-nav (a £1,995 option that also give you parking sensors all round) is great to look at and now supports full postcode entry: a small detail that makes a big difference.
The interior generally exudes quality which is why its one obvious failing grates so: the ugly grey triangle of nothingness to the right of the info screen (see above). Audi should fill up the space with some warning lights or something - or solve the problem by giving the car a proper widescreen like you will find in the 335i.
How green is it?
Audi claims 33mpg combined for the S5 cabriolet, with 199 g/km of CO2, though I managed no better than 26mpg overall in mixed driving. The economy situation is not helped by a puny 61-litre fuel tank which robs the car of any wannabe-GT credentials.
Stop-start is standard and will switch the engine off at the slightest provocation, which sometimes proved tiresome and you too may well choose to switch it off like I did. The car's Drive Select even has an Eco mode, but this turns the car into a lethargic wet blanket of a car and is to be avoided; if minimising fuel costs is your aim, get the 2-litre diesel version which will return 59mpg if you're lucky.
Would we buy it?
I really like the facelift; the LED headlights look much smarter than the previous ones and I liked the S5-only silver windscreen frame and mirrors, and the twin-twin exhausts: the car looks like it means business.
As a powerful cruiser it accomplishes itself well and is reasonably practical to boot, but don't expect it to deliver a true sports car experience; you will have to go to a proper roadster like the Porsche Boxster for that. But if you're after a car that makes you look and feel good and gets you somewhere in style and at speed with space to spare, the Audi S5 is well worth a look.
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