Top-down Audi A5 a sleek proposition

·5-min read

There are usually two things that happen the instant I bring home a new convertible.

The first: the skies immediately turn grey and it rains for the better part of a week.

The second: the instant the sun appears, so does my wife, to steal the keys and disappear for whatever time remains of the test drive.

There's no controlling the weather. But I had thought that her case of soft-top envy had been conquered when we purchased her very own convertible, a Mini.

No such luck.

Meet Audi's shapely A5 Cabriolet. A car that turns even the most faithful of heads, combining the sleek lines of German maker Audi's elegant mid-sized A5 coupe with the added attraction of open-air motoring.

Yes, my wife was smitten.

"How much?" she asked.

The answer - pretty close to 100 grand on the road - quickly ended that little romance.

But even so, the keys to the Audi had a habit of disappearing every time I turned my back.

Never mind that the National Farmers' Federation could do worse than buy me a convertible and send me to visit every drought-affected part of the country.

Truth is, even driving the A5 with the roof firmly in place (a 15-second operation when the skies turn grey) is no hardship.

Inside a cockpit that is a sea of tasteful and supple white leather, it's very much a first-class experience, regardless of what's happening outside.

This newly-refreshed A5 is offered in three body styles (coupe, hatchback and cabriolet) and with the choice of two four-cylinder, turbocharged engines, with prices starting at almost $72,000.

The model tested here is the cabriolet, which will set you back a not-inconsiderable $85,400 for the lesser-powered variant and $93,400 with the more powerful engine, plus Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive.

That means, like its prime competitors (Mercedes-Benz's C-Class and BMW's 4 Series), you shouldn't expect any change out of 100 grand, and considerably more if you tick too many options boxes.

Audi has avoided the temptation to masquerade the A5 as some kind of performance machine. It's not particularly fast, nor is it outstandingly dynamic, although, in its most powerful form it will reach the speed limit in a snappy 5.8 seconds (or 6.3 in the heavier cabriolet).

But the A5 is remarkably smooth and quiet in its operation, which is not normally a virtue expected from a car with a cloth folding roof that lacks the sound-proofing and structural stiffness of its steel-roofed siblings.

Yet even in the cabrio there is barely a hint of engine or wind noise, even at highway speeds.

Inside the A5 is a particularly nice place to be, with the roof in place or with the elements flashing by at a rate of knots.

Audi's excellent Virtual Cockpit (digital instrument panel) plus another oversized touch-screen at the top of the centre stack dominate the dash and take care of any adjustments you might need to make to cabin functions, including vehicle set up, ambient lighting, climate control or the excellent 10-speaker audio.

Audi has adopted a couple of clever ideas which first emerged on Mercedes-Benz convertibles. Most notable is the clever little system that pipes warm air (or cool in the summer) onto your neck so you can still drive with the top down in winter (well, in Australia at least).

There's also the little electric extenders that 'hand' your seatbelt to you - a trick we first saw on the Mercedes CLK almost two decades ago.

Another feature, albeit more modest, is the excellent use of space in the centre console of the A5, where there are a handful of different, cleverly-designed and positioned spots for keys, garage openers and sunglasses. Not glamorous, but you'd be amazed how many high-priced cars like this fail on practicality.

The A5 also offers a decent sized boot, albeit compromised by the space required by the cloth roof when it's folded. With the roof down it reduces available space to 370 litres (the coupe gets 450l).

The A5 range is generously equipped, with features such as matrix LED headlights, dynamic indicators, smartphone interface (Apple CarPlay), wireless phone charging and electric leather seats are standard across the range.

There's also a function called Audi Connect which offers seamless access to online information including traffic, weather conditions, fuel prices and parking information, all integrated with Google Maps.

You can also lock or unlock the car remotely, and send-ahead navigation information (from your computer or tablet) before starting your journey.

Audi Drive Select helps make the distinction between cruising (economy mode) and pushing along (sport mode), plus three other options to adjust the engine mapping, gear changes and even the suspension.

Not that the A5 is particularly sporty, but it's really not meant to be.

It's modestly athletic and when pushed hard accelerates with more than enough enthusiasm, with capable handling and reassuring braking and change-of-direction habits to keep you safe.

This is, after all, a car you buy to be seen in, or just to sit and look at it and think what a clever person you must be.

Except, of course, if you're driving it when the rain starts.


* HOW BIG: It shares its underpinnings with Audi's compact A4 sedan, although the space is less practical. But it will seat four adults in comfort.

* HOW FAST? Not particularly, but it will reach the speed limit in a respectable 6.3 seconds.

* HOW THIRSTY? Average consumption is 7.4L/100km. Not outstanding, but the folding roof adds to the vehicle's overall weight.

* HOW MUCH? You can get into an A5 from $71,900, but the test vehicle, with folding roof and a couple of modest options, costs $96,690 plus on road costs.