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First Drive Review: 2010 Audi A5/S5 Cabriolet

This 2009 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2014.
By Shaun Bailey of Road & Track

Monte Carlo, Monaco — The most obvious thing about Audi's new 2010 A5 and S5 Cabriolet models is the cloth top. It's not one of those newfangled retractable hard tops. And although the specs of the A5 Cabriolet aren't much different than the A5 coupe's, two years have passed since the car's introduction and there have been a number of updates.

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As usual, the U.S. market does not have the diesel engine options, and no manual transmission will be offered. The S5 will be available only with the 7-speed twin-clutch S tronic manu-matic. The less-sporting A5 will have a 6-speed Tiptronic automatic for the Quattro all-wheel-drive equipped cars, while the base front-wheel-drive model has the Multitronic continuously variable transmission. The Audi CVT is probably the best on the market, and can simulate eight gear ratios, but in comparison to the twin-clutch transmission technology or even a modern automatic, the CVT is underwhelming in its performance. The Tiptronic with torque converter is well suited for daily driving and dealing with traffic, but when it comes to ultimate response and snappy shifting, the S tronic is the only choice.

Every Audi engine that comes with the A5 is now direct-injected and features a 2-mode variable valve-lift system. For the first time in the A5, the popular 2.0-liter turbocharged TFSI inline-4 is available. It pumps out 211 bhp with 258 lb.-ft. torque, and will be made available for 2010 in the coupe as well. It's a wonderfully peppy engine with reasonable fuel economy. The little inline-4 actually makes more torque than the 3.2-liter V-6 FSI with 265 bhp and 243 lb.-ft. of torque. However, the S5 Cabriolet remedies the thirst for power with a healthy, yet somewhat fuel-frugal, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 making 333 bhp and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. This supercharged V-6 3.0 TFSI V-6 is a replacement for the 4.2-liter V-8. Although not as potent, it saves the S5 from a gas-guzzler tax. Note that Audi has stuck with the T in TFSI, not to designate turbocharging, but forced induction. While the V-8 has been phased out of the S4, it will remain for another year in the S5 coupe before being replaced with the supercharged V-6.

The soft top on the Audi is so solid that it's easy to forget it's a convertible. And when you wish the top was down, it drops in a scant 14 seconds. An optional top featuring acoustic roof technology promises better passenger isolation and insulation. Audi believes this technology is even better than the available retractable hard-top technology, and adds that a cloth top makes it easy to distinguish the car as a convertible. Moreover, it allows for more luggage space, which can be increased further in the Cabriolet by folding the rear seats forward.

Convertibles are meant to be driven with the top down, and Audi has done what it can to make that as pleasant as possible. In addition to being heated and cooled, the Cabriolets' front seats have a vent just below the headrest that blows hot air on your neck — just the thing to help you keep the top down in those chilly fall and winter months.

Much of the technology from the A4 and S4 has been adapted to the A5 and S5. Most notable is the Audi Drive Select option that, with a push of a button, will adjust the feel of the engine, transmission, steering and suspension. I found myself preferring the heavier steering and sharper response of the dynamic setting. In the S5 an optional rear Sport Differential takes the Quattro awd system to the next level with the ability to divert torque on demand from side-to-side. The system works with a set of gears and computer-controlled outboard clutch packs that react to a variety of inputs, including wheel speed, yaw and steering angle. The result is less understeer and a more positive driving experience. Although the rear-biased torque split of Quattro at 40/60 is good, the active rear differential makes a large difference when pushing the car to the limit.

Pricing has not been announced, but expect to pay close to an $8000 premium for the Cabriolet, which means an A5 Cabrio may touch $50,000 and an S5 will be close to $60,000. The Audi S5 Cabriolet hits showrooms first this fall, with the A5 Cabriolet following shortly thereafter.

Content provided byRoad & Track.
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BB02 - 8/1/2014 7:30:04 PM