► 2017 Audi A5 convertible tested
► Diesel engine will be the big seller
► ‘The best A5 Cabriolet yet’
A quarter of a century after Audi’s B3 Cabriolet was launched – a car that arguably propelled the firm directly into the mainstream, made famous as Princess Di’s preferred method of ruining her hairstyle – we’ve been out to Spain to test the latest four-seater drop-top from Ingolstadt.
The A5 Cabriolet has certainly come of age in those 25 years. It’s a far more handsome car, albeit in the iterative style of modern-day Audi, from many angles making it difficult to tell it apart from myriad other models in the firm’s 51-strong version line-up.
We’re testing what’s set to be the most popular engine – a four-pot diesel – coupled with Quattro and an auto ‘box.
A diesel convertible doesn’t sound like much fun…
It isn’t really fun, exactly – the S5 and its mega turbo hot-V6 is there for that - but it is impressive in other ways. Audi’s done a lot of work suppressing the dastardly derv din - revised engine mounts and bulkhead insulation a nuclear submarine would be proud of help here, but so do thicker front windows and the fact that this familiar 2.0 TDI has been fettled to within an inch of its life now. There’s minimal vibration, and what noise you do hear isn’t too offensive.
It’s still got a decent wallop of shove, too; made all the more accessible by the well-ratioed seven-speed double-clutch auto ‘box. You’re not allowed a third pedal on many A5 Cabs – it’s only the low-power 2.0 TFSI that gets a manual shift – not that many buyers will want one anyway.
But does it twist like a plastic tray through corners?
It’s fair to say the previous version of this car wasn’t exactly renowned for its handling capability. Lopping the roof off the A5 had a dramatic effect on torsional rigidity, and the result was a car that felt like its two axles were connected by putty.
To combat this, the shell’s been back to the drawing board and twist has been reduced by 40% thanks to the introduction of extra support for the front suspension strut domes, wider sills, and beefed-up bracing both diagonally and across the rear end of the car.
The end result? For a convertible version of a tin-top car it’s mighty. There’s an immediate and predictable response to driver input – the front end bites and the rear (a new, more precisely honed five-link set-up replacing the old trapezoidal configuration) simply tracks along obediently, slipping wide ever-so slightly if you let off the gas.
This particular version has all the steering character of an eggplant (the S5 has far more heft and feedback) but body control is top-drawer; and thanks to Quattro AWD, traction is remarkable too. It makes for a great everyday cruiser, which is all you could ask considering its fuel-economy-focused driveline.
Tell us more of its cruising capabilities?
This is an incredibly well-resolved attempt at a four-seater soft-top. The roof folds open in 15 seconds and back in 18, operated via a one-touch switch at speeds up to 31mph (50kph).
Roof up and there’s another surprise: it’s as quiet as a beer-brewing mouse in a Trappist monastery. Close your eyes and you could quite easily forget the roof comes off at all. Even at 80mph there’s very little wind or tyre noise to bother you.
The ride was excellently resolved on the adaptive dampers fitted to our test car (a box on the options list that fewer than 5% will tick) but we’ve yet to see what it’ll be like on standard suspension – and with the larger wheels that are a far more popular add-on for most customers.
We’re not driving the S line version set to be the most popular (bodykit/wheels/sports seats/LED lighting) but one step down; Sport gets you nav and electric seats along with the trick seatbelt microphones from the TT Roadster for clearer voice control and Bluetooth chatting.
One of the options stands out, though: Audi has finally found a way to cool the back of your neck in the same way Merc’s Airscarf did when it was introduced back in 2004. Welcome to the party! Though it’s so noisy when you push the button you’re constantly scanning the mirrors for an overtaking A380.
This is the best A5 Cabriolet yet, and actually among the most impressive four-seater convertibles around for everyday use.
We’d prefer the considerably more exciting S5, but even with a diesel motor there’s a lot to like. Sure, BMW's 4er with its folding metal hardtop steers better, and we suspect the Merc C-Class is slightly comfier, but in almost every other way the Audi takes the honours.