2018 Audi A5 and S5 Cabriolet first test drive

The 2018 Audi A5 Cabriolet and S5 convertible are the latest models to be updated in the growing line up of Audi A5 offerings.2018 Audi S5 Cabriolet

Audi chose the area south of Cadiz, Spain to launch the all-new 2018 A5 and S5 convertible models. Given the near perfect summer weather in February, I couldn’t agree more.

Sporting the revised bodywork from the 2017 Audi A5 coupe, the latest drop top models from Audi continue with a folding fabric roof. The new roof features acoustically and thermo insulated layers to provide improvements in interior climate and sound proofing. The cars now come with a one-touch feature that permits drivers to lower the top, while moving at between 6 to 50 kms/hr, with a simple pull on the control switch as opposed to having to hold the toggle switch the whole time the process was underway. The function reduces driver distraction and improves operational safety. The roof also opens in 15 seconds and closes in 18 seconds. 2018 Audi S5 Convertible roof

Inside the cabin, the cabriolet benefits from the roster of improvements showered on the new A5 coupe last year. Drivers benefit from the addition of the Audi Virtual Cockpit, with its customization 12.3 inch TFT LCD screen in the area that normally houses the instrument cluster. Drivers can choose between a variety of options to fill the space. Whether it is the virtual rendition of the typical analog speedo and tachometer or a full colour NAV map, the choice is yours.

Audi engineers have now integrated additional creature comforts and utility inside the cabin. Up to 4 microphones have been woven into the fabric of the driver and front seat passenger seat belts. The microphones provide for improved communication through the hands-free mobile phone system and the voice activated MMI multimedia system. Another addition to the interior comfort are the “head room” heating vents now centrally mounted between the front seat headrests and the seat backs. In the crisp morning air drive back to the airport, we had a chance to experience the news vents and it’s amazing how much of a difference a little warm air makes blown on the back of your neck.

Interior room has also been improved with an additional 18mm rear seat knee room and 26mm of shoulder room. Storage space is also improved with trunk space now measuring 380 litres with the roof up. The available capacity falls to 320 L with the roof stowed.

Beneath the sculpted sheet metal, Audi has utilized the fact that the A5 now shares the same MLB Evo platform utilized by the A4 variants as well as the Q7. The common platform has allowed Audi to cost effectively include many items as standard equipment. Leading the list of included extras is Audi’s Drive Select with adaptive suspension. The various settings changes either car’s character providing a relatively plush ride, an economical alternative or a more taut ride with robust exhaust note for those moments when the curves in the road beckon.

2018 Audi A5 ConvertibleFor the Canadian market, Audi is offering the A5 Cabriolet with a 2.0L TFSI turbo-charged inline four cylinder engine (252HP) mated to a 7-speed S-Tronic dual clutch transmission. Audi reports acceleration from 0-100 kms/hr in 6.9 seconds and the power train is capable of fuel economy of 7.0L/100kms.

The Audi S5 will land with the 3.0L turbocharged V6 engine producing 354HP and 500NM of torque. This engine is paired with an 8-speed Tiptronic transmission. The combo is a potent package that propels the S5 from 0-100 kms/hr in 5.0 seconds.

Quattro is standard on both Cabriolets. The A5 gets the Audi Ultra Quattro system that provides an as needed all wheel drive system, while the S5 gets the mechanical full time all wheel drive system and the option to add the wonderful Sport Differential option (moves power to the outside wheel in corners).

Out on the road it is immediately clear how smooth and tight these vehicles are. While engineers constantly mention how torsional rigidity has been improved, for the most part this is simply a footnote on our scribblings at a press conference. With convertibles, the lack of a solid roof leaves the vehicle susceptible to flexing, and as such, poor handling and additional vibration. Audi engineers indicated that the vehicle was 40% more rigid than the outgoing model and they have delivered in spades. This improvement has paid dividends in the new Audi A5’s ride and handling.

Both A5 and S5 models were delights to drive through the seaside areas along the Andalusian coast. The S5 has a more aggressive stance with larger, wider tires and flared wheel arches. The additional power was somewhat intoxicating, especially when blended with the soundtrack coming from the tailpipes. The engineers have spent considerable time to craft a low, menacing rumble from the quad tailpipes. The sound seems a bit restrained compared to last generation. The new model never overwhelms it just leans in enough to raise the adrenaline a notch or two.

The A5, although it carries 102HP less under the hood, the vehicle is by no means a slouch. The turbo four has been tuned to deliver gobs of power when needed without the fuss created by the S5 model. Performance diehards will likely lean toward the S5 Cabriolet, especially when the difference for all the additional equipment and larger engine is only $10,000 more than the A5 Cabriolet. For my money, I find myself locked in on the A5 model. The engine power is more than adequate for the driving I do and even affords me the opportunity to step up the heart rate when needed.

Look for the Cabriolets to hit Canadian showrooms in the summer of 2017. The A5 Cabriolet will start at $62,500, while the S5 Cabriolet tips off at $72,500.