Audi is marking a milestone this year - July 16 is the 100th anniversary of the German auto maker.
"We are old, but still in good condition," Jochen Gruten of Audi's communications department says during a press conference in Monte Carlo to introduce its latest family members - the new 2010 Audi A5 and S5 Cabriolets.
Audi's first drop-top appeared in 1991; back then, it was called the Audi Cabriolet. Many models followed, but the 2010 Audi A5 Cabriolet, which replaces the outgoing A4 Cabrio, raises the bar.
The A5 and its more powerful S5 sibling (S stands for Sport) is a four-seat convertible with a fabric top, rather than a folding hardtop; that keeps the weight down and the cargo space up.
The roof opens and closes quickly - in about 15 seconds - with the touch of a button. You can even drop the top while you're driving at speeds of up to 50 kilometres an hour.
The trunk space is surprisingly large for a convertible - it's an advantage over the competition, according to Audi officials. "We have more space in the boot.
"We have 380 litres when the roof is closed. When it's open, 320 litres. You have the ability to lower the back seat and you get 750 litres, which is very good for daily use.
"You have a very emotional car on the one hand and on the other hand a good car for daily use," says Jurgen Klaschka.
Technology abounds in the A5 and S5 Cabriolets. The key fob, for example, comes in handy for lowering the roof from as far away as four metres. Incidentally, you don't need the fob to start the car - just push the start/stop button on the centre console to fire up the engine.
Powering the A5 Cabriolet is a 3.2-litre V-6 engine that delivers 265 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque; it is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
The top S5 trim is more spirited and dynamic to drive, thanks to a new, powerful 3.0-litre supercharged V-6 engine. With its 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, it'll get the blood flowing fast.
The S5 has a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox, which can be operated via paddle shifters on the steering wheel. It responds instantly to the driver's input.
The S5 is fast; it can go from zero to 100 km/h in an impressive 5.6 seconds. The A5 takes 6.9 seconds.
Fuel efficiency is another story. The S5 is rated at 9.6 L/100 km combined driving, and the A5 at 8.6. Unfortunately, I didn't come to close to either number. I cringed at the sight of the 21.2 L/100 km reading on the S5; the A5 was slightly better, but still dismal at 16.9 L/100 km. Granted, it wasn't your average ride.
Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system and an aggressive drive for most of our 160-km-plus route through Monaco and Southern France didn't help the fuel economy.
While the Audi A5 handles beautifully, the S5 is exceptional. It's especially agile and nimble, yet stable, smooth and sure-footed. The steering is accurate and precise.
Audi's drive select also lets you choose between comfort, auto, or dynamic ride with buttons on the centre console. The dynamic is my favourite; it's tight and firm.
Low, supportive front seats also hold you securely in place when taking corners quickly. The two rear seats are cramped for passengers taller than 5 foot 5; legroom and headroom are tight, especially when the roof is closed.
The 50/50-split/folding rear seats drop down easily by pulling a lever in the trunk area; you can do it with one hand.
Surprisingly, when driving top down, you can carry on a conversation with passengers without straining to hear them or screaming at the top of your lungs.
A wind deflector also keeps unruly locks in place at all speeds. The deflector stretches across the rear seats; when not needed, it folds up nicely and stores in the spare-wheel well, saving cargo space.
A neck heater with three settings will keep you warm in all temperatures; I recommend the lowest setting; the highest is superhot, even by Canadian standards. The ducts are located on the front seat backs - the settings are on the side of the seats; they're hard to see, but easy to engage.
The interior is upscale and well laid out, but busy. There are buttons for every function imaginable. If you're tech savvy, you'll love it; but if you're not, you'll get frustrated fast.
Finding a preset driving route in the navigation system, for instance, requires several steps and some patience. Once activated, the directions at times came a little too late, which resulted in missed turns and longer driving routes than planned.
A rear back-up camera is useful, particularly when the roof is closed. A seven-inch, high-mounted colour monitor displays objects behind the vehicle clearly and precisely. The Cabriolets come with front and rear acoustic and optical parking aids.
Top up or down, the Audi A5's silhouette is striking. A stretched hood, long wheelbase, pronounced wheel arches and sharp lines blend with sensual curves to create an attractive, athletic stance.
The S5 gets modifications such as larger air intakes, four hefty tailpipes and special S5 logos stamped on the exterior and interior.
The 2010 Audi A5 and S5 Cabriolets are slated to hit dealer showrooms late this summer. Audi officials hint that a 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder A5 Cabriolet will likely join the family later.
2010 AUDI A5 AND S5 CABRIOLET QUATTRO
Type: Four-passenger, two-door, mid-size, premium convertible
Base Price: Not available
Engine: 3.2-litre, DOHC, V-6/3.0-litre, DOHC, supercharged V-6
- 265 hp/243 lb-ft for A5
- 333-hp/325-lb-ft for S5
Transmission: Six-speed automatic and seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.6 combined highway-city for A5, 9.6 for S5; premium gas
Alternatives: BMW 3-Series cabriolet, Infiniti G37 convertible, Lexus IS250 convertible, Volvo C70, Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class
- Ride and handling
- Fast-drop top
- Wind deflector
- Cargo-carrying capacity
- Tight rear seats
- Navigation system