2011 Audi A5 Cabriolet
Base price: $42,000 – $52,890
As tested: $54,545
MPG: 21 city/29 highway
- Luxury convertibles are a blast to drive
- Gorgeous styling inside and out
- Solid chassis, flawless build quality
- Anemic 4-cylinder engine
- Coronary inducing price
- Prefer metal roof to cloth top
By Jim Prueter
A5 Cabriolet goes well beyond just looking terrific
We fell in love with the Audi A5 coupe when it was first introduced for the 2008 model year, naming it a AAA Top Pick in its class for three consecutive years. Last year Audi added a convertible to the A5 lineup, replacing its A4 cabriolet.
If you love ragtops, the A5 might be your choice since most manufacturers are moving to retractable hard-tops for quieter “top up” ride quality and body rigidity. But retractables need more space when folded, sacrificing trunk and backseat room, an advantage Audi keeps with the cloth top.
While we favor the folding metal tops, the ragtop on the A5 is a triple cloth roof that fits well and is superbly finished in the “up” position. The top has a glass rear window and even a dome light. Lowering or raising the lid takes less than 20 seconds and it can be done while the vehicle is in motion (up to 30 miles per hour). Once lowered, the top is concealed beneath a well-finished tonneau cover.
While the A5 is technically a four-passenger convertible, only small children are able to fit in the back seat; for front passengers to be comfortable, the backs of the front seats bump up against the fronts of the back seats.
And while we’re talking about the seats, our test vehicle came with the optional Comfort package ($2,400), with vents on the top of the front seats that blow warm air on your neck. We first experienced this feature in the Mercedes-Benz SL and readily admit that it does extend comfortable top-down driving well into fall, even in colder climates. The package also includes heated and cooled ventilated front seats, but we didn’t think the cooling part worked well on our test car.
Front-wheel drive is standard on the A5 convertible and all models are powered by a 211-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The Quattro all-wheel drive version uses an eight-speed automatic transmission.
This is the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that powers several Volkswagen products, including the Tiguan crossover, Golf and Jetta. It worked better in those vehicles and we feel that a premium car like the A5 should use a V-6, at minimum. Audi does offer an S5 convertible variant, powered by a 333-horsepower supercharged V-6 with a manual or dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The CVT features a sport mode that turns it into an eight-speed automatic, but not without a small drop in fuel economy. We were unimpressed with the performance and noise level of the four-cylinder power plant and CVT transmission combination and always wished for more power — especially when passing or accelerating from a traffic light, when we experienced annoying torque steer pulling the vehicle to one side.
We’ve always loved the driving and handling of the A5, and the convertible is no exception. Handling is predictable, agile and secure. The ride is a bit on the firm side; some love it and for some it’s a deal breaker. Include me in the former group.
As expected, Audi build quality and premium materials are classy with state-of-the-art fit and finish.
Inside, the A5’s cabin is consistently luxurious and impressive with well thought-out features like a single switch to raise and lower all four windows simultaneously with just the touch of a button. The center armrest is adjustable up and down to accommodate different sized drivers. Some find the seats too firm; I found them just right but could have used more side-to-side legroom up front.
Still, as we’ve mentioned in other Audi product reviews, we find the MMI (multimedia interface) joystick knob on the center console to be overly complicated and frustrating to use. MMI operates several functions like audio and climate control.
The A5 Cabriolet is offered in six different engine and transmission combinations CVT or eight-speed automatic, front wheel or all wheel drive, Premium, Premium Plus or Prestige packages. Prices start at $42,000 and quickly rise to $52,890 base price for Prestige with eight-speed automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive.
The panoply of standard safety equipment includes front, side, and seat-mounted head and thorax side airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, roll-over protection system, electronic stability control and antilock brake system. The A5 has not been crash tested by either the U.S. government or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
For 2011, the Audi A5 Quattro gets an optional eight-speed automatic in place of its old six-speed. The 3.2-liter V-6 has been discontinued. A new Titanium Sport package adds black trim and 19-inch wheels to the regular Sport package, while the Prestige trim picks up a standard rearview camera and parking sensors, plus an optional power rear-window shade. The Driver Assist package has been discontinued, but blind-spot warning becomes a stand-alone option in its place. HD radio is now included with the navigation package.
We tested a 2011 Cabriolet Premium Plus model with the eight-speed Tiptronic transmission and Quattro drive with a base price of $47,890. The Premium Plus package included 18-inch 15-spoke alloy wheels with all-season tires, keyless start/stop, navigation with rearview backup camera, Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, LED tail lamps, Bluetooth hands free phone interface, three zone climate control, and a few other convenience items. It also included the $2,400 Comfort package, that included ventilated and heated front sport seats, perforated genuine Milano leather and head-level heating system, upgraded 19-inch wheels, and chrome exhaust tips for a total price of $56,025. Select a few other options and the price quickly jumps to over $60,000. That’s a lot of money, we think, for a four-cylinder convertible.
For that money we would recommend jumping to the 333-horsepower 3.0-liter, eight-speed S tronic transmission A5 with a few less options checked.