Friday 15 December 2017

Living in the 'Now' with Audi's new A5 Cabriolet

Soft-top two-door shines despite flaws

Audi A5 Cabriolet
Audi A5 Cabriolet
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

The man in the Land Rover Discovery jokingly shouted 'swap?' at me as we waited for heavy Bray traffic to move in either direction. It was 25 degrees, I had the hood down and this old face soaked more vitamins A-Z in a 20-minute aperture than had been downloaded in the previous 12 months.

Right then and there I wouldn't swap 'my' €73,000 Audi A5 Cabriolet for a big lump of a Discovery. No way. For those blissful moments, no. Come October, it might be a different proposition.

This type of car is about living in the Now (something I'm regularly urged to do but can't manage too often - the past and future keep getting in the way). But I/we, for once, did try our best to do so for a few lovely days. As often as feasible, we dispatched the soft-top roof to the nether regions of its upper-boot nesting place and let the warm winds of summer sweep over us.

Not once were we caught out by rain. Not a chance. Not with an Offaly farmer's son at the wheel who could sniff a droplet 30km away all those years ago with hay on the ground. Not with an electronic roof system that closes in seconds (even while on the move at reasonable speed).

So, yes, there was an uplifting of spirits of sorts at a time of year redolent with memories. But would I pay €73,000 to have the cabrio all year round? Not a chance. Sadly, impracticality (something I can also sniff from a distance) would deter such a pricey purchase. But if you're of a mind and have that sort of money, you could do a lot worse. I didn't start out thinking that. I'd previously driven the Sportback version which didn't overwhelm me at all, mainly because I felt (still do) it could have been so much more.

In contrast, this cabriolet made a virtue of being no more or less than a large-ish, comfortable soft top. It looks better too, I think. And there were none of the pretentious appendages that can accompany such 'exotic' variations.Unfortunately, you do have to forgo a fair bit of the territory you'd normally get from a saloon of this size. For such a large two-door, the rear seats were a disappointment on access and capacity. The smallest of my daughters, who rarely complains (about cars), found it quite stifling back there - with the front seats set to accommodate taller daughter and me.

And boot space is curtailed, at least in depth, by the nesting place for the roof. Understandable, of course, but I noticed little left over with the couple of large shopping bags loaded in.

I also found it annoying that the auto box was slow to react to the engine restarting as I awaited greater alacrity to get me away from traffic lights or to keep my place in stop-start traffic.

But I did really like the interior (obviously this shares much with the Sportback). There is something about Audi cabins these past few years that augment the sense of premium - at €73,000 that's the least you expect, I suppose.

And thankfully they have left us a few buttons. So many cars now have interactive touchscreens comprehensively equipped to deal with nearly every demand. The only problem is you may have to navigate through several 'gates' before you get to the one that lets you turn up the fan or down the temperature.

Thankfully, Audi have resisted the temptation to abolish buttons. I could quickly increase the AC or lower the volume intuitively thanks to those adroitly placed switches. I admire technological advances that let you talk to systems and to tell them what to do, but there is tangible reassurance in a button. In fairness, I did summon a few phone calls by just pressing the little voice-control button on the steering wheel so I was happy enough with the mix of old and new. But if I had a criticism, it would be that there were too many tiny-tot buttons on the wheel vying for space - it is difficult to find balance.

The 2-litre 190bhp diesel merits mention despite being well known throughout the Volkswagen kingdom. It seemed particularly well suited to this car. They've done a good job suppressing engine noise given the more permeable nature of the roof. Around town it ticked over quietly and at higher motorway speeds it made no fuss.

Other than my stop-start criticism, the 7spd automatic transmission was seamless. I used the Auto driving mode mostly but enjoyed a nice few sprints in Dynamic. It can be revealing to feel a car change character in drive and handling at the press of a button.

I won't say the A5 Cabriolet is a shining superstar. But it had more than enough for me to enjoy plenty of lively, lengthy drives through divine summer countrysides.

It's a car very much for the Now and the sunny side of the road. Let's not think beyond that - for the moment anyway.

FACTS & FIGURES

Audi A5 Cabriolet auto 2.0 diesel 190hp S-Tronic; front-wheel drive; 0-100kmh, 7.9 secs; 4.2l/100km; 112g/km; €200 tax.

A5 Cabrio range from: €64,530. Test car (S-Line) with options €73,437.

Spec includes: Audi Connect/sound system/Drive Select; smartphone interface, auto air con, cruise control, parking sensors, 18ins alloys, LED headlamps (Daytime Running Lights), auto light/rain sensors, MMI nav, leather/alcantara sports seats, sports suspension.

Option Packs: Tech - virtual cockpit, Phone Box; Bang & Olufsen system; Comfort - reversing camera, electric front seats; 3-zone climate control, 19ins alloys.

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