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Audi S5 Cabriolet 2018 review: weekend test

EXPERT RATING
7.5
A four-seat convertible isn't the obvious first choice when it comes to appropriate family cars. But when that drop-top is as fast and fun as Audi's S5 Cabriolet, we're willing to give it a try anyway

The idea of buying a convertible to feel the wind in my hair is an utterly alien concept to me. For one, in order to enjoy wind-ruffled locks, you need to actually have some hair in the first place. And I don't. Besides, a drop-top Audi doesn't exactly scream family friendly, does it?

But what if said convertible offered other perks, besides a removable roof? In fact, what if it offered 260 of them? Well, that's something I could get used to.

Enter, then, the Audi S5 Cabriolet.

Priced at $119,111, the Cabriolet is almost $15,000 more than the hardtop equivalent, and it shares its 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 good for 260 glorious kilowatts. That extra money goes into the complicated engineering of the convertible roof (which also adds 225kg in extra weight).

It’s worth noting this added weight also makes it a little slower than the hardtop version. On a more positive note, though, this 2017 S5 Cabriolet is $13,000 cheaper than the model it replaces.

  • The convertible roof, and its components, adds 225kg in extra weight. (image credit: Dan Pugh) The convertible roof, and its components, adds 225kg in extra weight. (image credit: Dan Pugh)
  • It takes less than 15secs for the roof to fold down. And in this form, the S5 Cabriolet is at its most striking. It takes less than 15secs for the roof to fold down. And in this form, the S5 Cabriolet is at its most striking.

With two doors, four seats and a folding roof, the S5 Cabriolet is far from my first choice as a family chariot. For my three kids, however, a convertible represents the Holy Grail of cars.

So, how will it cope with the demands of hauling my three kids and I around for the weekend? And how long before the novelty of driving around with the roof down wears off?

Saturday

Painted in 'Misano Red', my S5 Cabriolet was hard to miss; this is not a car you’d buy to blend in. Striking 19-inch alloy wheels, red brake calipers, and quad exhaust tips provide a pretty strong hint of its performance potential.

The reaction when my three kids first set eyes on the car was palpable excitement. For them, it doesn't get any better than a convertible. Once inside, they made all made straight for the button to retract the roof. It takes less than 15secs for the roof to fold down. And in this form, the S5 Cabriolet is at its most striking.

The kids had a reasonable amount of room in the rear seats. (image credit: Dan Pugh) The kids had a reasonable amount of room in the rear seats. (image credit: Dan Pugh)

Inside, the front seats are the place to be. The driver and passenger are treated to a nav-equipped 8.3-inch screen that pairs with a 10-speaker stereo, and that is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto equipped. This is complimented by Audi’s 12.3-inch 'Virtual Cockpit' - a smart, useful screen that replaces the dials in the driver’s binnacle.

Unsurprisingly, nowhere is the word 'practicality' mentioned in the press materials for this car. That said, the kids had a reasonable amount of room in the rear seats, where they were accompanied by two cup holders, air vents and their own climate controls. An open roof meant there was little in the way of complaints. Well, none that I could hear anyway.

Audi does offer a wind deflector which can improve  comfort, but comes at the cost of blocking the rear seats.

Roof-down driving around the 'burbs was mainly undertaken with the windows up in a bid to limit the wind buffeting in the cabin. For the kids in the back seat, the fun factor of driving around with no roof did eventually wear thin, particularly when travelling at speeds of 60km/h and up. At one point I looked back to see them hunkering down behind the front seats to avoid the wind blasting their faces. 

Audi does offer a wind deflector which can improve comfort, but comes at the cost of blocking the rear seats, so it wasn't of much use to us and remained folded in the boot.

Inside, the front seats are the place to be. (image credit: Dan Pugh) Inside, the front seats are the place to be. (image credit: Dan Pugh)

With the roof up, the cabin becomes an infinitely more peaceful, refined space. The S5's cloth top does a good job of insulating the cabin, with only a small amount of wind noise noticeable on the highway. Noise from cars travelling in adjacent lanes was more noticeable, however, and took some getting used to.

Parallel parking the S5 Cabriolet highlighted the distinct lack of visibility in the rear (roof up). Thankfully the reversing camera, low mounted wing mirrors and myriad of parking sensors more than compensated.

Sunday 

I made the most of some downtime in the morning to take the S5 out on some twisting back roads. With the 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine producing 260kW/500Nm, my expectations were high. Matched to a snappy eight-speed automatic transmission, the S5 Cabriolet can reach 100km/h in just 5.1sec.

Before heading off I set the driving mode to ‘Dynamic’, which sharpens throttle, gearing and steering, heightening the car’s responsive to driver inputs.

Composed handling combined with responsive steering allowed for precise navigation of tight bends. (image credit: Dan Pugh) Composed handling combined with responsive steering allowed for precise navigation of tight bends. (image credit: Dan Pugh)

From a standing start, there’s almost no lag, and a seemingly endless amount of power under foot. With the window cracked open (roof up) I could take in the howl of the exhaust peppered with the odd pop and crackle on the downshifts. In contrast, the exhaust note barely registered a blip in the cabin with the window up. 

Composed handling combined with terrifically responsive steering allowed for precise navigation of tight bends. But while it can haul itself over blacktop at a rapid rate, it’s somehow not as satisfying to drive as the Coupe. Its driving characteristics suggested something closer to relaxing tourer than exhilarating sports car.

With the 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine producing 260kW/500Nm, my expectations were high. (image credit: Dan Pugh) With the 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine producing 260kW/500Nm, my expectations were high. (image credit: Dan Pugh)

Last but not least on the family checklist is safety kit, and the S5 Cabriolet is chock full of standard stuff, starting with dual front and front-side airbags, AEB with pedestrian detection and a driver-fatigue warning system. An active rear cross-traffic alert system (activated on two occasions over the weekend) and what Audi calls its Exit Warning System - which warns you if a car or cyclist is approaching the area you’re about to open the door into - rounds out the safety gear.

Verdict

At the risk of stating the obvious, this is no family hauler. It is, however, an impressively refined and hugely composed car stacked with premium tech and safety kit. And it is an absolute pleasure to drive. Compared to the S5 Coupe, it is a more gentrified driving experience best suited to top-down luxury cruising. 

Would the S5 Cabriolet be your choice for a four-seat sports convertible? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$98,990
Based on 11 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$86,990
Highest Price
$114,800

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
3.0 TFSI TIPTRONIC 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $81,840 – 94,050 2018 AUDI S5 2018 3.0 TFSI TIPTRONIC Pricing and Specs
3.0 TFSI Quattro 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $86,990 – 112,375 2018 AUDI S5 2018 3.0 TFSI Quattro Pricing and Specs
3.0 TFSI TIPTRONIC 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $89,320 – 102,630 2018 AUDI S5 2018 3.0 TFSI TIPTRONIC Pricing and Specs
3.0 TFSI Quattro 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $86,990 – 112,375 2018 AUDI S5 2018 3.0 TFSI Quattro Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Dan Pugh
Marketing Director

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Pricing Guide

$86,790

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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