In 2008 when the Audi A5 (and S5) were introduced to the Canadian market, I distinctly remember how taken aback non-car-aficionado friends were. It was as if everybody loved the polarizing, modern styling both inside and out. I liked the car a lot, but I’ve always been more partial toward four-doors for daily use, so I was more attracted to the S4. Six years later, the stunning two-door has aged very gracefully, so I borrowed a 2015 Audi S5 Cabriolet to determine whether or not it still has its mojo.
Frankly, Audi redesigns of this current model cycle have all been lookers. I’m personally not a huge fan of the styling of the new Q3, but other than that, I’d be happy to have almost any other late-model Audi in my personal garage. My S5 Cabriolet came painted in a stunning Glacier White Metallic, with a black convertible top and Lunar Silver/Black two-tone seats. Since its conception over a half decade ago, the S5 has received some updates. Most noticeable in terms of aesthetics is the freshening of the LED daytime-running lights. The car has LED/HID lighting all around and it looks stunning.
A couple years ago, the legendary 4.2L V8 in the S5 was replaced with a supercharged V6. Though the badges on the front fenders say “V6T”, this engine is a 3.0L supercharged six that’s shared with the S4, as well as other applications across the Audi lineup such as the SQ5. I loved the exhaust note on the V8, but I have made it no secret that this supercharged V6 is one of my favourite engines currently in production. Here it puts out 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. Coupé models are available with a slick-shifting 6-speed manual, while the Cabriolet is only available with the 7-speed S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox. With Audi Drive Select put into “Dynamic”, the S5’s engine and transmission work in perfect harmony. It flies off the line and makes glorious noises right across the powerband.
S-tronic is one of the best transmissions on the market, both in performance and sound. I left it in manual shift mode for the vast majority of my time with the S5, and both upshifts and downshifts sound just perfect. The Cabriolet also comes with quattro all-wheel-drive as standard equipment, so winters are no problem. My car was equipped with the Audi quattro sport differential, sport suspension with dynamic damping control and dynamic steering. The S5’s steering has razor-sharp precision, but this soft-top model does lack the structural rigidity of the coupé.
I did have a chance to drive the Audi S5 Cabriolet through my favourite driving road in southern Ontario, up in the beautiful Muskoka region. It was a chilly early autumn day, so I put on my sweater and left the convertible top down as I enjoyed the beautiful foliage as I navigated the S5 through the twisties. The car behaved very competently and I couldn’t have imagined a better car as a dance partner to enjoy one of the last great drives of the season. A particularly nifty feature is a button located beside the shifter that puts all the windows up and down automatically.
My car was the S5 3.0 TFSI Technik, and starts right around the $75,000 mark. Add on just under $8,000 worth of options, and you have one beautiful grand touring convertible. The equipment list is exactly what you’d expect from a car priced in the $80,000 range. On board are heated seats, HID headlights, the Audi MMI infotainment suite with navigation, 19″ wheels, and aluminium Beaufort inlays. My tester was also equipped with the Bang & Olufsen sound system, and it’s easily my favourite factory automotive system out there. I’ll admit I have yet to extensively play with the Burmester option on the latest Mercedes-Benz models, so I’ll reserve judgment until I do.
I’m often beside myself when it comes to convertibles. On one hand, the feeling one gets from top-down motoring on a crisp autumn day is unbeatable. On the other, the purist in me does notice the difference structural rigidity between this and the coupé model. The S5 is a great choice for a daily driver though – I don’t think I’d have one as a track toy, so structural rigidity doesn’t matter all that much here. The convertible top is operated by one button located to the left of the shifter, and it takes about 30 seconds from start to finish. There are no silly latches or clips here; it’s one slick motion.
The Audi S5 Cabriolet is a beautiful choice as a daily driver or even as a weekend cruiser. I have recently spent some time with the new BMW 4-series Cabriolet as well, and we will be testing the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet in the coming weeks. There’s really no wrong choice in this segment; it’s one of those vehicle classes where everything is just so good that it’s hard to make an educated decision. For the driver who values an exhilarating driving experience as well as exceptional day-to-day manners, the S5 is the clear pick.