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First drive: Audi goes upmarket with A5 Cabriolet

Another one: Audi's A5 Cabriolet brings the tally of Audi models launched this year to 40.

New all-quattro cabriolet range goes upmarket as second Audi A5 two-door arrives

14 Aug 2009

AUDI has released its third new mid-sized cabriolet in seven years in Australia, with three variants of the more upmarket A5 Cabriolet bringing the total number of Audi models launched here this year to 40.

This week’s Audi launch was for the second body derivative of the A5 Coupe with the same direct-injection 2.0 TFSI, 3.0 TDI and 3.2 FSI engine line-up as the two-door hard-top range, but the all-automatic, all-quattro A5 Cabriolet range makes it considerably more expensive than both the A5 Coupe and the A4 Cabriolet it replaces.

Fitted with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission as standard, the new A5 Cabriolet range opens with the 2.0 TFSI quattro S-tronic, which with a manufacturer’s list price of $94,900 (plus statutory and dealer delivery charges) is some $17,900 pricier than the A4 Cabriolet 1.8 T it replaces ($77,000).

Also revealed for the first time in Europe last December, the S5 Cabriolet will top Audi’s new four-seat convertible range here in November, priced close to $150,000.

7 center imageAt the other end of the pecking order, Audi does not rule out the possibility of an entry-level version of the A5 Cabriolet, in the form of either the front-drive 1.8 TFSI or detuned 2.0 TFSI, both of which are available with manual transmissions in Europe.

For now, Audi justifies the higher entry price of the A5 Cabriolet by pointing to the larger and more powerful 2.0 TFSI engine and the fitment of a seven-speed S-tronic transmission mated to quattro all-wheel drive as standard across the range.

However, while the new C-class-based Mercedes-Benz E-class Cabriolet will also emerge at the Frankfurt motor show in September with a folding soft-top roof, two of the A5 Cabriolet’s most direct rivals in the new Lexus IS250C (also released this month, priced from just $79,900) and BMW’s 3 Series Convertible (which is priced even higher at $97,121 for the base 325i) come with folding hardtop roofs and six-cylinder engines as standard.

Audi defends its decision to continue the rag-top tradition that began with its original 1991 Audi 80-based Cabriolet on the basis that the “authentic” soft-top reduces weight and therefore fuel consumption, works faster than a folding hardtop roof, gives the A5 Cabriolet best-in-class cargo space and looks better than a coupe-convertible.

Indeed, the A5 Cabriolet’s three-layer fabric roof opens in just 15 seconds and closes in 17 via a hydraulic pump, easily beating all of its coupe-convertible rivals and offering the ability to be operated at speeds of up to 50km/h, even if it’s mechanism isn’t as quiet as the IS250C’s electric motor-driven system.

Apart from lacking the oversized rear-end syndrome that affects many coupe-convertibles that must house hardtop roofs in their boots, the A5 Cabriolet also offers a class-leading 320 litres of boot space with the roof opened – via a console-mounted switch or by the remote ‘Advance Key’ fob.

This extends to a less remarkable 380 litres with the roof in place, but the A5 soft-top boot is further aided by a 50/50-split folding rear seat, extending maximum luggage space to a handy 750 litres and the maximum load length to 1.76 metres.

Audi’s soft-top can also be had in four colour choices (black, red, brown or blue), while an ‘Acoustic hood’ that is claimed to reduce cabin noise to near-hardtop levels is standard on six-cylinder models and a $700 option on the 2.0 TFSI.

While there’s no doubt it also lowers the cars centre of gravity to improve handling over an equivalent coupe-convertible, the A5 Cabriolet is still 185kg heavier than the equivalent A5 Coupe, while the aluminium-roofed IS250C weighs just 150kg more than the IS250 sedan.

Apart from a chromed side window surround and seatbelt extenders, the A5 Cabriolet adds chromed side mirrors, a pair of spring-loaded rollover protection hoops and a host of reinforcement measures, including diagonal underbody braces and strengthened A-pillars.

Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 155kW at 4300rpm and 350Nm of torque from just 1500Nm, the A5 2.0 TFSI weighs 1735kg, sprints to 100km/h in a claimed 7.3 seconds, consumes an official ADR 81/02 combined average of 7.8 litres of petrol per 100km and emits 185 grams of CO2 per kilometre.

Audi points out the A5 2.0 TFSI Cabriolet is more than a second quicker to 100km/h than the 325i Convertible, as well as being more than 1L/100km more fuel-efficient.

Priced at $112,500, the A5 3.0 TDI Cabriolet offers up some 176kW at 4000rpm and no less than 500Nm at just 1500rpm from its 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6. It has a kerb weight of 1860kg, claimed 0-100km/h acceleration of 6.4 seconds, CO2 emissions of 179g/km and fuel consumption of just 6.8L/100km.

That makes Audi Australia’s first diesel convertible (and the first diesel in its class) the 21st Audi model to achieve fuel economy of better than 7.0L/100km, reducing its price by about $4000 because the first $75,000 of its price is not subject to luxury car tax.

Topping the A5 soft-top range is the 3.2 FSI, powered by a 3.2-litre petrol V6 that produces 195kW at 6500rpm and 330Nm from 3000rpm. It is lighter than the V6 diesel variant at 1785kg, but is not as quick (0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds), economical (9.5L/100km) or clean (219g/km).

The soon-to-come S5 Cabriolet flagship will employ the S4 sedan’s 245kW/440Nm supercharged 3.0-litre V6 (instead of the S5 Coupe’s 4.2-litre V8), blasting it to 100km/h in a claimed 5.6 seconds. The open-top S5 weighs 1875kg, returns 9.7L/100km and emits 224g/km.

Standard A5 Cabriolet equipment is in line with the A5 Coupe and includes twin front and front-side airbags, ESP electronic stability control with ABS, ASR, EBD, EDL and brake assist, an electro-mechanical parking brake, four three-point seatbelts and four adjustable head restraints.

There is also speed-sensitive Servotronic power steering, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and starting, rear parking sensors, power/heated wing mirrors with LED indicators, front/rear foglights, LED tail-lights, Xenon Plusheadlights with LED daytime running lights, a temporary spare wheel, three-zone climate-control, cruise control, full interior lighting, aluminium interior highlights, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, floor mats, front centre armrest, multi-function leather steering wheel with shift paddles, automatic lights and wipers, Milano leather trim, powered front seats with lumbar adjustment, phone and Bluetooth connectivity and a 180-Watt eight-speaker CD sound system with iPod/USB input and 6.5-inch colour monitor.

In addition, six-cylinder A5 Cabriolets gain as standard: Audi’s MMI driver interface with hard-drive satellite-navigation, seven-inch screen and DVD player, heated front seats, ‘walnut brown’ interior trim, the ‘Acoustic hood’, front parking sensors and 18-inch alloy wheels.

A5 Cabriolet options include: sports suspension ($700), 19-inch alloys (from $1900), Audi Drive Select with adaptive dampers ($3500), Audi Drive Select with adaptive dampers and dynamic steering ($6100), metallic paint ($1695), adaptive cruise control ($2900), adaptive cornering headlights ($900), wind deflector ($800), sports front seats ($850), Fine Nappa leather trim ($1200) and a neck-level heating system including heated sports seats (from $2000).

Audi’s first open-top model appeared in 1910 but the modern Audi Cabriolet first went on sale in Australia in 1993, before being replaced by the first A4 Cabriolet (based on the Mk6 A4 sedan) in 2002, which was then succeeded by the Mk7 A4-based A4 Cabriolet here in 2006.

Audi has sold some 227,000 mid-size premium cabriolets globally in the past two decades, with 1400 sold in Australia since 1993. It plans to find homes for 150 A5 Cabriolets this year, with 250 sales expected a year from 2010.

Despite the hefty price rise, that’s significantly up on the sales performances of the A5 Cabriolet’s predecessors, which attracted just 53 sales in 2002 before peaking at 325 in 2003 and then decreasing to just 149 last year.

The entry-level 2.0 TFSI is expected to be the top-selling A5 Cabriolet variant with 50 per cent of sales, with the TDI forecast to attract 30 per cent of sales and the 3.2 FSI to account for 20 per cent.

2009 Audi A5 Cabriolet range pricing:
2.0 TFSI quattro S-tronic (a) $94,900
3.0 TDI quattro S-tronic (a) $112,500
3.2 FSI quattro S-tronic (a) $116,500

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