The power and the passion – Audi’s new RS 5 Cabriolet

The power and the passion – Audi’s new RS 5 Cabriolet

Audi has added a convertible version of its sports RS 5 to the coupe that was launched here in October 2010.

Like its hardtop sibling the RS 5 Cabriolet is produced by Audi’s high-performance arm, quattro GmbH, the equivalent of Holden’s HSV, Mercedes-Benz’s AMG, etc. All current quattro GmbH models carry the ‘R’ prefix and, as the name suggests, all come with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive. The ‘RS’ signifies the model is even sportier than the straight ‘R’.

The RS 5 is distinctly Audi with the characteristic widemouth grille to the fore. Going against the current trend of retractable hardtops the RS 5 Cabriolet uses a textile roof which, while it will appeal to the motoring purist, does detract from its appearance in the eyes of some. With the roof down, however, Cabriolet comes into its own as a superbly stylish and elegant vehicle.

Power comes from an upgraded version of Audi’s naturally-aspirated 4.2-litre V8 that we’ve loved since it arrived here under the bonnet of the RS 4 sedan and Avant wagon in 2006. It’s a high-revving unit with peak power of 331 kW holding out until 8250 rpm and 430 Nm between 4000 and 6000 rpm.

Of course V8 engines are not just about power. For the driving enthusiast it’s that distinctive throaty burble that makes them drool and without a hardtop roof in place to dull the sound it becomes even more enjoyable.

Zero to 100 km/h can be reached in 4.9 seconds, around half a second slower than the coupe. That’s partly due to the extra weight of the open-top car, but aerodynamics may come into it as well.

Power is transferred to the road via Audi’s seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission with Drive an Sport settings. There’s no manual option although there is the alternative of shifting manually via steering wheel mounted paddles.

Audi’s drive select system allows the driver to select between three modes: comfort, auto and dynamic. An optional fourth mode is available which allows the driver to adjust steering characteristics, the transmission, accelerator and exhaust system.

The quattro permanent all-wheel drive system features Audi’s new self-locking crown-gear centre differential that can vary the distribution of torque between the front and rear axles in a split-second. As much as 70 per cent of torque can be directed to the front axle, or as much as 85 per cent to the rear with a default ratio of 60/40 in favour of the rear.

Given its sporty styling, access to the Audi RS 5 is relatively easy for front-seat occupants, even those whose nimble days are well behind them; given the car’s price, these are likely to be a large proportion of buyers.

The large doors do provide some help for rear seat access although they are a problem in restricted parking spaces, causing problems even for those getting into the front seats.

Although both the RS 5 Cabriolet and Coupe have four seats, rear space is limited with tall occupants in the front seat but otherwise acceptable. Although the rear seat is a bench the two individual seats are sculpted in with plenty of thigh and side support.

The interior of the lightweight textile soft top contains a 15 mm layer of foam to reduce exterior noise. According to Audi to this makes the interior sound level about the same as the coupe.

It takes 15 seconds to open the roof and 17 seconds to close it. When down, the soft top reduces boot space by 60 litres with an acceptable 320 litres available. With the roof down and the rear seatbacks folded there’s up to 750 litres of space, which is more than enough for a couple’s long holiday trip.

The RS 5 Cabriolet is the first Australian model to get the new Audi Connect system. Optional at $800 it provides internet connection from a smartphone using its own WiFi hot spot. As well as allowing passengers to access the ‘net it includes functional services the most useful being providing Google Map overlays, including Street View, onto the satellite navigation system.

Unfortunately our test drive of the Cabriolet coincided with temperatures in the mid-30s and smoke from the bushfires that circled Sydney so apart from a brief test of the roof opening process we had the roof in place throughout.

The Audi RS 5 Cabriolet is a delightful car to drive belying the traditional look-at-me image of the open top car. The high-revs and the V8 growl give it a real sportscar feel and this was matched by superb road grip and handling on the challenging hills and bends of the old Pacific Highway south of Gosford.

We found the ride to be a little on the harsh side, accentuated on some poorly-maintained road surfaces.

The dual-clutch transmission is intuitive when left in auto with changes coming in at just the right time.

Fuel consumption is listed at 10.7 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined city/highway cycle. Our test was predominantly on freeway and rural roads, with all too few opportunities for vigorous driving, and we found ourselves only using around 11.5 L/100 km.

The new Audi RS 5 Cabriolet sells for $175,900. At the same time the price of the RS 5 Coupe has been cut by $5500, to $155,900. On-road costs have to be added, consult your Audi dealer about this.

About Alistair Kennedy

Alistair Kennedy is Automotive News Service and Marque Publishing's business manager and the company's jack-of-all-trades. An accountant by profession, he designs the Marque range of motoring book titles, operates the company's motoring bookshop on the NSW Central Coast and the associated web site, as well as its huge digital and hard copy database. Whenever we can escape from the office he does so to cover new vehicle releases and contributes news stories. Alistair's other interests include cricket and family history on which he has written three books.
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