The Audi S5 Cabriolet arrived at my door in a striking Daytona Grey, that added even more gravitas to this already impressive convertible saloon. It has a soft rounded bonnet with four creases that slope up from the Audi grill and logo, tapering flatly back to the rear. Designed to be discreet and fast, it is the most powerful four seater convertible in the Audi range. It is also a car I know well, having driven the early model in Spain for years, including many summers spent touring around Western Europe.
This time around I took it down to Shoreham Beach in the sunshine with the roof down and up to Newcastle to visit a composite company doing some interesting things with carbon fibre and amphibious vehicles. Both the trips demonstrated that the car is an excellent all rounder, fun in the sun, and pretty nifty for work jaunts too. I certainly made it up and down the M3 in comfort.
The S5 has a 3litre turbo charged V6 aluminium engine with 350bhp, four wheel drive and 8 speed tiptronic (auto with paddles) transmission. It has a top speed of 155mph and can do 0-62mph in 5.1 secs, which is sporty enough for any UK roads. It comes in at 1840kg but does a decent 30 mpg (combined). The chassis has been greatly stiffened over the last model and it does feel better in the corners, though it benefits from having the steering in sports mode most of the time.
Wandering round this two door car, you notice the large organic bonnet shape and the serious frown headlights. Another style feature I like is the flat lines that lead straight back to the rear, with the red upholstered cabin neatly placed within, enhanced by a silver chrome frame. The 18 inch wheels are pleasing, as are the wing mirrors that match the angle of the windscreen and it is impressive in the textured grey. The black soft top roof has a double layer which feels very solid from the inside and insulates perfectly, keeping it pretty quiet on the motorway. Audi has been making these foldaways for a very long time and are extremely skilled at it. All in all, a stylish but subtle exterior.
The snazzy interior matches the exterior flawlessly, contrasting grey and silver on the controls with only the quilted red sports seats providing a flash of colour. The latter are solid, comfortable and attractive, yet supportive over long journeys. A large S etched in the leather back confirms the car sports model designation for those who might otherwise miss the larger exhausts at the back. There are carbon fibre panels in the dashboard, the doors and the central column, while the wide flattened gear stick offers comfort, auto and dynamic driving modes. The steering reflects the seats with red stitching and has appealing thumb notches with all the remote controls in the centre cross bar. The media screen and sat nav extends out over the dash and is terrifically easy to use. Another cool touch is the red and white invisible lighting that flares up at night in the door and controls plus the heads up display for the sat nav. Not surprisingly the panel instruments are faultless as Audi have opted for a minimalist design that imparts information concisely.
Driving the Audi S5 is a serene, confident pleasure. The engineering under that bonnet may not be visible but it is high performance and well road tested. The four wheel drive keeps it strong and steady on even the most slippery roads and the auto gearbox is so smooth that you’ll be flipping the paddles in manual just to experience more of the driving yourself. It is deceptively fast as the long gear changes impart a smooth acceleration that does not pin you back into your seat, but watch that needle spin round the mph dial as you put your foot down. Dynamic mode does get a more pleasing engine sound, not quite a growl, but certainly throatier. Roof down, it’s a lot more exciting and even though those in the back do get blown away by the wind, that’s part of the fun. Eighties hairstyle anyone?
The S5 is a gorgeous car but some may feel that Audi are holding back with the design. There seems to be a distinct commercial decision to aim this model at a certain audience, but possibly the designers could be given more leeway to make it a touch sportier, as befits the S in S5. Perhaps a little more frivolity with the exterior, then again maybe discretion is the better part of valour or style in this case, as with time the gentlemanly confidence that the Audi S5 exudes grows on you over the sportier looking equivalents from competitors.
Perhaps the Audi S5 is the thinking man’s choice, one that eschews unnecessary sports touches for a clean luxury interior and superior performance without the go faster stripes. Let's face it much of the technology, performance and styling benefits from knowledge gained producing much more expensive cars in the VW group. 350bhp is the magic number delivering all the power you could want plus a decent mpg. The Audi S5 is a superb all rounder with class that performs stylishly in all conditions and combines fun and functionality, and it will age gracefully whilst retaining its value.
S5 Cabriolet 3.0 TFSI quattro 354 PS Tiptronic From £52,540.