From the Fleet: 2011 Audi S5 Cabriolet
FROM THE FLEET are brief synopses of manufacturer-supplied rides that happen to end up in my laneway – JL
It's hard to ignore the seasonal signs of hibernation. Available daylight has become precious. Lawn furniture is overdue for storage, and you've probably already had to rake your yard for fallen leaves at least, if not twice. And then there’s the act that can bring tears to an enthusiast’s eyes: the ritual of "putting away the ragtop" for the winter.
To relive the separation anxiety convertible owners have traditionally suffered during the long Canadian winter, several carmakers have been launching convertibles that can be driven all-year-round, machines with hard-tops that fold into the trunk, or multilayered cloth-tops that are tauter and quieter than any previous ragtops. Audi has such a device, its A5 Coupe-based 2+2 Cabriolet, and its sportier S5 Cabriolet variant, my subject matter here.
Just to recap: Fed up with rivals grabbing all the coupé action, after two decades absent from the field, Audi entered the two-door market game four years ago, in the shape of the A5/S5 Coupés. The soft-top versions arrived in 2009.
Grabbing some wind in your hair isn’t an issue in the S5. For a bit more coin than German cabriolet rivals like the $68,900 BMW 335i or $67,900 Mercedes-Benz E 350, you get more cojones (333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque from its 3.0-litre supercharged V6) in the Audi, and the four-season attraction of all-wheel-drive, thank you very much.
All Canadian-spec A5/S5 models receive Audi’s excellent rear-biased (40:60) Quattro all-wheel-drive system. But the traction gains come at the expense of all-out driving fun. More athletic and responsive than the convertible competition from Mercedes, but less alive and tactile than athe BMW, the Audi continues to offer a nice blend of comfortable ride, and when called upon, controlled handling.
The S5 Cab is built with the usual attention to detail customers have grown to expect from Audi. Compared to a 3 Series or either of the Merc C or E Class coupes, the Audi’s cockpit layout and driver controls are still more intuitive to use. There’s generous room for two upfront. Nonetheless, anyone asked to hop in the S5's back seats may start the "Are we there yet?" chant early if they've already hit puberty.
Like its rivals, there’s no excuse to treat the S5 like a summer-only toy. You can drive it through a Canadian winter with its multi-layred cloth roof up and find the same comfort you would experience in a cosy, tin-top coupe.
It’s understandable, though, if, the Audi’s svelte exterior styling gives reason enough to buy this very modern convertible.