Top­less won­ders

Audi is mak­ing a strong life­style state­ment with its lat­est drop-top stars, writes KEVIN HEP­WORTH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

GET­TING your top off in sum­mer is as Ger­man as Ok­to­ber­fest and this year Audi will be lead­ing the way with a pair of drop-top beau­ties.

The A5 and S5 cabri­o­lets, launched in Europe this week, will ar­rive Down Un­der just in time for the warmer weather to add to the four-ringed cir­cus that is Audi’s ever-ex­pand­ing model range.

Arriving in four trims— three A5 mod­els and a range-top­ping S5, each with a sin­gle en­gine, driv­e­train and trans­mis­sion choice — the A5 and S5 range re­places the ex­ist­ing three A4 cabri­o­lets from the third quar­ter of this year.

‘‘This will be an im­por­tant ‘im­age driver’ for Audi,’’ Audi Aus­tralia boss Jo­erg Hof­mann says.

‘‘It’s an as­pi­ra­tional ve­hi­cle, with very strong de­sign cues and added to the styling is the top-down motoring ex­pe­ri­ence that gives a real ‘life­style ve­hi­cle’ sta­tus.’’

At launch the A5 cabri­o­lets will be of­fered with two petrol en­gines — a 2.0 TFSI with 155kW and 350Nm and the 3.2-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V6 with 195kW and 330Nm — plus a class-lead­ing 3.0-litre V6 tur­bod­iesel with 176kW and 500Nm. All mod­els will come stan­dard with qu­at­tro all-wheel drive and the seven-speed S-tronic au­to­mated man­ual gear­box.

For the S5, which is ex­pected to ar­rive about Novem­ber, the pow­er­plant is the su­per­charged 3.0-litre V6 with 245kW and 440Nm and again is cou­pled to the qu­at­tro all-wheel drive and S-tronic gear­box.

Just how much the new cabri­o­lets will set you back will not be an­nounced un­til closer to launch, with Audi Aus­tralia say­ing only that pric­ing will be com­pet­i­tive with the car’s ri­vals.

BMW’s 325i cabri­o­let starts at just over $100,000 and rises to close to $130,000 for the six-cylin­der 335i.

There is a feel about the A5 and S5 cabri­o­lets that is not com­mon to this style of car — cer­tainly not to the A4 it re­places. Your im­me­di­ate sen­sa­tion is not one of space com­pro­mised, rather it feels more like the mid-sized coupe from which it has grown.

The twin sculp­tured rear seats, though not limou­sine-gen­er­ous, are cer­tainly use­able for most adults and a not un­pleas­ant place to be for more than a quick run down to the lo­cal restau­rant.

Audi has not wasted the ad­van­tage a soft-top roof of­fers for ef­fi­cient stowage. With the rear seats folded— they are 50:50 split re­leased from in­side the boot — the cars can take a 1.76m-long load and swal­low an im­pres­sive 750 litres of lug­gage.

The test cars on the Euro­pean launch drive were all spec­i­fied up to the max, with the acous­tic roof lin­ings, drive-se­lect ac­tive sus­pen­sion and dy­namic steer­ing mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to say how the ba­sic pack­age will per­form.

How­ever, as pre­sented, the 2.0 TFSI was a de­light to drive. Ride qual­ity is ex­cep­tional, com­posed and com­pli­ant, and the steer­ing, though light, re­mains di­rect and nicely com­mu­nica­tive.

There is no hint of scut­tle shake, al­beit on roads that were gen­er­ally well sur­faced and at speeds re­stricted by heavy week­end traf­fic.

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