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The Audi A5 is a stunningly beautiful coupe with excellent power and performance. Unfortunately, the 2010 Audi A5 Cabriolet is not that car. In an effort to please drop-top lovers, Audi cut the roof off of the A5 Coupe, an element that accounted for the majority of this model's looks. The cloth top taking its place has a humdrum style, merely filling the purpose of covering the occupants' heads.
In a further blow, the 3.2-liter V-6, still an option in the hard-top A5 Coupe, isn't available with the 2010 A5 Cabriolet. Instead, Audi uses a turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder. We appreciate the use of turbocharging to get performance out of a small engine, and we wanted to like the high-tech power plant in the A5 Cabriolet. But the engine lacked the kind of thrust needed to push past that big rig on the highway, or make good use of the car's advanced handling technology in the corners.
The A5's soft-top doesn't replicate the lines of the coupe version's roof.
But as there are few really good-looking convertibles, the A5 Cabriolet's design comes about on par with its open-top compatriots. And while its small engine won't satisfy the speed demons, it is an economical choice. It doesn't hurt that the A5 Cabriolet, with its Quattro all-wheel-drive and suspension technology, digs into corners like a spoon-wielding kid with a gallon of ice cream. Then there's the cabin tech, the navigation system with the best-looking maps in the business, the Bang & Olufsen audio system, and the blind-spot detection system.
Audi refers to the cabin tech suite in the 2010 A5 Cabriolet as its third-generation multimedia interface (MMI). The basic premise of the system is unchanged from earlier generations; four buttons surround a dial, letting you select quadrant items on the car's LCD. For example, when looking at an audio screen, one of the quadrants will open up an audio source menu. There isn't a main onscreen menu interface, as there is in the BMW X5 M. You select different cabin tech functions, such as navigation, telephone, or audio, by pressing buttons on the console. The third-generation MMI adds a small joystick on top of the main dial, making it possible to maneuver crosshairs on the map.
Route guidance includes lane information, and 3D rendered buildings appear on the map.
A 40-gigabyte hard drive in the car stores navigation maps and includes space for music. Audi makes good use of this hard drive, loading it with the most graphically beautiful maps we've seen on a navigation system, with a stunning level of resolution made possible by the use of an Nvidia 3D graphics chip. These 3D maps show topographic features well, and delineate different areas, such as park, urban, and airports, with different colors. But more impressive is the city detail, with 3D representations of buildings. This level of detail shows up exceptionally well in San Francisco, and will appear to a greater or lesser degree in other urban areas.
The navigation system's route guidance also works very well, not only providing text-to-speech, but showing lane guidance for exits and junctions on freeways. The system shows traffic conditions, but in a more limited fashion than with other systems we've seen. It will dynamically calculate a route around the worst traffic jams, but won't show a list of nearby traffic incidents. And it does its rerouting automatically, without first prompting whether you actually want a traffic detour. We would prefer a little more information from the system.
Topographical details on the maps may seem extraneous, but they prove helpful when this car is doing what it does best, tearing through tight corners on mountain roads. Audi made its mark long ago with its Quattro all-wheel-drive system, and rather than resting on its laurels, Audi improved the system, adding new suspension and steering technology, resulting in the current Drive Select feature.
The Drive Select option lets you change the handling and power characteristics of the A5 Cabriolet on the fly.
An optional feature, Drive Select lets you change the performance of the car from Comfort, Auto, and Dynamic modes at the touch of a button. These modes affect suspension stiffness, steering, throttle response, and transmission shift points. Dynamic mode tightens the electronic power steering ratio for quicker turn-in, raises the engine speed, and makes the transmission downshift aggressively.
Drive Select is very cool, but somewhat wasted on the A5 Cabriolet, as the engine doesn't provide the power to fully make use of it. On paper, the engine looks pretty good. A direct injected 2-liter four-cylinder with a turbocharger, it produces 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. But the power feels light, whether attempting a quick launch or hitting the gas in a turn. Turbo lag is part of the issue here, as is the car's weight, at just over 2 tons.
The advantage of the smaller engine should come in better fuel economy. The EPA numbers for the A5 Cabriolet with Quattro are 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. We achieved an average of 20.6 mpg in the car, although we did make frequent use of the turbocharger. The A5 Coupe with the 3.2-liter engine gets 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, a small economy hit that's made up for with very useful power.
We like the idea of a small, turbocharged engine, but this one doesn't give the A5 enough push.
The turbocharged 2-liter engine is perfectly fine for everyday use, but you can save a few thousand dollars by not opting for Drive Select, especially considering that the only transmission available for the Quattro-equipped A5 Cabriolet is a six-speed automatic. We found this transmission performed well enough, with quick shifts in manual mode, but to really take advantage of the car's sporting characteristics you would want the manual transmission, only available on the non-Quattro A5 Cabriolet.
If you are looking for serious sporting performance, Audi offers the S5 Cabriolet, which includes many advantages over the A5 Cabriolet. The engine in the S5 is a supercharged 3-liter six-cylinder, the transmission is a seven-speed Direct Shift Gearbox, and the Quattro all-wheel-drive system includes torque vectoring across the rear wheels, something not present in the A5's Quattro system.
Pump up the volume
The premium Bang and Olufsen audio system available in the A5 Cabriolet comports more with the luxury side of the car, using 14 speakers to throw 505 watts around the cabin. While not stunning, the audio quality is very good, the system producing distinct highs and palpable bass. As a 5.1-channel system, it really shines when playing DVD audio, but most of the available audio sources, and there are plenty, only offer two-channel input.
Audio sources in the A5 Cabriolet include iPod, CD and DVD, onboard hard drive, and even SD card.
Those audio sources include Audi's Music Interface, a port in the glove box with cables that let you plug in an iPod, USB drive, mini-USB device, or 1/8th-inch audio jack. You can also copy MP3 files to the car's navigation hard drive, which reserves space for music. As an odd legacy from Audi's first MMI system, there are two SD card slots behind a panel in the faceplate as an additional audio source. With iPods and the onboard hard drive, you can select music by artist, album, genre, and playlist. Other MP3 sources in the car only let you view music libraries by folder and file name.
The MMI includes a very good Bluetooth phone system, as we've seen on previous models from Audi. This system imports your phone's contact list to the car, making it available on the LCD. But, unlike a growing number of automakers, there's no voice command system that recognizes the names of people in the contact list.
Rounding out the cabin tech in the A5 Cabriolet are a blind-spot detection system and a rear-view camera with trajectory lines. Audi has long had one of the more advanced rear-view cameras on the market. It not only shows lines indicating the distance between objects and the rear bumper, it also has lines that show where the car will go depending on how the wheels are turned.
Blind-spot detection turns on a light in the side mirror casing.
The blind-spot detection system turns on an amber warning light on the inside of the side mirror casing when a car is traveling in the A5 Cabriolet's blind spot. It's a useful indicator to let you know when it is safe to change lanes.
The direct-injected turbocharged engine in the 2010 Audi A5 Cabriolet sets a high-water mark for engine tech in today's market, yet it isn't entirely effective in this car. The Quattro and advanced suspension technology is also impressive, but the car's limited power doesn't let you fully exploit it. The cabin tech in the A5 Cabriolet is very good, but not quite cutting-edge, compared to other systems out there. Sure, the A5 Cabriolet has the best-looking maps amongst competitive models, and we really like the route guidance, but the navigation system is lacking in some useful features, such as external data sources other than traffic. Driver-aid features, such as the blind-spot detection system, help push up the level of cabin tech. As for the exterior, the soft top takes away some of the beauty from the coupe design.
|Model||2010 Audi A5|
|Trim||Quattro 2.0 TFSI Cabriolet|
|Powertrain||Turbocharged direct injection 2-liter four cylinder|
|EPA fuel economy||20 mpg city/26 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||20.6 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional hard drive-based system with live traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Optional|
|Disc player||MP3 compatible single CD/DVD player|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Satellite radio, USB drive, mini-USB devices, onboard hard drive, auxiliary input|
|Audio system||Optional Bang and Olufsen 5.1 channel 505 watt 14 speaker system|
|Driver aids||Rear view camera with trajectory lines, blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control|
|Price as tested||$61,800|