Audi S5 Cabriolet

This convertible goes from zero to cool in 17 seconds

This is so clever it's almost surreal. The driver following us thinks so, anyway. The sun is hiding and we're about to join an autoroute, so the hood of our Audi S5 Cabriolet needs to be closed. The busy traffic out of Monaco is moving happily at the 50km/h urban limit – 31mph – but, even so, I press the "close" button.

Gentle whirrs and clicks emanate aft, the hood emerges from behind the back seats and in a motion reminiscent of a swordsman's thrust, it slices forward as it unfolds. That's why you can do this while driving at normal traffic speeds; the hood contrives not to act as a vertical sail at any point in its contortionist routine.

Seventeen seconds after I first pressed the button, the hood is shut, windows are up and we are snug. Now we're on the autoroute, aiming for the mountain roads that will let us discover if the convertible Audi – from a cool £42,000 – is any more than a seafront cruiser for beautiful people (the latter qualification being one I fail, with honours). And the silence is astounding. There is no detectable rush of wind, and I can hardly hear the exhaust note at a gentle 80mph canter. It is like being in an S5 coupé, complete with plush headlining. I have never known a better hood.

Earlier, we drove a humbler version of the open Audi, an A5 with a 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine. The hood is the same, the engine less powerful than the S5's (of which more in a minute). Both have seven-speed, double-clutch transmissions, both have Quattro four-wheel drive as standard, which nowadays diverts more energy to the rear wheels than to the front unless grip conditions dictate otherwise.

But instead of the S5's racy, body-gripping front seats, the A5 has more conventional chairs, with optional warm-air vent at neck level. It's the same idea as Mercedes-Benz's "Air Scarf", but as yet has no Audi name. "Virtual Pashmina" would fit the bill, I thought, and my invoice is on its way to Audi.

These mainstream A5 Cabriolets come with the same engine range as the A5 coupé, so you can have – initially – 2.0 or 3.2-litre petrol units or that 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel, with 2.0 and 2.7-litre turbodiesels to follow. These last two are front-wheel drive only; the others have a Quattro option except where it's standard.

So the experience is much as it is in the coupé apart from the slightly softer responses that go with greater weight and the more flexible structure caused by the lack of a rigid roof. And, of course, the potential for wind in the hair, something felt with the greatest force by brave souls in the back seats. But if just two of you are travelling, you can fit a wind deflector across the rear-seat space.

That driving experience encompasses a smooth ride with hardly any body shudder, quiet engines, a feeling of unshakeable quality and secure cornering. But it's relaxing rather than exciting. Then you try the S5, and discover why we needed those mountain roads.

An S5 coupé has a 4.2-litre V8 engine with 354bhp and a bit of a CO2 habit (288g/km). The S5 convertible does it differently, with the 333bhp, supercharged, 3.0-litre V6 found in the excellent S4 saloon and estate car. It's a great engine whose carbon contribution just snicks under the gas-guzzler threshold with a 224g/km CO2 score.

And with the roof lowered again – 15 seconds for the opening – I can hear the engine's mellifluously potent tunes all the better. The gearbox's automatic mode works very well, but such is the engine's crisp, eager nature that it's a crime not to use the paddle-shifts. Then you can hear the happy howl of high crankshaft speeds as they reflect from the rockfaces, not too loud, but thrillingly, uncannily, like those of a Porsche 911, and savour the muted pops and burbles issued with each gearshift.

Twisting roads become a joy, the (optional) Quattro Sport differential speeding up the outside rear wheel relative to the inside one to help point the S5 into a bend. Can this be related to that S5 coupé that so disappointed me at its launch, which did its best to disguise the new transmission and suspension systems intended to rid Audis of their former lugubrious, nose-heavy feel? Well, they certainly work now.

The S5 has a split personality, at once glamorous convertible and soul-stirring sports car. Any open A5 is a pleasing thing, with a boot far more capacious than in a rival, hard-roofed coupé-cabriolet. But the S5 is on another level. Open four-seaters come no more satisfying than this.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
tv

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

News
John Moore inspired this Coca Cola Christmas advert
people

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film

Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study

Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
film
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Agricultural Solicitor - East Midlands

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EAST MIDLANDS MARKET TOWN - A new and exciting...

    English Teacher Thetford Secondary

    £110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: An Academy based in Thetfor...

    Secondary Teacher Great Yarmouth

    £115 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad are currently work...

    Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

    £60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

    Day In a Page

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes