Two posh cabriolets from BMW and Audi: which is the classiest?

Posh drop-top twin test: Audi A5 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI 252 quattro S line v BMW 4 Series Convertible 430i M Sport

Rob Adams
Saturday 16 September 2017 17:42
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Upmarket cabriolets continue to draw a rich breed of customer, so car manufacturers are ever-keen to keep the new metal coming. The latest classy convertible to join the fray is the new Audi A5 Cabriolet, a car potentially so promising, BMW has timed the facelift for its 4 Series Convertible to trample on the A5’s launch party. Does it succeed?

Both are reviewed here in 2.0-litre turbo petrol guise, putting out a healthy-sounding 250bhp. The Audi feels the liveliest though: BMW’s hampered its 4 Series Convertible with a heavy folding hard-top, which dulls its responses when, say, overtaking or joining a motorway. The Audi’s all-wheel drive quattro system helps it get away from the lights better, too.

Not only that, the BMW also has a rough-sounding engine that vibrates the steering wheel not unlike a diesel – the Audi is considerably smoother and much more in keeping with what you’d exepct of a turbo petrol. At least the BMW has a slick eight-speed automatic: the Audi’s is good, but not a match for the 4 Series.

To stumble in the engine department is a surprise from a BMW, but to also fall down in the handling stakes is a real eye-opener. Again, it’s the car’s weight, which dulls its agility, while the better traction of the Audi inspires more confidence. Neither car has a particularly great ride quality but, yet again, the Audi’s is slightly better.

Both cars have good seats and nice driving positions – and neither has particularly great visibility, due to their folding roofs. The BMW’s takes 29 seconds to fully fold; the Audi does it in 19 seconds. The BMW is a bit more bluster-free for those in the front at speed – and neither car is particularly great for those in the back once speeds start to rise.

The rear seats of both feel hemmed in and tight on legroom, giving tall adults little space to stretch out in comfort. The Audi has a clear lead in terms of boot space though, which shrinks much less when the roof is folded, too – and you get folding rear seats for no charge, whereas BMW charges extra.

In terms of interior appeal, the Audi aces it. The dash is more modern, better built and simply feels a lot more upmarket than the BMW’s. It’s like the interior of a much more expensive car, whereas the BMW’s struggles to justify its £40,000 price tag. BMW’s advantage in infotainment has been eroded by the latest Audi system too – which gives you Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for free. BMW once again meanly charges extra.

At least you can get some great discounts on the BMW – if you’re sharp, you’ll end up playing a good £5000 less than the Audi. So even though it depreciates more, PCP costs will still be lower. And it’s the better bet for company car drivers thanks to lower PCP payments and overall running costs.

That’s not enough to give the BMW a lead here, though. Its roof is behind many of its flaws, leaving it feeling ageing and off the pace. The newer Audi may not be cheap, but it easily feels worth it inside, and emerges overall as the more appealing four-seater for cabriolet buyers seeking the best automotive sun-lounger

1st Audi A5 Cabriolet (four stars)
Nicer cabin, more equipment, better drive

Audi A5 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI 252 quattro S line S tronic

Engine size 2.0-litre petrol
List price £46,180
Typical price after discounts £43,030
Power 249bhp
Torque 295lb ft
0-60mph 6.1sec
Top speed 149mph
Claimed fuel economy 43.5mpg
True MPG 29.3mpg
CO2 emissions 151g/km

2nd BMW 4 Series Convertible (3 stars)
Bigger in the back and nicer steering, but engine and quality are not up to Audi levels

BMW 4 Series Convertible 430i M Sport auto

Engine size 2.0-litre petrol
List price £43,180
Typical price after discounts £37,949
Power 249bhp
Torque 258lb ft
0-60mph 6.6sec
Top speed 155mph
Claimed fuel economy 44.8mpg
True MPG 34.9mpg
CO2 emissions 146g/km

Rob Adams is a writer for WhatCar.

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