Audi A5 Cabriolet in its element

Andy RussellAudi stuck with a soft-top for its new A5 cabriolet - it has its advantages says ANDY RUSSELL.If you've got it flaunt it - that's my view about cabriolets.Andy Russell

Audi stuck with a soft-top for its new A5 cabriolet - it has its advantages says ANDY RUSSELL.

If you've got it flaunt it - that's my view about cabriolets.

I know coupe-convertibles with folding hard roofs are popular with buyers who like the extra security and protection from the elements but, to be honest, with the roof up it's not obvious you have a convertible. Convertibles are as much about making a statement that you own one and want people to know - rain or shine, roof up or down.

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Having brought out a soft-top A3 cabriolet and boasting a soft-top TT Roadster, I was not alone in thinking Audi's replacement for the A4 Cabriolet would follow BMW's lead which launched a 1 Series soft-top with the new 3 Series convertible having a folding hard-top for the first time.

But, no, Audi prefers to stick with a soft-top to save weight and space.

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Audi turned its new A5 Coupe into a desirable, classy soft-top that looks the business roof up or down - although the red roof on my white test car was not to everyone's taste.

The A5 Cabriolet highlights Audi's engineering prowess with a panel in front of the bootlid gliding up and out of the way for the roof to fold into a storage compartment high up at the back of the boot. It takes 15 seconds, and a couple of seconds longer to replace, and can be done at speeds up to 31mph.

With the three-layer roof up progress is suitably hushed, especially with the acoustic version of the roof - standard on S line and high-performance S5 models and featuring extra insulation - which makes the cabriolet almost as quiet inside as the fixed roof coupe. It's a different story with the roof down. With the wind deflector, standard on SE and above, clipped behind the front head restraints over the two rear seats, buffering from air turbulence is much reduced but it can't block out wind noise which at speed drowns out the audio system.

A full four-seater, there's just about room in the back for two six-footers in the upright seats but they may feel hemmed in with the hood up.

The big advantage of a fabric hood is that it folds up smaller so doesn't need so much boot space. With the roof down there is 320 litres - enough for a good supermarket shop or large soft holdalls beneath the hood's storage compartment. With the roof up you can move its storage compartment out of the way to create a class-leading 380 litres and the 50/50 split rear seat backs fold flat for more carrying capacity.

The interior is pure Audi efficiency and class - good to look at, it works well and the controls and instruments become very user-friendly and natural very quickly.

Engine-wise, the 211PS 2.0-litre turbo petrol and 170PS 2.0-litre turbo diesel will be popular but there is also V6 power with a 265PS 3.2 petrol and 190PS 2.7 and 240PS 3.0-litre turbo diesels, the latter with standard quattro four-wheel drive.

I drove the 3.0 TDI which has bags of low-down pull and is refined and quiet but I was disappointed with 34mpg overall and a best of 36. It is currently available only with a seven-speed automatic gearbox which is a smooth shifter most of the time but I found it annoying that as you almost slowed to a stop at busy roundabouts or junctions, it dropped from second to first gear with a jolt as you pulled away again.

The A5 Cabriolet is never going to be an entertaining drive like a BMW 3 Series Convertible but the handling is safe and predictable with plenty of grip and traction especially where the quattro four-wheel drive system is fitted. The real problem is the firm ride, emphasised with the S line's stiffer sports suspension and not helped by my test car having optional bigger 19in wheels. On smooth main roads it's acceptable but Norfolk country roads left the A5 feeling fidgety with a buzz through the steering wheel and seats and a lot of tyre noise. Even with the optional Audi Drive Select system - giving selectable settings for damping, steering and gearshift points - it still felt bumpy in comfort mode.

Available in standard, SE and S line, all models feature alloy wheels, radio/CD with SD memory card reader and MP3 jackpoint, stability control, halogen daytime running lights, climate control, trip computer, electronic parking brake and electric windows, roof and heated door mirrors. SE adds 10-speaker sound system, leather upholstery, automatic headlamps and wipers, parking sensors, three-zone climate control and wind deflector while S line has bigger 18in alloys, sports suspension, acoustic hood with rear reading lights and S line body trim package.

There's no denying the new A5 Cabriolet is a classy convertible that's good to look at and be seen in. With the A4 Cabriolet having been a strong seller there's nothing to suggest the A5 won't continue that success but if you want to pose in comfort you may find the smaller engines and standard suspension the best bet and save some money as well.

Audi A5 Cabriolet 3.0 TDI S line

PRICE: �40,390

ENGINE: 2,967cc, 240PS, V6 turbo diesel

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 6.4 seconds; top speed 153mph

MPG: 33.2; extra urban 48.7; combined 41.5

EMISSIONS: 179g/km



WARRANTY: Three years/60,000 miles

WILL IT FIT IN THE GARAGE: Length 4,625mm; width (excluding door mirrors) 1,854mm; height 1,384mm

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