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The Mercury Cars Guide : March 14th 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009 Soft top with supercharge purrs along G ETTING 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 be arriving Down Under just in time for the warmer weather to add yet further 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, drive-train 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 said. ‘‘It is an aspirational vehicle, with very strong design cues and added to the styling is the top-down motoring experience which gives a real ‘lifestyle-vehicle’ status. ‘‘This convertible is completely new, from design to engineering.’’ 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 — and a class- leading 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel with 176kW and 500Nm. All models will come standard with Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au CARSguide —11 quattro all-wheel drive and the seven- speed S-tronic automated manual gearbox. Audi Australia is also still juggling specifications levels for the cars head- ing Down Under with the likelihood that features such as the ‘‘air scarf’’ warm air distribution system, drive select variable suspension, sport-rear differential, high-end navigation sys- tem, acoustic lining for the soft-top roof and personalised key functions with remote roof deployment will be optional on at least some of the model range. What Audi Australia has confirmed as standard are Xenon headlights with the signature LED eye-liner running lights, quattro drive, seven-speed S tronic gearboxes, the full suite of active and passive safety acronyms and a new leather seat treatment which keeps the seat surface up to 20 degrees coolerwhenyou leave the roof down in the summer sun. On one hand, Audi has kept faith with tradition: Its cabriolets retain the philosophy of a soft-top folding roof in the face of its major competitors’move to the folding hard tops. On the other, it has brokennewground withashort- term flirtation with superchanging for forced induction on its hero engine. It isnoaccident or oversight that the badging on the S5 shows aV6T rather than an indication that the blower IMPRESSIVE: The 2009 Audi S5 cabriolet is a winning package. under the bonnet is not a turbo. ‘‘It is a little bit strange but in this case it is just an indication of a compressed engine,’’ the engineer res- ponsible for overall vehicle develop- ment,’’ Thomas Kalma says. ‘‘Supercharging is not the future for Audi engines but just a one-off neces- sity—a bridge to the next generation of turbos we are working on.’’ The need for the supercharger and its particular characteristics of torque delivery and sound became evident as development discussions turned to replacing the 4.2-litreV8used in the S4 and S5 Coupe. There is feeling 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 roof can be stored in 15 seconds and deployed in 17 at speeds of up to 50 km/h. For anyone shopping the cabriolet marketthe biggest questionmarkover the Audi cars is whether you really need a six cylinder. The 2.0-litre TFSI is an absolute sweetie with a power/performance/ dynamic balance that makes an im- mediate friend of the casual acquaint- ance. As was the case with the A4 cabriolet, Audi is expecting every second A5 drop-top sold to be the little four cylinder. It wouldn’t surprise if the percen- tage isn’t even a little higher. 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 just how the basic package will perform. However, as presented the 2.0 TFSI was a delight to drive. Ride quality is exceptional, both composed and compliant and the steering while light remains direct and nicely communicative. There is no hint of scuttle shake, although roads were generally well surfaced and speeds restricted by the heavy weekend traffic. Fuel efficiency is a claimed tick under 7 litres per 100km. KEVIN HEPWORTH
March 7th 2009
March 21st 2009