by Belinda Anderson
The luxury convertible - everyone wants one. Some want it for fun, while others are happy to have one just for bragging rights or the occasional Sunday drive. Segments such as this have tough competition, though, with core rivals each offering their best - some do more in the performance department, such as the BMW 4 Series Convertible, and some present more opulent interiors (cue the Mercedes C-Class Convertible). But some do a little of both, and manage it really well: enter, the Audi A5 Convertible. Fresh off a mid-life redesign, Audi has ramped up the entire A5 range to look hotter than ever before. And, with an excellent interior, a long features list, and a satisfying (albeit not thrilling) driving experience, it may just prove to be a little better than the other German greats.
The Audi A5 Convertible comes into 2020 with a few enhancements to its appearance and infotainment system, most notably including a larger, wider honeycomb grille, larger air inlets, and a new sill for a sassier side profile. Courtesy of a refresh for the A5 range as a whole, all A5 Convertibles are now fitted with LED exterior lights, while the interior updates focus on a bigger 10.1-inch touchscreen installed with all-new MIB 3 software, which operates much more rapidly than the outgoing MIB 2 system.
The new look for 2020 adds a lot of swagger and appeal to the A5 range; previously sophisticated and, dare we say, somewhat safe in terms of styling, the new model year dons much sexier kit in the form of a more pronounced Singleframe grille and ventilation slits, a distinctive blade along the lower edge of the bumper, and a diffuser insert with trapezoidal exhaust outlets. LED lights front and rear are standard, with matrix-design and animation added to the top trim. All models have 18-inch wheels and a black, folding acoustic roof.
With a wheelbase of 108.8 inches and a total length of 184.9 inches, the cabriolet version of the Audi A5 shares its dimensions with its coupe sibling. At a height of 54.4 inches, and a width including the mirrors of 79.8 inches, the convertible is marginally taller, though. Thanks to all the gadgets needed for the folding roof, however, the A5 Convertible weighs in substantially heavier than the coupe, with a curb weight of 3,979 pounds as opposed to the 3,638 lbs of the hardtop variant. These dimensions are par for the course in this segment.
248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque come from the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine that the Cabriolet shares with the A5 Coupe. With the added weight, however, the cabrio is not quite as quick off the line, and manages the 0-60 mph dash in six seconds - a hair's breadth faster than the BMW 4 Series convertible (when the Bimmer is equipped with its xDrive all-wheel-drive system) and Mercedes C-Class drop-top, but around a half-second behind the coupe. The four-cylinder TFSI power plant is efficient at rolling out power consistently and makes use of a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission to send outputs to all four wheels, so while there is only one engine option, it's a pretty good one - there is ample torque from low down and the DCT shifts intuitively to get the convertible moving, whether overtaking, merging onto the freeway, or simply trundling around town.
Audi does a great job of straddling the line between strong performance and luxury cruising capabilities with the A5 range, and even more so with the cabriolet. While there's not much that's performance-oriented about it, it does offer a bit of both. Many rivals offer a rear-wheel-drive experience, but the A5 Convertible can only be had with the quattro all-wheel-drive setup, which isn't wholly a bad thing - the result is a well-composed, solidly grounded vehicle that takes corners without a fuss, but doesn't particularly get your adrenalin pumping either. Still, for top-down cruising, the A5 feels just fine - soft when it needs to be soaking up road scars, but firm when going through the twisties. Fine won't cut it for everyone, however, and the BMW 4 Series convertible remains the one to beat in terms of pure, fun-to-drive engagement, something the A5 Cabrio just doesn't bring to the table.
Of all the A5 variants available for 2020, the convertible offers the least efficiency in terms of gas mileage - although differing only by one mpg from the standard coupe. EPA figures of 23/31/26 mpg are expected on the city/highway/combined cycles, which allows for a range of around 398 miles with the 15.3-gallon gas tank filled to the brim. This is generally on par for the BMW 430i xDrive, although the RWD version manages one mpg more on combined cycles. The Audi does get at least two miles-per-gallon more than the Merc C-Class cabriolet.
The two-door convertible has seating capacity for four passengers, with the front two spoilt for space and comfort. The rear-seat occupants have less freedom to move, though, especially with the soft-top up, but kids should be quite comfortable. Leather is the upholstery of choice from the base model upwards, and both front seats are eight-way power-adjustable, with four-way lumbar settings for the driver's added comfort. These are also heated from the get-go, and memory settings for the driver are added from the mid-range. Interior dimensions are conducive to even taller drivers getting settled behind the wheel, with optimal visibility and an ergonomic dash layout around them - we wouldn't expect anything less from Audi. A variety of wood inlays add to the sense of class and style in the cockpit and paired with the exceptional build quality, makes for a lovely place to be.
Trunk space in a convertible is generally reserved for stowing the top when you feel the need to bask in the sun, and in the A5 cabriolet, this is echoed in the meager 9.3 cubic feet found beneath the trunk lid. Even worse, both core competitors have much more to offer, with the 4 Series Convertible offering 13 cubic feet and the Merc C-Class convertible having just about half a cube less. You could flip down the 50/50 split-folding rear seats to load more stuff if you wanted to.
For all your pocket bric-a-brac, the A5 convertible has a center console with an average storage bin beneath it, two cupholders up front, a passenger-side glovebox, and broad pockets on both doors.
Another of Audi's strengths is its ability to provide well-specified cars throughout the range, and for the 2020 A5 convertible, that means the entry-spec model gets three-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated compass, LED interior lighting, and heated front seats with power adjustment. A universal garage door opener, keyless start/stop, and a rearview camera are standard fare from the base model, with advanced keyless entry added to upper trims. All models also get cruise control as standard, with drive select and Audi's pre sense basic and city safety aids included. Front and rear acoustic parking sensors are added on the mid-level trim. Audi side assist with pre sense rear is also included from mid-range, which adds rear cross-traffic assist and a vehicle exit warning. The top-end model gets a surround-view camera, lane assist, park steering assist, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition. There's also a head-up display on the top-spec model, which can be optioned on separately, too. The acclaimed virtual cockpit setup featuring a 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster is added from the Premium Plus model onwards.
Part of the major improvements for 2020 includes an upgraded infotainment system, which comes in the form of a 10.1-inch touchscreen, which now runs all-new MIB 3 software. According to Audi, this system is up to ten times faster than last year's setup, and in the A5 Convertible, it comes paired to a ten-speaker Audi sound system as standard. On the top-spec Prestige, the audio setup is upgraded to a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen suite, and the infotainment offering is fleshed out with MMI navigation. The standard setup is still good, though, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto feature from the base model upwards - there are also front USB ports for data and charging, and Bluetooth wireless tech is included. SiriusXM and Audi's phone box signal booster and wireless charger are added from the Premium Plus models onwards.
As with the Coupe variants, the A5 Convertible is free of recalls for both 2019 and 2020 model years, and although J.D. Power is yet to give the 2020 version an official rating, but 2019 models carried an 83 out of 100 score, which is close on the heels of the highly-rated C-Class Convertible. All new vehicles come with a four-year/50,000-mile full warranty, which includes powertrain coverage, too. Additionally, Audi offers roadside assistance for four years with unlimited miles.
The NHTSA has not rated the cabriolet variants of the 2020 A5 range, but the Sportback models were tested, scoring full marks in all but frontal crash test evaluations, where a four-star rating was given. Following in this trend, the IIHS awarded 2019 coupe variants with top scores of Good for all tested areas, with both standard and optional driver aids rated as Superior. We believe these scores will carry over, if not improve, for the 2020 convertible, given the number of safety features the cars ship with. This includes six airbags, traction control and stability control, and the federally required rearview camera. Rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights are stock-fitted, and cruise control is installed, too. Audi's pre sense basic and pre sense city are expanded on in the middle of the range through the inclusion of parking sensors in the front and rear, as well as side assist with rear cross-traffic alert and vehicle exit warning. The top-end configuration gets a surround-view camera, lane assist, park steering assist, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and finally, a head-up display.
Buying a car with a soft-top comes with the knowledge that you're not buying it for any other reason than the way it makes you feel - and in this case, that pertains mostly to the confidence of knowing you can cruise in safety and comfort, and with the peace of mind that accompanies a capable car that won't let you down. Unless, that is, you're looking for something with a cheeky nature that practically begs you to hurl it around corners and weave through canyon roads - in which case, the A5 Cabrio might be a little bit of a downer. While it boasts a beautiful, well-designed and ergonomic cabin with numerous thoughtful touches, it's short on trunk space and just doesn't have the handling panache of the BMW 4 Series convertible. Still, we love the new look and would award it a slight edge over the Merc C-Class purely on value-for-money and the hint of daring it possesses, but it doesn't come close to what the Bimmer has under its skin. If you're looking for a top-down luxury convertible that can do both relaxed cruising and the occasional joy-ride, you can't go wrong with the Audi A5 Convertible.
Getting behind the wheel of an Audi A5 Convertible will cost you less for 2020 if you choose one of the lower models - at $49,900 for the base Premium model and $53,700 for the Premium Plus, this is a drop in MSRP of $1,300 and $400, respectively. The top-of-the-range Prestige has a sticker price of $59,600. These prices exclude licensing, registration, taxes, and a $995 destination charge.
Often, recommendations for which model to buy take value for money into account and results in suggesting a mid-way between affordability and prestige - but, when looking at buying a convertible, and with the added benefit of having such a value-packed range available, we'd go all in. The top-spec Prestige model comes equipped with the same safety features as the base model, but adds a whole lot more by means of a top-view camera, the head-up display, lane and park steering assist, as well as traffic sign recognition. The infotainment system gets the addition of navigation too, and the Bang & Olufsen sound system offers 3D sound via 19 speakers. For just under $10k over the base-level Premium trim, we think the investment is worth it.
Inevitably the comparisons between the German trinity kick off with a showdown between BMW and Audi: both champions that look sporty, yet svelte, and with Audi's new look for 2020, both offer some swagger too. What the BMW convertible has up its sleeve, however, is the fact that it offers a more powerful engine option in the 440i and the choice between rear-wheel and all-wheel drive, and a resulting best 0-60 mph time of only 5.1 seconds. It costs a bit more than the Audi, too, and although the cabin is arguably just as lovely and comfortable, the ace in hand is the unmitigated driving pleasure the Bimmer is known for. There's much more fun to be had from behind the BMW's wheel, and true gearheads will prefer the feedback and character of the 4 Series to that of the Audi, but, if you are simply looking for a top-down cruiser that can handle some spirited driving from time to time, it's the Audi that offers the best value for money - and ultimately, if you wanted a performance car, you'd have bought a coupe. Buy the Audi and you won't regret a day of it.
A master in its own right, the Mercedes C-Class Convertible hops off the proverbial fence and straight into luxury territory, prioritizing comfort, class, and style above all else. The C-Class has an even more well-appointed interior than the Audi does, and is just as well equipped with standard features. It boasts more trunk space than the Audi, too, and capitalizes on its cruiser status to offer a silky, cushioned ride in superior comfort. But, where the Audi sits astride the aforementioned fence, dipping its toes into the realms of fun-to-drive and nice-to-sit-in, the C-Class leans to one side only. The result is an uninspiring drive that is best served without the expectation of excitement.
Check out some informative Audi A5 Convertible video reviews below.