by Karl Furlong
The Audi S5 Convertible may just be the best S5-badged Audi you can buy. How can this be, when there is the more spacious S5 Sportback and the theoretically more rigid S5 Coupe? Allow us to explain. While every S5 shares smart design, posh cabins, and plenty of features to keep everyone happy, they also share the 349-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 engine that, while not lacking in performance, is somewhat short on visceral thrills. Together with competent but rather muted dynamics, S5s tend to be capable rather than truly exciting. However, it's exactly this unstressed demeanor that perfectly suits a convertible. Who really wants to be carving up a mountain pass when you can dial back the intensity, settle into a relaxed cruise, and enjoy the wind blowing through your hair on a sunny day? So, although the S5 Convertible has a tiny trunk and will have to contend with the all-new BMW 4 Series Convertible, it ranks highly as a desirable drop-top that isn't trying too hard.
Although mechanically unchanged for 2021, Audi has made a couple of key enhancements to the S5 Convertible's specs. All models now come with the Audi smartphone interface featuring the convenience of wireless Apple CarPlay along with an integrated toll module (ITM). The latter system makes it possible to access select toll road services in the US. Boosting the safety aspect is lane departure warning, now standard across the lineup. The optional Convenience package now adds front/rear parking sensors along with a heated steering wheel. For the mid-range Premium Plus trim, additional equipment includes a hands-on detection steering wheel, adaptive cruise control with active lane assist, and a top-view camera system.
Sleek and simple lines define the Audi S5 cabriolet, while a number of S-specific trimmings add a touch of aggression. All versions ride on 18-inch alloy wheels, although larger wheel sizes can be optionally specified. The Honeycomb Singleframe grille features aluminum optic inserts and does a good job of separating the S5 from the A5. Smart Matrix-design LED headlights are standard, with the Prestige getting Audi laser light technology. At the back, there is a trunk lid spoiler and S-model quad exhaust outlets. At the touch of a button, the acoustic folding roof can be lowered or raised.
Key dimensions see the S5 Convertible measuring slightly longer than the outgoing BMW 4 Series Convertible. From front to back, the body is 184.9 inches in length and conceals a 108.8-inch wheelbase. Including the mirrors, the width works out to 79.9 inches while the height is 54.4 inches. Most convertibles are generally heavier than their hardtop coupe counterparts, and that's the case here as well, with the S5 Convertible's 4,178-pound curb weight coming in at 320 lbs more than the S5 Coupe.
Under the hood lies Audi's 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 TFSI engine with outputs of 349 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. It comes paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and power is routed to all four corners via the brand's quattro all-wheel-drive system. No manual gearbox is offered. The setup enables the cabriolet to surge from 0-60 mph in a quick 4.7 seconds before reaching its top speed of 155 mph. That's a few tenths off the pace of the lighter S5 Coupe, but still fast enough for most. Without ever emitting a truly intoxicating soundtrack, as we found in our last S5 Convertible review, the V6 feels wonderfully strong and smooth. A V8 rumble would have been wonderful in an open-top car, but the V6 is more than up to the job. The transmission is a fine partner, with unnoticeable upshifts that contribute to the S5's ability to be quite a relaxing drive. Make no mistake, though - it can seriously haul when you're in the mood.
According to Audi, the current S5 cabriolet has a chassis that's 40 percent stiffer than the car it replaced a few years ago. This endows it with a noticeably firmer ride than the A5 Convertible, yet it never becomes uncomfortable. On the highway, it feels solidly planted and nicely refined when the roof is up but be prepared for a much more blustery experience with the top down. The steering is well-weighted and accurate, but it isn't bristling with feedback. Again, this is unlikely to concern buyers who are simply looking for a posh cruiser with more than enough power when required. Grip levels are excellent, though, so the S5 can be hustled along at a quick pace without losing its composure. For even more capability, an adaptive damping suspension can be specified on the top two trims. We'd skip the optional dynamic steering system, though, which is inconsistent in its feedback.
With its added weight, the S5 cabrio uses more fuel than any other member of the S5 family. EPA estimates work out to 20/26/22 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. With a 15.3-gallon gas tank, a combined cruising range in the region of 336 miles should be attainable. By comparison, the latest available ratings for the A5 Convertible - with its 2.0-liter turbo-four - are 23/31/26 mpg.
The beautifully finished interior is one of the highlights of the S5 Convertible, with seats tastefully upholstered in Nappa leather with diamond stitching. The driver and front-seat passenger are treated to 12-way power-adjustable seats with heating and massage functions, and moving up to the Premium Plus trim adds a driver's seat memory function. These front chairs are both comfortable and supportive, with good padding. At the back, there is seating for just two people, but with only 33.1 inches of legroom back there - which is two inches less than you'd get in the back seat of the S5 Sportback - six-footers may feel quite cramped. At least the headroom is limitless with the soft-top roof stowed.
The S5 Convertible only offers 10.9 cubic feet of trunk space. While this isn't terrible and should be sufficient for a weekend away for two, it isn't exactly spacious either. Fortunately, a 50/50 split-folding rear seatback opens up more cargo space and, considering the rear seats probably won't be used that often anyway, this is a smarter use of the available space.
Interior storage space isn't especially generous either. There are, however, well-placed cupholders in the front and two more at the back between the seats. The glovebox is decently sized, but larger door bins would have been appreciated.
Three trim levels range from well-equipped to truly luxurious in the case of the Prestige. The base Premium comes equipped with keyless engine start/stop, rain-sensing windshield wipers, cruise control, three-zone automatic climate control, and an integrated toll module which is new this year. Both front sport seats offer 12-way power-adjustability which includes four-way power lumbar adjustment, along with heating and pneumatic side bolsters. On the safety front, there's a rearview camera and lane departure warning. The mid-range Premium Plus' specifications are a big step up and include a driver's seat memory function, a top-view camera system, adaptive cruise control, front/rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic assist, blind-spot monitoring, wireless phone charging, and the superb Audi virtual cockpit. Finally, the Prestige packs on park steering assist, traffic sign recognition, a head-up display, and Audi laser light technology.
Audi's logical infotainment system is called the MMI touch display, which is centered around a 10.1-inch color touchscreen. The graphics are clear and the system jumps quickly between its various menus. Every version benefits from the Audi smartphone interface with Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay. Added to this are Bluetooth connectivity, front data/charging USB ports, and natural language voice control. On the Premium, a seven-inch color driver information system sits within the instrument cluster, but this is replaced by the 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster as part of the Audi virtual cockpit on the top two trims. A ten-speaker sound system with 180 watts is standard, although the Prestige offers a 755-watt Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system with a total of 20 speakers. This version also has MMI Navigation plus. SiriusXM satellite radio with a 90-day trial subscription applies to the top two trims.
At the time of writing, both the 2020 Audi S5 Convertible and the 2021 version were recall-free. The last recall came in early 2019 and was for shock absorber forks that may develop cracks, which could negatively affect the steering system. If the otherwise reliable S5 lets you down, Audi's new vehicle limited warranty runs for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. 24 hours of roadside assistance runs for four years regardless of miles covered. Finally, there is a 12-year limited warranty against corrosion perforation.
Neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has evaluated the Audi S5 Convertible for crashworthiness, and the same goes for the less powerful A5 Convertible. While this doesn't do much for buyer confidence, at least the S5 comes relatively well stocked with safety items. Every trim comes with high-beam assist, cruise control, a rearview camera, rain and light sensors, an airbag suite that includes both dual-front and dual-side airbags, electronic stability control, tire pressure monitoring, lane departure warning, Audi pre sense basic, and Audi pre sense city. On the Premium Plus, additional safety technologies encompass a top-view camera system, adaptive cruise control with active lane assist, a hands-on detection steering wheel, blind-spot monitoring, vehicle exit warning, front/rear parking sensors, and rear cross-traffic assist. Finally, the Prestige gets a head-up display, traffic sign recognition, and park steering assistance.
The 2021 Audi S5 Convertible is an easy car to recommend to buyers searching for a good-looking, comfortable, and rapid open-top with a premium badge on the nose. While BMW and Mercedes rivals could be said to offer more excitement, the S5 is just so polished in most aspects that the absence of drama seems insignificant. Quattro all-wheel-drive ensures plenty of grip and confidence from behind the wheel, and the V6 does well to mask the added weight of the convertible. We love the interior, which is easy to use, loaded with tech, and finished in only the highest-quality materials. Over the last few years, the subtle design changes and improved equipment levels have made the Audi S5 cabrio even better and one of the best top drop-tops for sale. Before you sign on the dotted line, though, don't discount the capable but significantly cheaper A5 Convertible.
All trims have seen a price increase in the USA this year, with the mid-range Premium Plus seeing the biggest jump. The base Premium is for sale at an MSRP of $60,600, which sees the total cost rise by $400 over the equivalent 2020 version. Next is the Premium Plus at $64,200, a more significant increase of $1,500. Finally, the Prestige tops the range at a hefty $68,700, an increase of $100. All prices are subject to a destination charge of $995 and exclude taxes, licensing, and registration fees. With all the options ticked, a fully loaded Prestige will see the total S5 Convertible price approaching the $80,000 mark.
Although the Premium Plus has seen the largest price increase for 2021, it's our pick of the range as it does come with a number of appealing features that aren't equipped to the Premium. Of these, our favorites are the adaptive cruise control, Audi's virtual cockpit, front/rear parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring. This trim also opens up access to options like navigation and the excellent Bang & Olufsen sound system. We'll have ours with the stealthy Mythos Black metallic paint, which emphasizes the aluminum optic trim pieces nicely. There are additional shades such as Ibis White and Turbo Blue to choose from. All that being said, the lowest price for an Audi S5 Convertible still buys you a luxurious drop-top that doesn't need any extras to feel special.
At the time of writing, BMW was putting the finishing touches on its all-new 4 Series Convertible. However, the outgoing 4 Series Convertible remains a competitive product. Unlike the Audi, the BMW is offered in both rear- and all-wheel-drive variations. At a starting price of $60,150, the 440i is a direct competitor to the S5 with its 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six engine. The BMW is down on power at 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, so it takes a longer 5.1 seconds to hit 60 regardless of whether it's in RWD or AWD guise. However, the Bimmer is a more engaging car to drive, in typically BMW fashion. It also offers more headroom than the Audi. As a driver's car, the BMW comes out on top, but the Audi's beautiful interior and consistency in other aspects see it edge out the Bimmer here.
Like the BMW 4 Series, the Mercedes-AMG C43 Convertible has been around for a while. It has aged gracefully, though, and remains a stunning convertible both inside and out, although the Audi has a more solidly constructed interior. With 385 horsepower, the C43 gets to 60 mph just before the Audi, but the margins are small. The Mercedes is comfortable in front but even tighter at the back than the Audi, and it has a smaller trunk, too. With that AMG badge, Mercedes stiffened up the C43's suspension to the point that some will think is too firm, but this contributes to it feeling remarkably agile considering its weight. Between the two, the Mercedes is the more engaging car to pilot, so it will be the first choice for enthusiasts. That being said, the Audi has got all the bases covered, and, in a head-over-heart decision, we'd side with the S5 cabrio.