by Roger Biermann
A car of leisure would be the best way to describe the 2019 S5 Cabriolet, Audi's take on a luxury two-door convertible. Having undergone a full redesign in 2018, the S5 Cabrio looks and feels better than ever, as it should, because the competition, mainly German, is stronger than ever too. The BMW 440i xDrive convertible and Mercedes-Benz AMG C 43 cabriolet both offer a four-seat, turbocharged, wind-in-your-hair experience for around the same amount of money. The S5 Cabrio's 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 churns out 349 horsepower, and sends its power to all four wheels. A recent redesign means there's a lot of fresh tech inside, including Audi's well known MMI infotainment system. The 2019 Audi S5 cabriolet is priced at the higher end of its class, but it brings an impressive features list and balanced performance to any midlife crisis party, so hold on to your toupes as we take a closer look.
Audi has added an optional Black optics exterior package to the S5 lineup that includes a set of matte titanium finished 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 265/30 R20 summer tires, a titanium black exterior trim that features high-gloss black touches to the side mirror housings and elsewhere. The convenience package that comes standard on the Premium Plus and Prestige trims now include blind-spot monitoring, and the top of the line Prestige sees the addition of rear cross-traffic alert and parking assistance.
The 2019 S5 cabriolet's styling is a continuation of the elegantly reserved look and feel that Audi has been promoting ever since the B8 generation of cars. In a class where muscular looks and excess rule, the S5's minimalist design is much welcomed. As with the S5 coupe, the cabriolet's body features long and flowing lines that are eventually intersected by sharp contrasting LED head and taillights and a gaping grille in the front. The standard 18-inch wheels are just large enough to fill the arches, and small touches such as a color-matched trunk lip spoiler, and quad exit exhausts keep the S5 cabriolet from fading into executive obscurity.
The S5 shares its platform with the Audi A4, to give you a better perspective of the size of the car we're discussing. The 2019 S5 Cabrio measures 184.7 inches in length, is 54.4 inches high, 72.7 inches wide, and rides on a 108.9-inch wheelbase. As is to be expected when you add heavy electronic convertible roof gadgetry and body reinforcement, the S5 Cabrio's curb weight sees a rather hefty increase, ballooning from 3,847 pounds in the Coupe to 4,211 for the cabriolet. Even so, the Audi is still 117 pounds lighter than BMW's 440i xDrive.
The S5 Cabrio delivers the kind of performance that can best be described as a turbocharged fist in a matte brushed aluminum glove. It shies away from its previous big V8, in favor of a turbocharged V6, following the current downsizing trend. The all-aluminum V6 uses a twin-scroll turbocharger system to produce 349 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. That's enough power to catapult this topless German from 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds. Power is sent to all four wheels via a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, which does a fine job of most of the time, but shows slight hesitation at low speeds.
It's not as visceral as an AMG Mercedes, but it delivers the kind of Q-car performance that will stun inexperienced drivers, and catch red-light warriors by surprise every time. The S5 Cabrio does a praiseworthy job of hiding its mass, thanks to a massive lump of low to mid-range torque. Low-speed acceleration can feel somewhat hesitant at, but as soon as the S5 gains momentum, you know about it. Far from being a laid back cruiser, which it can be, the S5 Cabrio still commands a healthy amount of respect, as it's seriously fast.
The S line cars apply a more focused approach toward ride and handling dynamics, while still retaining a respectable level of comfort. There's no denying the fact that Audi's S5 Cabrio is on the heavier side, and when pushing it through the corners, mechanical grip fades sooner than in the coupe version. Steering is light and precise, great for city driving, and weighs up just enough when you increase speed, but it lacks crucial feedback. Left in Comfort mode, the S5 Cabrio rides beautifully. The S5 Cabrio does best entering a corner at a sensible speed, and then being catapulted out with turbocharged torque. Stopping the Cabrio is a set of six-piston calipers up front which does a fine job, and even under harsh use, fade is minimal. It's not as involving as the BMW might be, or as taut as the S5 Coupe, but it's not a bad compromise, all things considered.
Audi gives an EPA estimated gas mileage estimates of 21/30/24 mpg city/highway/combined, which is admirable, especially when considering the fact that the less powerful BMW 440i xDrive will get 20/29/23 mpg. The 2019 Audi S5 cabriolet is fitted with a 15.3-gallon fuel tank, that should see you cruising for around 367 miles before you'll have to stop to refuel.
The interior of the S5 Cabrio is superlative. Audi loves to keep its interior designs simple yet elegant, and you'll find the same design language in the S5. The layout of controls is intuitively ergonomic, especially once you're on the move and need to focus on the road ahead. Brushed aluminum inserts and S logos can be found scattered around the cabin, and the quality of the leather used on the upholstery is top class. Visibility is good with the top up, the seats are sporty enough but will be comfortable on long road trips, and the driving position is great, partly due to the vast amount of adjustability in the steering wheel and driver's seat. The S5 gets gorgeous gray contrast stitching on the seats, along with the S logo.
The S5 Cabrio was built with driver enjoyment in mind, not so much practicality and cargo space, and you can sure tell when looking at the luggage capacity numbers. The S5 Cabrio shares a platform with the A4, a small luxury sedan with a trunk space of 14 cubic feet. Now add a folded roof in the back and what do you end up with? The sum total of 7.2 cubic feet of trunk space. That's about enough space to carry enough luggage for a couple on a weekend jaunt to the Hamptons. Trunk space is comparable to its competitors, all of whom are stuck in the 'nothing special' category. The rear seats can fold down to open up some more room, perfect for carrying two or more golf bags. Personal storage space is decent, but the glove box seems small.
The 2019 S5 Cabrio comes packed with an impressive list of standard features, including heated and power adjustable seats with a massage function for front passenger and driver, automatic climate control, leather and Alcantara upholstery, aluminum interior inserts, and a rearview camera. The higher-spec models also get driver's seat memory, rear USB ports, and wireless phone charging. There's a fair amount of driver assistance in here too, including adaptive cruise control, a top-view camera, a head-up display, rear cross-traffic alert, and Audi pre sense collision mitigation systems.
The 2019 S5 Cabrio makes use of Audi's MMI infotainment system. This system has been around for a while now, but Audi has managed to keep it relevant through constant updates, and the centrally located dial switch that controls menu selection and inputs is easy to use. The MMI system comes with two USB ports in the front, and two in the rear, as well as Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto integration. Both the Premium Plus and Prestige models get the larger 8.3-inch screen, as well as a 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display with navigation and handwriting recognition technology. The Prestige also gets an upgraded sound system; a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen job with 755 watts of audio output.
The 2019 Audi S5 cabriolet has been subjected to one recall, issued in February 2019 for a defective shock absorber which could develop hairline cracks that would negatively affect handling. Audi backs up their car with a four-year/50,000 mile warranty.
No official safety tests have been conducted, but seeing as the A5 is based on the Audi A4, a car that scored a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, it should be fair to assume that the S5 Cabrio will keep its occupants safe in case of an accident. The S5 Cabrio comes equipped with front pre-collision warning systems, blind-spot monitoring and a host of airbags as standard. The higher-spec Prestige gains a head-up display, cross-traffic alert, lane keep assistance and more.
Audi's 2019 S5 cabriolet manages to combine comfort, luxury, and rapid performance in a package that isn't too outrageously styled, and that is what makes it so appealing. It impresses in almost every aspect. The interior is peerless, performance is seriously brisk, and the comfort levels are high. Debits? Cargo space is seriously limited, and some might not like the understated looks. The gearbox could benefit from some recalibration for low-speed driving, but despite these minor issues, the Audi S5 cabriolet delivers one of the most balanced driving packages in the luxury convertible market.
The Premium Plus starts off with an MSRP of $65,100 and the Prestige will cost you $68,800. These prices exclude a destination fee of $995. The S5 Cabrio is competitively priced for its class, even though it ranks as the most expensive German contender.
The Premium Plus S5 Cabrio already comes with so many features, that the Prestige's role in Audi's portfolio is purely to put the cherry on the cake in terms of small nice-to-haves. Both cars get Audi's fantastic 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display, as well as the 8.3-inch MMI infotainment display screen, but the Prestige does have a few tricks up its sleeve that could swing the choice in its favor: a head-up display and Bang & Olufsen sound system, along with added active safety tech makes the Prestige a more accomplished car, and you can't really put a price on that. Well, technically you can; it's $3,700, and for that amount, the added benefits are totally worth it.
The 2019 BMW 440i xDrive is powered by a 3.0 liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine producing 320hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, enough to get it from 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds. Visually it's a more aggressive car, with bolder styling inside and out. The BMW can't match Audi's interior quality and comfort but does feature all of the latest tech. Both cars drive all four wheels, but the BMW delivers a more entertaining driving experience. The Audi is slightly lighter on fuel but costs more to purchase. The BMW retails for $62,000 and should be the choice for keener drivers.
The Mercedes-AMG C43 uses similarly understated styling to hide the fact that underneath it hides some serious performance potential. This Mercedes will run 0-60mph in 4.6 seconds, 0.2 seconds faster than the Audi, all thanks to a bi-turbo 3.0-liter V6 that produces 385 hp and 384 lb-ft. The C43 is every bit a match for the Audi when it comes to interior comfort, and offers a more composed ride. The Mercedes AMG C43 will appeal to the same group of buyers as the S5; those who prefer a refined and reserved rocketship over a shouty muscle car. The Mercedes AMG C43 cabriolet retails for $63,650. Both are equally as good, so it comes down to brand preference this time.