by Deiondre van der Merwe
It's always been difficult to make a premium convertible that doesn't just appeal to the head cheerleader or someone going through a midlife crisis, but with its latest S5 Convertible, Audi has managed to do just that. While the A5 Convertible might be relatively pedestrian, the S5 is anything but, with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 plating up 349 horsepower, delivered to the ground via Quattro all-wheel-drive and sport-tuned suspension setup. Even better for the S5 is that it somehow manages to be more accommodating to occupants than rival convertibles, whether we're considering ride quality or the interior itself. The feisty two-door has a minimal yet opulent cabin and further emphasizes Audi's uncanny ability to blend simplicity and luxury perfectly. Notably, the four-ringed delight is up against the BMW 440i Convertible, also a strong contender for the segment.
Audi has given the S5 convertible a new look for 2020, and it's done so through some new LED lighting and a larger grille that gives the face a steely glare. The front and rear lower fascia have been updated, and newly-shaped exhaust outlets are housed in a diffuser that's also different from last year. For the interior, Audi has added a new infotainment system through the addition of a 10.1-inch touchscreen, and the 2020 range is more affordable than the models of yesteryear.
The exterior of the convertible has changed in ways that are only truly visible to enthusiasts for 2020, with the only real giveaway being the more pronounced air intakes in the front bumper, while the headlights receive slightly tweaked LED design elements. The top-level Prestige trim receives Audi's laser light technology and the taillights boast LED lighting on all models, too, while the Prestige gets taillight animations. The S5 has enough creases and curves to be attractive, but not enough to compromise its conservative and elegant reputation, even with updated front and rear bumpers. Two exhaust pipes protrude austerely from either side of an equally modest diffuser and all models sit pretty on a standard set of 18-inch wheels.
Slightly longer than last year's model, the S5 has a total length measurement of 184.9 inches, which allows for a 108.8-inch wheelbase that's ever so slightly shorter than the 2019 model. The S5 stands 54.5 inches tall and has a width of 79.9 inches including the mirrors. A portly curb weight is attributed to the implements necessary for the sunlight-favoring drop-top, and the convertible weighs in at 4,178 pounds - just over 300 pounds heavier than its coupe counterpart.
The S5 is driven by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that hurls the convertible from 0-60 mph in under 4.8 seconds, which certainly isn't slow, given that the topless 440i xDrive manages a 5.1-second run. Its 349 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque do all the right things for smooth and steady acceleration, and the standard quattro all-wheel-drive system doesn't hurt. We wouldn't kick the optional rear differential out of bed either, but it's exclusively available for the two higher trim levels. An eight-speed automatic transmission performs artfully at higher speeds but dithers slightly when the wheels are turning at a slower pace. The S5 has the ability to please on a casual Sunday drive, but can magically turn the tables and become a relentless powerhouse if you ask it nicely.
Audi manages to find the crucial balance between a sporty and firm suspension without turning your organs into a non-vegan smoothie. Excellent handling abilities make twists and turns a joy to behold, and the S5 is what every modern luxury convertible aspires to, thanks to a pleasurably pliant suspension and admirable road manners. We wouldn't go so far as to say that the S5 is an undeniable track hero, but that's not what it was designed for. It was designed to deliver a boatload of steady power without compromising the comfort of its passengers. And that, it certainly does. The paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel allow the driver to rifle through gears at a more urgent pace if the situation demands it, and steering is adequately weighted. The optional Dynamic Steering is supposed to incite better steering response in 'dynamic conditions', but the system is as predictable as a highly contagious virus, so wash your hands of it and stick to the standard setup.
The S5 convertible drops its fuel economy slightly compared to its permanently roofed sibling, and the drop-top has EPA estimated figures of 19/26/22 mpg city/highway/combined. These figures are put to shame by the 440i xDrive Convertible's EPA estimated 20/27/23 mpg, so it's safe to say that the S5 isn't the most frugal convertible around. When its 15.3-gallon fuel tank is full, you can expect a range of just under 340 miles.
Two-door sport convertibles aren't known for their supreme space offerings, and the S5 is proof of this. Its front and rear real estate is bested by the BMW 440i, and this is especially shown in the back of the convertible, where no six-footer should dare to venture. That being said, the seats are of premium quality and they are comfortable and roomy enough to support occupants even on longer journeys. Heated 12-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way lumbar support aid overall comfort and visibility greatly for the driver and the standard massage function for both driver and passenger is a pretty nice bonus, too.
If you look up "sporty convertible" and search for synonyms, it's likely that one of the results will be "diminutive trunk space". The S5 Convertible has a maximum trunk space of 10.9 cubic feet, which is slightly smaller than the BMW 440i convertibles 13.06 cubes with the roof up. The Audi will manage one large suitcase at best, so arrange alternative transport to the airport if you're going away for more than two weeks. Slim door pockets won't allow for much more than a pair of glasses and a smartphone or two. The glovebox is decently sized and the center console allows for a good amount of storage space.
The S5 gets the kind of standard features list that you'd expect from a car with an entry-level price of $60,200. Push-button start gets the Premium-trim S5 going and three-zone climate control sets the cabin environment. The front seats are heated and 12-way power-adjustable and come standard with a massage function for the driver, while the Premium Plus adds a memory function. A leather-clad sport steering wheel joins the list of standard features from the base level, and wireless charging comes standard on Premium Plus models. An impressive list of safety features accompanies the Premium upwards. The Premium comes standard equipped with frontal collision warning with mitigation and pedestrian monitoring, as well as a city driving function. The Premium Plus adds park distance control, rear cross-traffic alert and lane keep assist. Added to the Prestige is a top view camera system and active lane assist, along with semi-autonomous parking, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition.
For 2020, Audi has added its new infotainment system dubbed MIB 3 to all S5 models, and it's so good that it's almost extraterrestrial. A 10.1-inch touchscreen plays host to the new system and also enables Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD Radio and Bluetooth streaming. Audio is brought to life by a ten-speaker sound system by default on the Premium and Premium Plus models. The Premium Plus enjoys Audi's Virtual Cockpit Plus, which is essentially a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and this trim level adds standard SiriusXM to its list of infotainment features. It's the Prestige trim level that boasts true luxury and convenience though and this model boasts an upgraded 20-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system along with a navigation system and a head-up display. Both the B&O sound system and the navigation can be equipped to the mid-spec Premium Plus from the options list.
The 2020 S5 convertible hasn't been the victim of any recalls as yet, but the 2019 S5 suffered one recall for the possibility of shock absorber forks cracking, resulting in loose shock absorbers impairing steering. Nevertheless, Audi offers a four-year or 50,000-mile basic warranty along with a twelve-year unlimited mileage warranty for corrosion. Roadside assistance is standard for four years.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has rated the S5 convertible, which is common amongst luxury cars. Still, the S5 comes standard equipped with plenty of safety features even at base level, and these include pedestrian monitoring and frontal-collision warning, while higher trims add features like rear cross-traffic alert and a top-view camera system.
The Audi S5 convertible does well to rid itself of the "hairdresser car" reputation usually associated with drop-top cars, and this is partially due to its relentless turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that provides heaps of power, even though this ultimately results in the S5 not being as economical as rivals. Not only does the Audi provide a comfortable ride, but it also offers superb handling capability - a hard balance to manage for the segment, but the S5 does it almost effortlessly. As if those merits aren't enough, the inside of the S5 is a wonderful place to spend prolonged periods of time thanks to upgraded tech and comfortable seating. All of this is complemented by premium materials from the headliner to the floor mats, and the exterior design is just as impressive. Certainly, a good choice if you're looking for a performance-focused convertible in 2020, although some buyers may lament the lack of driver involvement.
The most affordable way into the S5 convertible lineup starts at the Premium trim, with a base MSRP of $60,200. The mid-level Premium Plus increases this to an asking price of $62,700 but is supplanted by the Prestige as the most expensive trim. The top of the range Prestige model carries a far heavier price tag of $68,600. All models have a destination fee of $995, and options will quickly see those prices climb.
The middle child usually isn't the favorite, but the S5 Convertible is different. The Premium Plus model offers a healthy balance between added convenience and a lighter price tag compared to the top of the range model. This trim level adds Virtual Cockpit Plus, SiriusXM and wireless charging to its features list and bumps up its safety suite with the addition of lane keep assist and park distance control as well as rear cross-traffic alert. We'd recommend opting for the $1,350 Luxury package that adds ventilation to the front seats, power lumbar support, and a heated steering wheel, along with Hoxton leather. The Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, congestion braking, and active lane assist. With these packages combined, the Premium Plus still costs less than the top of the range Prestige. Audiophiles would also do well to pay an extra $950 for the 20-speaker B&O 3D sound system.
While Audi used to have the AWD side of this segment all to itself, Mercedes-AMG has joined the fray in recent years with the AWD C43. The Merc delivers higher power outputs than the Audi, thanks to an extra turbo, and is only slightly less economical. The S5 puts up a very good fight to best the Merc's immaculate interior, and succeeds due to the slightly cut-rate feeling of the C43. A more engaging driving experience is offered by the more powerful convertible, but this comes with a higher asking price that's over $4,000 more than its four-ringed rival. It's a tough one to pick between these two seasoned Germans. Both perform well, provide stellar interiors, and similar fuel economy. The C43 rides a little harsher, but it's more involving than the Audi. It'll likely come down to brand preference at the end of the day, but we'd opt for the Audi over the Mercedes this time around.
While BMW offers a lesser 430i Convertible, it's the six-cylinder 440i xDrive that genuinely rivals the Audi S5. Getting right to it, the BMW offers more interior space and considerably better fuel economy figures over the S5 along with a more expensive MSRP of $62,150. These are important factors, but the Audi manages to best the BMW in a few other measurable categories including the offer of a more powerful engine. The Audi's impeccable interior is hard to outshine, and the 440i's cabin feels dated compared to the S5, especially now that the infotainment system has seen an upgrade. The BMW previously had the upper hand because of the Audi's outdated MMI infotainment system, but now that MIB 3 has joined the party, the Audi takes the trophy. The Audi also takes the cake in terms of better driving dynamics and better acceleration. It must be said that the 4 Series is starting to feel a little long in the tooth even if it is more frugal when it comes to fuel economy. The S5 is the better buy of the two.
Check out some informative Audi S5 Convertible video reviews below.