Back in 2007, Audi launched the A5 model range to a fantastic critical response. It was of course inevitable that the RS division would get a chance to tweak with the model; in 2010 we got the first generation Audi RS5 Coupe. Cabriolet fans had to wait a further two years until the 2012 Paris Motor Show for the Audi RS5 Cabriolet. Fans of the Audi A5 will know that the RS5 Cabriolet followed after the complete facelift revealed earlier in 2012.
So what makes the Audi RS5 Cabriolet so special? First and foremost (at least to our eyes) is the fact that it will probably be one of the last Audi models, together with the RS4, where you can find the high-revving, naturally aspirated 4.2 litre V8 FSI engine.
We know the 4.2 litre V8 FSI engine quite well. Fitted to the Audi RS5 Cabriolet is a second generation 32 valve version of the 4.2 litre V8. It replaced the 40 valve version back in 2006 and now features a healthy 450 hp at 8250 rpm and 430 Nm between 4000 and 6000 rpm. The key to this engine’s character is the high-revving nature. The engine revs all the way to a stunning 8500 rpm.
Now for the boring stats… The lack of forced induction means that efficiency isn’t exactly class-leading. It manages 26.4 mpg, which isn’t all that bad considering the levels of performance involved. Co2 emissions are 249 g/km which puts it at the higher end of the tax scales in most countries.
In a world where turbocharging and supercharging have become a mainstay of the performance car market, the Audi RS5 Cabriolet seems to stand at odds to the competition.
Gearbox & Drivetrain
The engine is fitted to a 7-speed S-tronic gearbox, not the 8-speed box that now that comes fitted to the RS6. The gearbox comprises two multi-plate clutches and two transmission parts. These are both permanently active but only one of them is connected to the engine.
To explain this Audi has a great example. When the driver accelerates in third gear, the second part of the transmission is already set in fourth gear. At the point where the gear change happens, the first clutch opens whilst the second one closes. The gear change takes a few hundredths of a second and there is almost no loss of power.
As is industry standard nowadays, you can choose to shift yourself or to leave it in automatic. This can be changed in several ways. First by using the paddles behind the steering wheel or by shifting with the selector lever. In automatic you can change the characteristics by using Audi drive select or by putting the selector lever in S (Sport) or D (Drive). To reduce the fuel consumption and emission, the seventh gear has a long transmission ratio designed as overdrive.
The oldest (and best-known) system fitted to every Audi RS model is of course the Quattro permanent all-wheel drive system. The Audi RS5 Cabriolet features the latest generation of Quattro. It includes the self-locking crown gear centre differential and has a wheel-selective torque control. The system is lighter and more compact than previous designs. Torque distribution is 40:60 (Front/Rear) and the result is precision controlled handling as well as increased agility with a lot of traction.
The engineering allows the RS5 Cabriolet accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 4.9 seconds and from 100-200 km/h in 11.5 seconds. Normally the top speed is limited at the German industry standard 250 km/h but our test car had the limited increased to 280 km/h as part of its options package.
So the Audi RS5 Cabriolet is not the fastest of RS models, however, the Quattro system launches the car perfectly every time without traction difficulties. The addition of Audi’s torque vectoring system also allows you to use the power in places that other cars simply would not be able. Its advantage over its rear wheel drive rivals is clear.
The body of the RS5 Cabriolet is 20mm lower than that of the A5 Cabriolet. The engine mounts are also stiffer and the anti-roll bars are larger and stronger. The character of the sport suspension can be changed through four different driving modes and with the optional Dynamic Ride Control system.
Dynamic Ride Control interconnects each shock absorber via hydraulic oil lines. During aggressive cornering, the oil flow shifts to the loaded wheel and increase the support. Computers monitor the suspension behaviour and the distribution of oil changes depending on the different driving modes.
Comfort mode is perfect for cruising and long distance travel. Steering is at its most docile, exhaust baffles are closed for the large part and the ride is least aggressive. The gearbox is also set to automatic. Auto mode provides a more engaging feel. Audi says it will adapt to the driving style. If you are cruising, it will maximise efficiency and ride comfort in the same way comfort mode would. If the mood takes you, it also allows for a more spirited approach.
Dynamic mode is the option we were most interested in. It sharpens throttle response, stiffens dampers and generally provides the most performance-focussed option. The full blooded exhaust note also becomes most apparent in this mode and the gearbox gets sharper with manual changes the preferred method.
Prefer a blend of all three of the above modes? Our test car featured the MMI navigation system which meant that we could also set the Dynamic Ride Control in individual mode. That means you can set the characteristics of the steering system, the gearbox, throttle valves and exhaust system sound flaps independent of the factory default settings.
All the important elements are made of aluminium to keep the kerb weight low. The Audi RS5 Cabriolet is fitted straight from the factory with 265/35 tires but our test car had the optional 275/30 tires. In terms of handling, normally, the wider, the better. Yet this also means sacrifices for comfort!
Last but not least, our car was fitted with ceramic brakes. These are an option on the RS5 Cabriolet. If you opt for the standard units you get a set of internally ventilated and perforated discs measuring 365 mm (14.37 in) in diameter at the front. The ceramic options feature a set of 6-piston callipers.
As with every RS model, the Audi RS5 Cabriolet has a set of visual upgrades to distinguish it from other models in the range. The honeycromb high-gloss anthracite grill, large air inlets, widened wheel arches and 20-inch aluminium wheels are standard upgrades for an RS model nowadays. The rear features twin oval exhaust tailpipes and is finished with a carbon-fibre spoiler.
The Audi RS5 Cabriolet is that rare blend of four-seat performance Cabriolet. It competes largely with the BMW M4 today. It is of course a similar concept to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, however, Mercedes-Benz chose not to produce an AMG variant of that car and therefore, there is no performance competition. Unlike both those models, the Audi has a traditional cloth roof.
Our particular car had a Misano Red finish which is a real eye catcher. RS logos are applied to the grill and the boot of the Cabriolet. The lightweight textile roof fits the character of the RS5 and there are no unpleasant mechanical noises. Best of all, it allows you to enjoy that incredible soundtrack!
Compared to the outside, the inside can feel slightly dull. Audi interiors are not world renowned for innovation, as a result, the RS5 Cabriolet looks little different from the rest of the A5 range. In typical Audi fashion, the feel is solid with a lot of black and some brushed aluminium parts. You are reminded of the car’s provence by the application of RS logos to the steering wheel, selector lever knob and on the tachometers. The door jambs also display the famous logo together with an aluminium inlay.
The use of carbon fibre inlays is one benefit to owning the RS5 Cabriolet. Our particular car felt a little lacking on the style side and we felt it could have benefitted from contrasted stitching. A bit of red stitching on the steering wheel, dashboard and seats for example would give the interior a more, unique, sporty look.
Our test car was fitted with the optional bucket seats. The seats look incredible and the lateral support is great. The lumbar support and width adjustments are electric and 4-way adjustable. The seat height is manual. In a luxury Cabriolet like this, the seat heating system is essential to the enjoyment of driving top down when it is a bit chilly outside. When you are getting tired of the sound of wind or the V8 you can turn up the volume of the Bang & Olufsen sound system.
After picking up the Audi RS5 Cabriolet, the first thing we did was open the roof. The roof retracts in just 15 seconds and can be raised in just 17 seconds. Both operations can be completed at speeds of up to 50 km/h. The weather predictions were good but it was early so the temperature was about 15 degrees. We kept the windows and the windscreen up because we had some time on the highway ahead. With the driving mode set to comfort, we were ready to experience the Audi RS5 Cabriolet.
What first struck us was the lack of V8 noise and the incredibly refined ride, no bumps or potholes to feel here. If the RS5 logos weren’t there it would be hard to believe that his wasn’t some four cylinder A5 Cabriolet. Luckily the colour, big exhausts and the aggressive looks are getting some attention from other road users.
We decided to leave the highway for some city driving. Keeping the driving mode in comfort, the RS5 Cabriolet acts much like a normal Audi A5 Cabriolet. Almost no sounds and the s-tronic gearbox keeps the engine in the low rev range. Once the throttle is half way open, you start to notice that you aren’t in a normal Audi A5. Acceleration is already a lot faster compared to the other traffic and the V8 is waking up in the background.
Time to change some settings. We hit the paddles behind the steering wheel so we can shift by ourselves. This time we squeeze the throttle a bit harder than before and while shifting at around 5000 rpm, we finally starting to enjoy the sound of the V8. In combination with the S-tronic gearbox, it provides some nice exhaust backfires when changing gears.
So far we did not shift the Audi drive select. From comfort, we put the drive select into dynamic, while the gearbox is still in manual, this is the setting for ambitious drivers. Naturally, we chose to test this mode on tight, narrow country roads.
We notice that the jump from comfort to dynamic is really dramatic. The first thing what we start to feel are the bumps. You can feel almost every unevenness of the tarmac. This can be a good thing but on the other hand it could get a little annoying after a while. The second thing that changes is the steering. Especially at driving speeds up to 80 km/h, the power steering feels a lot heavier. This is what you want while attacking the twisty roads.
Besides the suspension and the steering, the accelerator pedal characteristic changes. The reaction is just as fast as you can think and the car immediately reacts to your throttle inputs. When taking a fast corner with your foot on the throttle you can feel the Quattro system working its magic.
Given that the engine is fitted up front, the nose of the RS5 is relatively heavy and you can feel that. Turning in to corners you have understeer which the turns to oversteer if you keeping your foot on the throttle and accelerate out. This all feels really controllable and in the end the car brings you safely to the end of the corner.
What to spec?
– We love the nappa leather black metallic bucket seats but we would prefer the diamond-patterned stitching in Audi exclusive crimson red! The 5-V-spoke design rims look great but for a more sporty look we would take the 5-arm rotor design in titanium look with a high-gloss turned finish. But these things are all about personal taste.
– The Sports Package is a must-have. Audi have grouped together the optional 5-rotor 20 inch wheels, the sports exhaust and dynamic steering into one helpful package. If you plan on enjoying your car’s performance, you really must invest in all these optionss.
MMI Navigation Plus.
– The RS5 buckets seats are a must have for optimal support.
– Seat heating, front and rear to enjoy driving with the top down even when it is chilly.
– Bang & Olufsen sound system
The Audi RS5 Cabriolet is one of the best all round high performance Cabriolets you can buy at the moment. However much we love the old V8, it is getting old. The newer engines are more economical and faster.
BMW will soon release their new M4 Convertible and that will be a problem for the RS5. We are looking forward to the next generation of this because we will always love the RS models and Audi’s wonderful Quattro system.