Rob Douthit, Tue, 17 Mar 2009 08:00:00 PDT
What better setting for a beautiful new luxury sports car than a beautiful Mediterranean playground.Audi chose to give a sneak peek of its new A5 Cabriolet in the European principality of Monaco to a handful of journalists recently.And despite weather that turned out to be a bit cooler and damper than most of us would have preferred, we still got to experience the thrill of driving a dynamic, stunning machine with its top open.
To handle the test drive route, we took the version with the 3.0-liter V-6 supercharged engine linked to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that can be shifted manually if the driver chooses.Three engine choices will be available when the car arrives on U.S. shores in the fall. Audi says this supercharged engine is equal in power to the V-8 that was used previously in the A5 coupe, but offers far superior gas mileage.That's a good thing, because even those with enough Benjamins in the bank to afford this car will want to drive it frequently and spiritedly, and won't want to be interrupted by regular trips to the pump.
Three of the U.S. models will have Audi's famous Quattro all-wheel-drive system, including the one we tested.Audi officials said this system is better than most because it not only sends power to all four wheels and the front and rear axles, but can also shift power from right and left wheels, which aids steering and handling.Along with the A5, Audi is introducing an S5 Cabriolet, with the German brand traditionally designating its sportier models with the letter S.The A5 and S5 cabrios will replace the A4 and S4 drop tops.
Speaking of dropping the top, you don't have to stop.That is to say, you can be driving at speeds up to 30 mph and still open or close the cloth top, simply by depressing a button.It takes 15 seconds to open, 17 to close.Audi says it went with a soft top instead of a hard one because it fits into the design profile of the Cabriolet more harmoniously than a steel roof would have.
A steel roof also would have added weight and created wide, obvious body joints in the rear and decreased trunk space.The ability to close the roof on the fly came in handy on our test drive, as somewhere along one of the twisty Monaco roads, it started to rain moderately.Sure enough, after slowing down a tad, the roof closed on demand.From an interior design standpoint, you couldn't ask for much more in such a luxurious, sporty model.
The front seats are perfectly ergonomically tailored and offer neck-level heating as part of their climate-control package.An adjustable fan blows warm air through ducts to the back of the head and neck.That also came in handy when we had the top down, because the air was a bit cool and damp, and the warming fan made things much more comfortable.The high-grade materials and craftsmanship found throughout the interior are exactly what you would expect from Audi, which seems to set new standards for great interiors.
This car could be a huge hit when it comes to the U.S. this year.In addition to the 3.0-liter V-6 engine, U.S. cars will offer a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo or a 3.2-liter V-6.The base model will have front-wheel-drive, with others having the Quattro system.Pricing hasn't been announced yet.
While it was incredible to check out the A5 cabrio on the beautiful European roads - how could you beat that?