Yes Yes Yes oh YES: great looks, expensive cabin, Quattro AWD, open top
Oh dear me no: Options can be pricey
The A5 is my favourite Audi. It has perfect proportions with just the right mix of masculinity, class and X factor. It isn’t showy but it is definitely impressive. There is a certain aura which attracts comment and until the recent Lexus RC-F was the most commented-on car since the first drive of the Toyota 86. The black on black convertible looks a little menacing but in the nicest possible way.
You might think a 2.0L turbo 4 cylinder might have trouble hauling around such a big car but it is quite the opposite. In the city, the A5 feels as light and nimble as a playful kitten. On the highway the smooth ride is limo-like and you could easily imagine doing many hours in the saddle just for the joy of it. This means as well as being a perfect city car, you also have a grand tourer which is thrifty as a Scotsman’s wallet. The 3.0L petrol is available but doesn’t have quite the same economy.
One of the common myths about open top cars is that they are cold, or hot and your expensive coiffure would be decimated in seconds. It is true that in very hot weather you’ll need the roof up if you don’t want 3rd degree burns but other than rain, there is no reason not to experience the unadulterated pleasure of being at one with nature.
One of the duties on the Mardi Gras weekend was to drive the Chiefs of parade who this year were Prof The Hon Dame Marie Bashir, ex governor of NSW and her hubby Sir Nicholas Shehady, ex Lord Mayor of Sydney and Aussie rugby captain. Their extensive list of achievements makes them both much adored by New South Welsh-people. An A5 was perfect for such laudable and inspiring VIPs but more about them later.
The A5 range has a coupe, convertible and fastback as family members and all have the same impeccable interiors. They have 1.8, 2.0 and 3.0 petrol and 2.0 and 3.0 diesel engines. For anything more powerful you’ll need to shop in the “S” models. For me, the fastback isn’t quite the success of the 2 door version but it is none the less popular. The cabriolet’s cabin has the same exclusive feel as its handsome exterior. The switch gear has the solid feel of quality and the leather comes from pampered cows who have never seen a barbed wire fence. And, there is lots of room too. The 2 VIP seats in the rear are deeply sculptured but like most big coupes wouldn’t be suitable for a really long journey, but for a circuit around town are just right. The front seats can also waft a cool breeze through the seat cushion on a hot day, and warm air at neck level on cool days.
The Drive mode is selectable giving different ride and engine responses. In any mode it is a pleasure to drive. The roof can be lowered or raised at speeds of 50kph which means that should the weather turn unexpectedly septic, you can gently caress the control and raise the triple layer ragtop and in a thrice you’re cocooned. With the roof up the Audi is almost as quiet as the coupe version. We drove through some particularly nasty storms but we felt as cosy as if we’d been wrapped in our favourite doona. The story was the same on the highway. With the roof up, the atmosphere was that of a mid-century modern gentleman’s club but going topless at any speed didn’t ruin the hair-dos. As with any convertible, if you really want the full Monty you must leave the windows down. This is how we did the Royal National Park drive so we could smell the forest, and hear the birds. Imagine driving through some of Australia’s ancient growth but feeling like you’re still in your cosy lounge room. It is pleasure free of guilt or inconvenience. We stopped in a small clearing in the rain forest. We turned the engine off and there we were, sitting in leather lounge chairs with our feet buried in sumptuous carpet. We were surrounded by leather, chrome and aluminum and felt as if Jeeves had unrolled a carpet and laid out the club lounge on the forest floor. The smells and sounds completely uninterrupted by glass or steel and we felt part of the scenery, not just distant onlookers. This is how life must be experienced, not sealed inside a clinical capsule however luxurious it may be. I can’t help but feel we have become disconnected from our surroundings. The slightest hint of moisture or a half a degree temperature change sends us into panic stricken conniptions. Try sitting in a forest in a convertible and see how you feel.
The roof is the most important ingredient of the convertible. This one has several layers of acoustic material and is a soft top. The advantage over folding steel is the amount of space it allows in the boot whether stowed or deployed. A neat feature is the roof cover which swings up towards the rear rather than being hinged at the rear edge. The complex mechanism opens much faster than a conventional hinged cover and the glass-windowed roof is then able to open or close with the whole process taking only about 20 seconds. If you change your mind after you’ve left the vehicle you can operate the roof from the door lock using the key. Now that is real genius.
The Bang and Olufsen sound system sounds great and is easy to use. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought it would sound better but perhaps that is because the more I drove it, the higher the bar was raised.
Once we hit the curves, the Quattro AWD hung on, and despite her size changed direction like a cat on carpet. The A5 has a way of making things feel like they are happening in slow motion. It has the excitement of a roller coaster, with posh seats and air conditioning. Everything feels calm, considered, and controlled.
When Audi heard Marie Bashir and Nick Shehady were chiefs of the Mardi Gras Parade they were thrilled and suggested the capacious A5 to add a sense of occasion.
We arrived early as the chiefs lead the parade and the vehicles line up in order of procession. I mustered the support of a dear old old old old friend for moral support. The scene was one of organized pandemonium. Slowly the marshaling zones began to fill with floats, frills and frothy costumes. There was a lot of bare skin and more buns than a Sunday morning bakery. We had gotten a bad case of nerves by the time the VIPs arrived. What do we call them? What will they think of a million queens throwing glitter with gay abandon? And, the buns!
Several hours later, as the light began to fade, we found out.
Dame Marie and Sir Nick appeared through the chaos in an electric buggy. There were meeters and greeters shaking hands and taking selfies and not once did the couple complain or refuse. No sooner was the car door open and the octogenarians leapt into the back seats with the enthusiasm of spring lambs. I’m not sure which of them was looking forward to the event more. As Dame Marie is so petite, she asked that the seat back be lowered so she could perch on it for extra height. I suggested it might not be very comfortable but she was having none of it. What a trooper.
She said she had wanted a rainbow flag but didn’t know where to get one. Luckily my hubby had bought her one for which she was most grateful. The first Australians also flooded us with flags to make a festive occasion feel even better.
The signal was given, and the parade began to move off. I said “OK kids, hang on, Off we go”. There is a lot of love out for both Dame Marie and Sir Nick. Dame Marie is our much loved Ex-governor who has worked in the community for tens of decades. Sir Nicholas is the ex-Lord Mayor of Sydney, Ex rugby captain and businessman and also much respected and loved.
Surprisingly you can hear everything said form the crowd. Many were heard shouting “we love you Marie” but there were also many comments about the car. Who’d have thought it? The DSG is a bit tricky to drive any distance at speeds of 5kph. The clutches grab and release making the ride feel like a series of mini surges but we coped. Dame Marie passed several gracious remarks about the Audi, and she should know what luxury feels like. She has been driven about in Jags and Rollers, and has greeted kings, queens and princes and entertained them at Government House.
Dame Marie told me to make sure she didn’t miss any well-wishers, even those on high balconies. We paused in Taylor Square for the raising of the Pride Flag then, sallied forth. As we turned in to Flinders St I heard “hey mum, mum, over here”. I asked Dame Marie if she had a daughter and pointed out a shouting lady. I presumed the shouts of “mum” she was not talking to any of the male passengers.
Towards the end of the route the crowd thinned we chatted more informally, as if any of the drive had been formal. That is not the Mardi Gras way. Sir Nick told us how the couple met and pointed out Marie’s school as we passed Girls High. He tapped my shoulder again pointing out the stand in his name at the football stadium. They couldn’t be prouder. Dame Marie said “you wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Nowhere does a party like Sydney”, and she is right. As quickly as it had begun, the parade finished and we found ourselves at the end. I told the couple that I had been asked to drive them back to Taylor Square to view the rest of the parade. Once Dame Marie was seated properly We prepared to head back. I asked her if she preferred the roof up or down. “It is a beautiful night. Let’s have the roof down. I don’t want to miss a thing” said Dame Marie.
We threaded our way through the atmospheric crowded streets of Surry Hills and arrived at a cordon. As if by magic, the constable waved us through. The couple thanked us but once again didn’t wait for the seats to fully slide back as they scampered from the back.
A few days later I found a package which had slid into the boot while the back seat was down. Dame Marie said she lost a package. Quick as a flash I put two and two together and had it returned to her. Within an hour my mobile rang. It was Dame Marie ringing to thank us for returning the package. I was chuffed.
The Audi A5 might just be my favourite ragtop ever. It was as economical and comfortable as it was smooth and nippy. Sure it costs many shekels but if you don’t like the price don’t buy it. If you want the bigger engines you’ve going to need deeper pockets but for my money the 2.0L turbo is smooth and silent and the DSG is silky. For the record I’ll always prefer a manual. The package is a nice combination of form and function.
Would I buy one? Yes. It was sensational even if a trifle expensive.
Engine: 2.0L turbo petrol, 165kw/350Nm, 7.2secs 0-100 (also 1.8L and 3.0L petrol and 2.0L and 3.0L diesel)
Trans: 7 Speed S tronic (DSG dual clutch auto)
1.8 Multitronic $89,732
2.0 S tronic Quattro $100,022
3.0 S tronic Quattro $120,967
2.0 multitronic $91,938
3.0 Multitronic $117,557