Halo model in Audi A5 range packs an incredible punch and serves up visceral wind-in-your-hair driving thrills

What is it?

A halo car for the A5 range, the brawny Audi RS5 cabriolet is a four-seat convertible that blends premium exterior and interior looks with prodigious performance and four-wheel-drive versatility.

The drop-top RS5 is powered by Ingolstadt’s gloriously meaty, hand-built 4.2-litre V8 (naturally aspirated – increasingly rare in this age of turbocharging) and produces the same 444bhp and 317lb ft as the Audi RS5 coupé.

The engine is mated to a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission, while Audi’s quattro four-wheel drive technology transfers that power to the road.

In place of the RS5 coupé’s metal roof there’s a three-layer fabric hood that retracts in 15sec at the press of a button and unfurls back into place in 17sec, all at speeds of up to 31mph.

Exterior upgrades including bigger air intakes, bespoke bumpers and flared wheel arches give the RS5 a powerful stance to suit its power output.

In the cabin, there are Nappa leather sports seats offering good body support, a chunky, flat-bottomed steering wheel and the kind of quality fixtures and finishings on which Audi has built its reputation.

What's it like?

With a price nudging £70k even before your pen hovers over the options boxes, it isn’t the cheapest way to experience wind-in-your-hair cruising, but it is one of the most thrilling.

Late last year we tried a left-hand-drive RS5 cabriolet on the continent, but our first test on Britain’s roads came on a sunshine-and-showers spring day that provided ample opportunity to test the automatic roof mechanism.

When the three-layer fabric hood is up, the cabin is well insulated from external noise, even at motorway speeds. With the roof down, wind swirl is low and, naturally, it is the best way to appreciate the car’s full potency.

Unleashing that involves toggling through Drive Select – the system that controls the preset driver modes – to Dynamic. As an aggressive snarl emanates from the oval exhaust tailpipes, acceleration becomes even keener, the steering sharpens and the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox blurs up through the gears with single-minded intent.

Our test car was also equipped with an optional Dynamic Ride Control system that adjusts the suspension stiffness in tandem with the selected driver mode.

A kerb weight of 1920kg – 205kg more than the RS5 coupé and 15kg more than its main rival, the auto-equipped BMW M3 convertible – gives the engine a fair amount of heft to haul, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the vivacity with which it accelerates from a standstill or serves up mid-range urge.

Slowing down, a task performed by 365mm front and 324mm rear discs, is effective in most situations, although you’re offered the occasional extra reminder of the car’s weight if you have to call on the stoppers in a hurry.

The RS5 cabriolet gets specific spring, damper and anti-roll settings and suspension that’s 20mm lower than the standard A5 cabriolet, and for a big car it feels responsive during cornering. You feel slightly detached from the action, however, possibly as a result of the torque vectoring and trick differential technology that’s redistributing the available power to the wheels and doing some of the hard work on your behalf.

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What’s more, the fun of trying to even come close to exploring the limits of the cabrio’s levels of grip and acceleration is spoilt by the over-firm ride, particularly in Dynamic mode. Our test car also rode on 20in wheels (19s are standard), which probably didn’t help the sensation of being jostled uncomfortably from ridge to bump to divot, often accompanied by an unwelcome body shimmy.

Switching to Comfort mode improves the drop-top’s road manners, but is also akin to donning ear-defenders at a Metallica gig: it’s more manageable, but leaves you feeling a step removed from the full-on RS experience.

Drive Select also offers Automatic and Individual settings; the former adapts to the terrain itself while the latter allows elements such as the steering, suspension, engine/gearbox and differential to be set up to the drivers’ preference. It could open the door to a compromise setting that highlights the car's best attributes and reins in the others.

Should I buy one?

This fast but flawed drop-top can occasionally make your spine tingle when the road and your mood suits.

The RS5 cabriolet is broadly pitched as a rival for the M3 convertible, which it trumps in several key areas including power and torque, as well as fuel economy (26.4mpg versus 24.6mpg) and even luggage space (320 litres against 210 litres).

However, the rear-drive BMW costs about £7000 less when equipped with a dual clutch automatic gearbox. While that car lacks the all-round surefootedness of the quattro-equipped RS5 cabriolet, in our opinion it retains the edge when it comes to driver engagement.

If the Audi badge resonates more strongly than Munich’s motif, the RS5 cabriolet possesses desirability in spades, but the limited prospects of exploiting its full dynamic potential on UK roads might prompt shrewder motorists to consider the slightly tamer, much cheaper and more rounded Audi S5 cabriolet.

Audi RS5 Cabriolet

Price £68,985; 0-62mph 4.9sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 26.4mpg; CO2 249g/km; Kerb weight 1920kg; Engine V8, 4163cc, petrol; Power 444bhp at 8250rpm; Torque 317 lb ft at 4000-6000rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic

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J Seymour 16 November 2016

There’s no doubt that premium

There’s no doubt that premium roadsters come equipped with the tech to tackle the vices of wind noise and buffeting. But to enjoy a relaxing wind-in-the-hair experience in an ordinary drop top one must have a wind deflector fitted. My Cabrio finally transformed into a peaceful machine after mounting the Zefferus windscreen. Now I can relish the al fresco cruises even on the highways with minimal to no wind buffeting.
JWilliams 24 August 2017

Absolutely, some roadsters

Absolutely, some roadsters are silent and some are outright noisy when it comes to handling the gust. Regardless of what drop top you have, it is always recommended to affix a good wind deflector. We never know when it’s going to get nasty. Btw the one on my ride is a modest Backblade wind restrictor and now I’m one happy roadster owner with no trace of wind noise or turbulence whatsoever even while I’m cruising on the highways.

TerryM 10 September 2016

It must be truly thrilling to

It must be truly thrilling to relish the wind-in-the-hair ecstasies without the vices of wind noise and buffeting to trouble us in this Porsche Cabrio! I wish all roadsters came fitted with such state-of-the-art tech to tackle the wind swirls. But, sadly that’s not going to happen anytime in the near future, leaving us with the sole option of mounting a good 3rd party draught-stop. Well, I’ve mounted a Windblox windstop and it does serves the purpose of keeping my Cabrio’s cabin hush and noise-free even at high motorway velocities.
ThwartedEfforts 19 April 2013


this is the kind of thing I'd love to experience. Just not insure, fill up with petrol, suck up the depreciation for or be seen dead in.

I'm also guessing the term "visceral" in the subheading refers to the car's predictably crummy ride, something for which there is really no excuse this day and age. And honestly, £70K for a premium badge that's as common as tattoos? It's all a bit Essex.

Incidentally we should all have a count up of how many Audis we see on our drives home this evening, and anyone who manages fewer than two dozen wins four ring donuts. Interlinked of course.