Do you remember that bookworm at college that always quietly did the work, never mixed and got top grades? Do you remember the day they went out and bought a bottle of Vodka and danced on the tables? Welcome to the Audi RS 5 Cabriolet. It's what happens when the quiet, efficient type suddenly lets their hair down.
Whilst the superficial perception of BMW is all about flashy "driving machines" and that of Mercedes is all about building limousines for plutocrats, Audis are supposed to appeal to our inner German engineer. Subtle, well-designed, impeccably built, efficient and a tad dull. Audi has had great success with their unrelenting focus on this paradigm and with maintaining an unified vehicle range.
Having worked so hard to create that solid reputation, immense fun, and indeed profits, can be had by subverting it.
This month’s Paris Auto Show saw the launch of the Audi RS5 Cabriolet. The standard A5, the sports car for people who don’t like sports cars, is transformed by the installation of a hand-built 4.2 litre V8 engine producing 445 hp, plus a bunch of chassis modifications befitting the RS moniker.
The body is 20 mm (0.8 in) lower than that of the Audi A5; its mounts are stiffer, and its anti-roll bars are larger and firmer. Five-link front and self-tracking trapezoidal-link rear suspension with high aluminum content imparts great agility, and large, internally-ventilated wave brake discs with eight-piston calipers instill confidence.
Carbon fiber-ceramic brake discs are also available at extra cost, as is the Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) system, which uses diagonally opposed pairs of shock absorbers linked by hydraulic lines and a central valve. During fast cornering, the system intensifies the stabilization of the front outside wheel for stability. Its response can be varied across three settings at the touch of a button
A dynamic steering option is also available for integration into the standard Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system, enabling the actual ratio of the steering to be varied according to the four Audi drive select settings comfort, auto, dynamic and individual. When the dynamic steering option isn't specified, the system can apply these same four settings to the steering weighting, along with the S-tronic transmission's shift points and the throttle's response. It can also modulate the distinctive V8 sound of the exhaust system.
Permanent quattro all-wheel-drive is of course standard, and is backed up here by torque vectoring, the crown-gear center differential and the rear sport differential for protection against traction losses, and split-second allocation of torque between the front and rear axles and the rear wheels. Up to 70 percent can flow to the front or as much as 85 percent to the rear, as necessary. The default 40:60 ratio of the rear-biased configuration ensures interesting handling.
The lightweight "acoustic hood" of the RS 5 Cabriolet offers a degree of sound absorption close to that of the fixed head counterpart, and at the press of a button opens and closes fully automatically in 15 seconds and 17 seconds respectively – even when driving at speeds of up to 31 mph.
When open, it hardly affects the size of the spacious luggage compartment – it requires 60 liters (2.1 cu.ft.) of its 380 liter (13.5 cu.ft.) total volume. The split rear seat-backs can be folded down individually, and a through-load facility from the boot to the rear seating area provides versatility. Special reinforcements contribute to the convertible body's rigidity, and aluminum front wings compensate for some of the added weight of the reinforcements.
The front body fascia of course has the same subtle 2012 tweaks that virtually every other car in the Audi range has had – sharper contours, revised grill, new LED daylight runners etc. It’s a handsome vehicle in that slightly bland Audi way, but the fun is in having the sexiest version of the A5 you can buy.
Deliveries start early next year in Europe at a base price of €88,500 (about US$110,000) excluding taxes.