Friday, April 20, 2012


In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that when it comes to convertibles, I pretty much like them all.
There may be some I like better than others, yes, but just about any time I’m in one, I’m having a good time. Unless it’s raining and I have to keep the top up. Then it’s a bummer.
I even found some good things to say about the old Chrysler Sebring, which past reviewers have found fault(s) with. I didn't like the way the top operation worked, and it wasn’t all that great a performer, but I still had fun.

So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise when I tell you I had a great time driving the new 2012 Audi A5 convertible.
It pretty much has it all -- good looks, good power, even respectable fuel economy -- in about a $45,000 package (before any extras are added on; more on that later). It even delivers decent fuel economy rated at 21 or 22 miles-per-gallon city and 29 or 30 highway depending on how it’s fitted out. Premium fuel is recommended. (Some see that as a deal breaker; but if you are spending over $45,000 for a car, what's another quarter per gallon?)
The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine can be mated to CVT (continuously variable transmission), a six-speed manual, or an eight-speed automatic with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
But even as a relative fuel-sipper (perhaps not by tree-hugger standards but we’re living in the real world here), the A5 pumps out 211 horsepower and an impressive 258 pound-feet of torque at a relative low 1,500 rpm. The zero-to-60 time is 6.7 seconds for the model I happened to have, which had the eight-speed Tiptronic transmission and all-wheel drive, which Audi labels quattro.

The result was that when I pushed it around a corner from a standing start, I not only got around it in very quick fashion but with such assurance it was like the car was on rails. I had the feeling I could push it a lot further if I desired, but not knowing what blue-light special might be around, I didn’t desire.
Even with that kind of performance, the A5 provided the kind of comfortable ride you get from more high-end luxury models designed to coddle, not challenge, the driver.
Besides the ride and handling and overall luxury features in the impressive cabin, one thing that impressed me was the operation of the top.
Practically all manufacturers, at least those putting out luxury droptops, have installed one-touch lower/raise operations for the roof. What impressed me about Audi’s was the gentle way the top secured itself as it closed. There wasn’t the loud “clunk” when the top came down on the windshield frame that I have experienced on some other makes.
A small thing, but the kind of attention to detail that one should expect, no demand, when shopping in the luxury segment.
The entire operation, raising or lowering the top, took in the neighborhood of 15 seconds, and one nice feature, especially if you are living in a place where a shower can come up even when no obvious clouds are overhead, is that you can raise or lower the top while moving, at speeds of up to 30 mph, according Audi. 
There is also an little indicator light in the center of the instrument panel that informs you when the operation as been completed.

The top, by the way, is not a full hardtop that has become popular in recent years but is of the soft variety. But with its extra cushiony thickness, the A5 still is a relatively quiet vehicle when driving with the top up, and because it is a soft top, you don’t lose as the trunk space you do with the hardtops lowered.
I mentioned a $45,000 starting price, which is pretty astounding for a vehicle of this quality.  But the options do add up quickly.
The MSRP for my test model was $45,575 including the destination charge, but by the time the option packages that added such features as navigation system, upgraded sound system, perforated Milano leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, LED daytime running lights and taillights, and much more, the total came to $55,655, which is more the figure I expected when I saw it for the first time.
Oh. A word or two here about Audi’s MMI Navigation Plus system, common throughout the lineup, not just on the A5. You operate not only the navigation system but other functions like the audio and climate systems off a control knob in the center of the console.
It can take some getting used to because you must push the correct button so you get the desired function when you turn or press the knob. (You also have to do something similar with the knobs when adjusting the blower or temperature control on the center stack. 
But it’s not really as complicated as it sounds here. I have seen other systems certainly more befuddling. Frankly, if I can get the hang of it, just about anybody can.
Some might find it even fun to operate, kind of like driving with the top down.

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