Everything we said after driving the RS5 coupe still rings true, even after Audi has gone and ripped off its metal roof, replaced it with a big cloth version, and tossed us the keys. The 2014 Audi RS5 Cabriolet is another bold, big-boned airmobile to make open-top lovers swoon. There is absolutely nothing revolutionary to speak of here versus its hardtop counterpart, frankly, but tear-assing through the southern French hills as the brilliant sun warmed us is plenty good reason to talk a lot about it anyway. And hey, it beats frigid January in Detroit, where the RS5 Convertible is shortly to receive its US introduction.
One issue that could corrupt things a bit is the convertible's added weight factor. It's one thing when an Audi TT removes its top and gains 176 pounds, or when a Porsche Cayman morphs into a Boxster and gains 66 pounds; the effect on dynamics will still be acceptable. But when it comes to a huge-roof coupe like the RS5, that gain in mass becomes 400-plus pounds in cabrio form, for a grand curb weight of 4,461 pounds. As a number attached to this size of a car that's also branded with an RS badge promising raciness, we admittedly fretted. Then we drove the Audi RS5 Cabriolet to cheer up.
Winter weather had moved in a touch at the highest points of our long loop through the Mediterranean Alps, necessitating some adjustments. For this, the optional low-profile Pirelli P Zero fair-weather treads on $1,000 20-inch wheels were wisely swapped out for optional 20-inch Dunlop Winter SP Sport 3D rubber, sized 275/30 R20 97W front and rear.
Would the combination of the added mass under momentum (4.6 seconds or better for acceleration to 60 miles per hour) and the less dynamic winter tires lessen our enjoyment?
Though it's possible to push around the seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission acceptably in more dynamic situations, the naturally aspirated 444-horsepower 4.2-liter V8 must be kept high in the rev band for best effect. The engine's torque peak of 317 pound-feet is up top, too, happening from 4,000 to 6,000 rpm, but at least the twist really doesn't lessen appreciably all the way to its generous 8,500-rpm redline.
The naturally aspirated 4.2-liter V8 must be kept high in the rev band for best effect.
It's no coincidence that this version of Audi's tried-and-true 4.2-liter V8 is known as HDZ for "high revving." Problems arise with timely downshifts, however, when the transmission's onboard brain tries to save the mechanical bits and fluid temperatures by ensuring the revs aren't too high. So the driver can either live with it and flap the paddle one, two, or three times before the downshift into the curve is allowed, or force the engine into lower revs by braking like a sledgehammer before entering and then downshifting. We stuck with the latter approach, which actually became entertaining, at least while driving solo. And neither was our test car gifted with the 15.0-inch $6,000 optional SGL ceramic front brake discs, though the standard compound lead-aluminum units worked fine all day.
The six-speed manual transmission isn't available in this convertible, which is a shame from the perspective of raw driver involvement. By the same token, its attitude of "just grab on, squeeze the throttle, and go" has its delights. If you can get out and about and hammer this thing, the S-tronic's paddle shifts not only feel fine with Audi Drive Select in Dynamic mode, but the latest iteration of Audi's electric power steering feels beefy, even though there is some numbness.
Its attitude of "just grab on, squeeze the throttle, and go" has its delights.
Oddly, though, this is a type of feel we can get used to in this car, and we were eventually able to milk some intense excitement from the platform, particularly when traction control was extinguished completely. On cars for the US and Canada, a swift-acting rear torque-vectoring sport differential is standard. The dampers and springs are more rigid no matter the mode, and ride height for the RS5 is set 0.8 of an inch lower than the standard A5 on which it's based.
Our chief challenge to Audi going forward is to strip the fat from this heifer. Especially in this cabriolet, this sort of rolling mass is the polar opposite of anything we would consider "race-inspired." Apparently "RS" is now meant to represent huge amounts of the latest onboard tech, with every personalization and comfort possible, along with great straight-line thrust. So why not develop a true RennSport-derived side brand for harder-core Audi aficionados? Knock off somewhere between 600 and 900 pounds, particularly from these larger RSes, then everything else on board should work in spectacular fashion. With the RS5 cars, why not go after – at least a little – the Nissan GT-R, for example? It would seem appropriate for all these German brands spending mega-bucks in the DTM racing series.
Our chief challenge to Audi going forward is to strip the fat from this heifer.
Alright, this is a pretty cabriolet, not a hardcore coupe, so we'll cut it some slack. There's even pretty good room in the trunk for our soapbox – a useful 11.3 cubic feet versus the stingy EPA rating on the RS5 coupe of 12.2 cubes. The exceptionally sturdy cloth roof is big, takes 15 seconds to open and 17 seconds to shut, and you can now finally actuate the roof at speeds of up to 31 mph. With the lid closed, we can say without exaggeration that this RS5 feels like driving a hardtop, albeit one that will cost about 13-percent more than the coupe, with a projected base price of $79,000 when it arrives Stateside in June.
Two of the cars in our phalanx were equipped with the available $1,000 black-tipped sport exhaust shown here, and it's an option we'd require – this set of pipes made all of the compensating moot that we were doing for this cabrio. The sound is so good with the top down that we treated each and every corner and tunnel as a chance to cue the chorus with unnecessary downshifts. Happy days, here again. Check out the Short Cut video above to see what we mean.
Yes, the 2014 Audi RS5 Cabriolet is a heavier RS5 with the naturally compromised dynamics to go with it, but it also possesses large cans of whupass to be opened in the presence of sun and wind, and that's it's own sort of grand reward.