First drive: Audi RS 5 Cabriolet
What is it?
This is the face-melting, fire-breathing sibling of the Audi A5 sans the metal roof. In the tin top's place sits a rather attractive three-layered fabric number that can be raised or lowered in around 16 seconds. Topless driving experiences don't get much more potent than this because although the sleek exterior gives off strong aromas of Cote d'Azur posturing, it's actually disguising an absolute atom bomb of an engine.> What's under the bonnet?
Customers get one choice and one choice only: the kidney-crushing 4.2 litre, naturally aspirated V8 that can be found in none other than Audi's utterly brilliant R8 supercar. The unit can pump out just shy of 444bhp at 8,250rpm and go on to a top speed of 174mph if you dig a little deeper to lift the 155mph limiter. The powerplant is fiery and the rev needle will climb to astonishing levels before the auto box up-shifts. Just don't expect to get anywhere near the claimed 26.4mpg, we managed to slurp half a tank on an hour-long pootle around Berkshire.
What's the spec like?
The RS 5 Cabriolet is fairly generously loaded, featuring trinkets such as 19-inch alloy wheels, RS Super Sports seats finished in Nappa leather and Audi's MMI navigation and entertainment system but that doesn't detract from the large amount of plastic used to deck out most of the dash and panelling. There's not much in the way of leather (bar the seats and steering wheel) with only the odd flash of chrome hinting at the mammoth asking price. Customers can obviously have a field day with the options list, ticking all sorts of extremely expensive boxes like ceramic brakes, a Bang & Olufsen sound system and fancy carbon trim for the engine compartment.
Hair-raising performance, the ability to transport four passengers (just about) and drop-top thrills at the £60k to £70k mark are fairly hard to come by, unless of course you head over to a BMW dealer and ask for a spin in the M3 convertible. Germany's other excellent export offers similar performance levels but wades in at around £7,000 cheaper. Bigger budgets should take a look at the handsome Bentley GTC or simply jettison the rear passengers and buy a Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet.
What's it like to drive?
The snarling soundtrack is certainly addictive and the engine delivers enough gut-busting performance to blow away more than just the cobwebs but real performance enthusiasts will be left slightly disappointed. Audi's drive select suspension and engine management system doesn't quite hit the sweet spot: pop it in 'comfort' and the steering becomes ridiculously light and the suspension soft and slightly floundering. Stick it in 'dynamic' and the revs soar but the steering becomes almost too heavy and the ride overly harsh. Customers who specify the RS 5 bucket seats will only find the bumps and bangs on their bottoms emphasised more. But those not too fussed about taking every corner "on the limit" will undoubtedly enjoy the chiselled looks, rorty engine note and open top experience – which is brilliantly comfortable and doesn't buffet the quiff even at high speeds.
The AOL Cars verdict?
It's a great looking car that will certainly turn heads as it rumbles past fellow yacht owners in the French Riviera but it isn't the all-out bonkers package it promises to be. The engine is fierce but because it has to drag around the added weight of the roof mechanism, it doesn't deliver the breath taking punch you'd expect. The ride is also questionable but can be made ten times more bearable if the options list is left untouched and the plush Nappa leather seats are fitted. So to conclude: it looks fantastic and will certainly make rapid progress on big empty European roads, just don't expect it to perform so well on our crumbling surfaces.
Model: Audi RS5 Cabriolet
Engine: 4.2-litre FSI V8
Power: 443.9bhp 430Nm torque
Max speed: 155mph or 174mph depending on spec
0-62mph: 4.9 seconds
MPG: 26.4 mpg
Emissions: 249 g/km CO2