Quick Drive: 2011 Audi S5 Cabriolet

By Winding Road Staff

November 03, 2011

This was my first experience with Audi’s 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 and S-Tronic dual-clutch transmission, and I’ll admit, it’s an impressive package. Left to its own devices, it functions quickly and unobtrusively, delivering shifts at logical points in the rev range. Slot it over to manual, though, and it becomes quite a lot of fun. The paddle shifters are appropriately placed and sized, and under hard throttle, upshifts elicit a pleasant burp from the quad exhaust tips.
Power is plentiful, and the engine feels quicker to react than BMW’s turbocharged mills. Mid-range punch is probably the engine’s happy place, as the supercharged powerplant delivers its torque peak at a relatively low 2900 rpm.
Really, there isn’t much about the S5 Cab that I wouldn’t recommend. It’s still a very handsome car, although the design is starting to show signs of gray. The overall level of comfort provided is excellent. Steering feel may be its weakest point, as the all-wheel-drive droptop just doesn’t feel as connected as a comparable BMW 335is.
If you are looking to drop $60,000 on a four-place convertible with some sporting cred, then the Audi S5 Cabriolet will likely be right up your alley.
—Brandon Turkus, Test Fleet Manager
It’s amazing what chopping the top can do to the character of a car. When I drove the S5 coupe a couple years ago, I was in love. Driving around, I felt like a total badass, especially when a young woman pulled up alongside me and mouthed an enthusiastic, “Nice car!” before speeding off in her own sports coupe. The Cabriolet just doesn’t get my blood up the way that coupe did. Sitting inside, the incongruence of the convertible top kills the mood for me, and with the top down, I just want to take it easy and enjoy the elements. Not necessarily a bad thing.
The S5 convertible seems like a pretty laidback car to me. It’s very comfortable, with all the nice Audi materials and special touches that make me feel like a posh gentleman driver. It’s not a very loud car, but the exhaust does make its presence known when shifting, which is the one thing that does remind me that this car can cook. The suspension is well sorted for comfortable cruising, but it is also willing to take on some of the hairier roads with composure. It’s not raw sport, but it’s definitely a fit automobile.
I also like the relationship between engine and transmission, as well as the experience at the pedals. The S5 shifts quickly, and the response from the engine is also rapid. It reacts very well and very fast to driver input. Still, something is lost for the driver who is looking for a bit of a challenge. Again, it has a fairly relaxed attitude with underlying sporty chops.
—John Beltz Snyder, Production Editor
  • S-Tronic dual-clutch transmission is equally at home in automatic or manual mode
  • The exhaust is a good balance of comfortably quiet and appropriately talkative
  • Good throttle response and smooth, quick acceleration
  • The S5 design is starting to show its age, especially compared to other Audi products
  • Lacks an engaging steering experience
  • The car doesn’t really challenge the driver to push it harder