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2014 Audi RS5 Cabriolet Review

by Kenny Hoeschen
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    2014 Audi RS5 Cabriolet

  • Powertrain: 450hp, 4.2L V8, 7-speed dual clutch transmission
  • 0-to-60 Time (secs): 4.9 secs. (est.)
  • Top Speed (mph): 174 mph
  • City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 16/22
  • Curb Weight (lb): 4,420 lbs.
  • Wheelbase (in): 108.3 in.
  • Total Length (in): 118 in.
  • Width (in): 73.2 in.
  • Base Price (USD): $77,900
  • Price as Tested (USD): $85,725

The 2014 Audi RS5 Cabriolet is a beautiful two-door convertible that takes the styling of the A5/S5 line in a more aggressive direction and puts a meaner, quicker drivetrain between the body and the road. The RS5’s lines are sure to turn heads on the road if the throaty exhaust hasn’t already caught a passerby’s attention, but the RS5 doesn’t flaunt its capabilities. True to its German engineering, the RS5 doesn’t scream “performance sports car” as it moves down the road; it only has a tiny rear trunk spoiler, no carbon fiber body panels, and no brightly-colored brake calipers. It’s even difficult to find a factory color that would be considered bold. But put yourself in the driver’s seat and step on the gas as you wind through country road and you’ll soon realize that the RS5 is a true work of engineering and art.

Exterior

Although the RS5’s design is based on the Audi A5 and S5 and is easily recognizable as part of that lineage, the RS5 actually shares very little with those cars when it comes to its body panels. The RS5 has more aggressive lines all around, with flared front and rear fenders, a more pronounced front air dam, ground effects at the back, and larger front air intakes. Audi has also added some unique touches to the exterior of the 2014 RS5. To begin with, it’s hard to miss the RS5’s large, distinctive “Singleframe” front grille. The shiny honeycombed pattern expanse of a grille is unbroken except for the four rings and the RS5 badge. The result is strikingly beautiful and really makes the RS5 stand out from Audi’s other vehicle lines. Of course, in most states, you’ll be required to sully the grille by mounting a license plate in the center, but you can request that Audi leave the mounting brackets off the car if you live in a state that doesn’t require front plates. The RS5’s headlight clusters are also unique to the vehicle, with its xenon headlights differentiated from other new Audis by the solid outline of LED lights surrounding the headlights themselves.

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At the back, the RS5 has dual oval exhaust outlets, in the case of the reviewed vehicle, outfitted with black outlets as part of the sport exhaust system package. It also has LED taillights and rear fog lights along with the subtle trunk-mounted lip spoiler.

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The RS5 standard wheels are 19-inch 10-spoke wheels, but the car as shown has the larger, 20-inch five-arm-rotor wheels with a silver finish and sporting summer tires. The five-arm-rotor wheels are also available in the dark titanium finish, either separately or as part of the Black Optics package. For winter here in Wisconsin, this RS5 is outfitted with Audi’s standard winter wheel package for the RS5, which are 19-inch five-spoke alloys with Dunlop Winter SP Sport 3D tires (about $4,000 for the wheels and tires, shown in the third image below).

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The 2014 RS5 is available in a number of body colors, all of which come with a black convertible top. The top can be raised or lowered while traveling up to 31 miles an hour and the top takes roughly 20 seconds to go either up or down. The car tested is “Estoril Blue Crystal” (a premium paint with a $1,075 price tag). Audi addresses safety in the cabriolet with a pop-up roll bar system that is normally hidden behind the rear seats but springs up in the event of a rollover and high strength A pillars, providing additional protection in the event of a rollover.

Interior

Inside, Audi’s attention to detail and the fit and finish of the materials shine through. But, with the exception perhaps of the carbon fiber inlays on the dashboard, center console, and doors, there’s nothing showy about the RS5 interior. The RS5 Cabriolet comes standard with Nappa leather sports seats in a choice of either Black with Rock Gray piping or Lunar Silver with Rock Gray piping (as shown). The front seats are heated and twelve-way power adjustable, including four-way power lumbar adjustment. The driver seat’s position is tied to the key fob, so that the car automatically adjusts to the preferences of each driver. The car is also available with ventilated seats with perforated Milano leather as part of the Comfort Package. Since it’s a two-door car, turning to the grab the seat belt can be a little difficult; but Audi has addressed that with a mechanism that extends the seat belt forward by about five inches when the car is started. It’s a little detail that illustrates the thought process of the Audi engineers when it comes to design and convenience.

Interior inlays are either done in carbon fiber (shown) or brushed aluminum. The RS5 comes with a three-spoke multifunction flat-bottom sport steering wheel with shift paddles. Although the car has a cloth top, Audi has created an acoustic, insulated top which greatly reduced road noise and the black interior headliner provides a finish almost indistinguishable from a hardtop. In my experience, however, there is a noticeable noise from the back when driving.

The center console contains the gear shift along with the push-button start and three rocker switches. The first raises and lowers the convertible top (there are no clips along the windshield that need to be disengaged as with some other convertibles). The second is a button that raises and lowers all four windows simultaneously, a great convenience if you want all the windows up or down when the top is down. The third rocker switch electrically engages and disengages the parking brake.

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The four-seat RS5 has split folding 50/50 rear seatbacks, which are easily flipped down. There are convenient pull handles located in the trunk that will flip the seats forward, allowing you to expand the trunk space if necessary without walking around to the side doors and stretching to reach the back seats. Between the rear seats is a built in cupholder – if you allow people to have drinks in your $80,000 car. The trunk is surprisingly roomy at over 12 cubic feet with the top up and around 10 with the top down.

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Drivetrain/Engine

Audi has replaced the engine that was in the previous generation RS4 which had a wonderful 420 horsepower, 4.2 liter naturally aspirated V8 that Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear called “one the greatest engines ever made.” Unlike the S4 line, which has gone from a naturally aspirated V8 to a turbocharged V6, the RS5 keeps with the naturally aspirated V8 but it has now been improved to put out a whopping 450 horsepower at 8,250 rpm. The new V8 is not a direct descendent of the prior RS4 engine but is instead based on the 5.2 liter V10 in the Audi R8. Audi took a bit of a risk by moving away from such a lauded engine, but the new V8 is a finely tuned engine that delivers smooth all the way to its redline of 8,500 rpm.

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The V8 is attached to a seven-speed Audi S-tronic dual-clutch transmission that shifts wonderfully quickly and smoothly. In fact, without the change in the engine noise, you’d be hard pressed to notice the shifts at all. Essentially, with the help of the included Audi sport differential, the car accelerates smoothly from the time you push down the gas pedal until you decide you’d better slow it down a bit. Fortunately, the car also comes with ventilated wave-design disc brakes front and back. The brakes’ wave design is meant to cut down on weight without affecting stopping performance. Of course, at over 4,000 pounds, it makes sense that Audi would lighten the car where possible.

The RS5, of course, comes with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system, making it one of the few convertibles available with all-wheel drive. Along with standard anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and traction control, you might be hard pressed to get the car to break free through the corners except under the most extreme circumstances.

Ride/Handling

But it’s more than just the unique design details and finishes that make the RS5 stand out. From first glance, it’s apparent that the car is on the road for one reason: to go very fast, which indeed it does. The RS5 Cabriolet is an absolutely wonderful machine on the road. Audi’s Drive Select feature allows the driver to tune the vehicle’s performance as desired, with Comfort, Auto, and Dynamic settings for each of five parameters effecting the engine, transmission, suspension and exhaust. The difference between comfort and sport mode is apparent and you can switch everything to sport mode instantly by flicking the center shifter down. But the RS5’s suspension is fairly stiff regardless of what setting is selected. If you drive on long, uneven roads for long periods of time, you’ll likely grow weary of feeling almost every crack and rock in the road. In the end, the RS5 is built for performance and, even in sport mode, the ride wouldn’t be considered jarring by any stretch. And the feeling of confidence one gets with the Quattro AWD connected to the road really allows the driver to push the vehicle to the limit.

The seating position is very comfortable and the deep bolstered bucket seats provide security while cornering. Visibility is quite good overall, but the convertible top does have a wide C pillar, which increase the blind spot and also reduces rear visibility a bit. Audi addresses this in two ways: if you choose the upgraded MMI Navigation System you get an integrated back-up camera under the trunk lid with the display on the Audi MMI entertainment screen or, if you go with the Driver Assist package, side assist is provided via a grid of yellow LED lights on the inside of each side mirror that light up if there is a vehicle in or near your blind spot.

One of the best features of the RS5 is the V8 exhaust note that emits from the sports exhaust. The V8 itself has a terrific rumble when it first starts and you’re always very aware of the engine under the hood as you drive. But switch the car to sport mode and not only does the suspension tighten, but the transmission’s shift points move up and the exhaust ports open wider. You’ll notice the change in sound immediately and, especially with the top down, it’s a delight to hear. But perhaps most satisfying is the sound of the engine when the transmission downshifts: the exhaust belches out a low-end grunt that is sure to turn the heads of nearby pedestrians.

In the winter, Audi’s Quattro AWD system is very capable of pulling the vehicle through the snow. Of course, if you live in a wintry climate, you’ll want to outfit the car with all-season or winter tires. But even with all four wheels pulling, the RS5’s low ground clearance means you may run into issues after a big snowfall. It’s no fun driving as your front air dam constantly pushes snow and ice down the road in front of the car. Still, it’s quite a challenge to find a convertible sports car that’s more capable on winter roads than the RS5 outfitted with the appropriate tires.

Performance

The RS5 Cabriolet is certainly fast. With a V8 that redlines at 8,500 rpm, the car just goes. Although I haven’t yet had a chance to take it on the track (Road America this summer, hopefully), it is great fun to drive in town and on winding country roads. The smooth-shifting dual clutch transmission is absolutely astounding, with extremely fast shifting. Put the car into manual shift mode or shift it with the paddles and you’re sure to be impressed with just how fast it shifts either up or down; as if it’s anticipating your next request. True believers may be disappointed to hear there’s no manual transmission option available, but all but the most die-hard will realize the benefits of a superb automatic transmission when they get behind the wheel of the RS5.

The Cabriolet version of the RS5, while not quite as fast as the hardtop, has a very quick 0-to-60 time that is estimated to be just under 5.0 seconds and a top speed electronically limited to 174 mph. Cornering is excellent with very little body roll and the all-wheel drive system along with fat summer tires keep it stuck to the road. The big V8 means the car is heavy up front and you can feel it hanging up there during turns. Audi compensates somewhat for the big engine up front with an active rear differential that can send power to the rear wheels individually and stability control which can brake the inside wheels during a turn.

Technology

The RS5, as tested, has Audi’s MMI Navigation plus package ($4,000), which includes the GPS Navigation displayed on a 6.5” color screen, HD Radio, rear view camera, side assist, an in-dash DVD player (not available while the vehicle is in motion), and SiriusXM Satellite Radio with 90-day trial subscription. With Audi Connect, the vehicle links to a cellular data plan, which provides a data connection for the car and also allows the vehicle to become a Wi-Fi hotspot. (Again, a trial subscription is included, this one six months in duration.) Through the data services, the navigation system retrieves traffic data, integrates with Google’s search engine, and also provides the use of Google Earth mapping instead of Audi’s standard maps if the driver chooses. When switching between map modes, the car retrieves Google Earth information from the Internet and can take several seconds to update. The Google Earth implementation even allows the user to zoom in to use Google’s Street View to preview destinations, for example. While the Google Earth view is useful and it’s sometimes very informative to see aerial views of the surrounding buildings and roads, I preferred Audi’s standard maps in 3D perspective, which provides a clearer view of the roads as well as points of interest. While driving, the dash between the speedometer and the tachometer can be changed to display the next turn in the navigation. That display can also be used to show stats like average mileage, distance to empty, and radio information.

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The Audi MMI system also provides for integration with smartphones which can be connected via Bluetooth or directly through a cable in the glovebox (standard is an Apple 30-pin connector and an adapter is required for use with the latest 5th generation iPhones or other smartphones). I have mine set up to play music from my iPhone via the Bluetooth connection and can play Pandora radio or stream other audio from the smartphone through the Bluetooth connection and see track information and skip forward and backward using the dashboard controls. Audi, for some reason, also includes two SD card slots hidden in the dash which can be used as media sources. It might be a useful way to transfer audio books, podcasts, or other media you wish to change frequently, but I’d just use my iPhone for any of those things anyway.

The MMI interface is also used for climate control. Each seat has individual settings for the desired temperature. A separate dial on the dashboard controls each side’s air temperature and heated seat, with the MMI interface being used to show the current selection when either is being adjusted.

The RS5 also comes with a keyless entry system. You can keep the key fob in your pocket while operating the vehicle. When you approach within a couple feet of the car, it will unlock automatically. Starting the car requires one foot on the brake and push of the Start button. You can also insert the key fob in the dash and push it inward to start, if you prefer that for some reason. When exiting the car, there is a small button on the exterior of each door handle that, when pushed locks the car and engages the security system.

Pricing and Options

The 2014 Audi RS5 Cabriolet has a base price of $77,900(USD), with options such as premium paint for between $500 and $1,075, the perforated, ventilated Milano leather seats in the Comfort Package ($1,400), MMI Navigation Plus package ($4,000), Driver Assist, which includes adaptive cruise control and dynamic steering ($2,750), Black Optics which includes the titanium five-arm-rotor wheels, a gloss black single-frame grille instead of the bright metal grille, and body-colored side mirrors ($2,500), Matte Aluminum optics, which includes the front spoiler; front spoiler lip and rear diffuser in a matte aluminum color ($750), sports exhaust with black outlets ($1,000), and ceramic front brakes ($6,000).

Summary

The 2014 Audi RS5 Cabriolet is a terrific car with remarkable build quality throughout and excellent performance on the road. But it’s certainly not a nimble two-seater. With a V8 under the hood and the all-wheel drive system, the RS5 has to push a good deal of weight down the road and through the corners and sometimes that’s apparent when behind the wheel. But the combination of a 450 horsepower engine and a very fast dual-clutch transmission pushes the car hard and never seems to let up. With the top down and comfort mode selected, the RS5 is a great car for long, windy country roads. But flip it to sport mode and watch the trees fly past as you listen to the rumble and roar of the engine. If you’d prefer the coupe, you can take about $10,000 of the price. It’s likely Audi will retire the V8 engine before long, at least in the 4 and 5 series, like it has with the S4, going instead with a lighter, nimbler supercharged V6. When that happens, I’ll miss the sound of the big V8, which is why the 2014 model year may be a sweet spot in the RS4/RS5 series.

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