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Cars of Summer: The A5 Cabriolet Hits the Beach

For most people, summer is driving season -- day trips, road trips, drives to the beach, festivals, fairs, visiting friends and commuting in the bright sunshine. This summer, U.S. News is putting the cars we test through their summer paces and giving you tips and advice for making the most of your summer driving. In this installment, the Audi A5 Cabriolet pulls road trip and beach duty.

This past winter, as soon as my family planned our trip to Hilton Head S.C., I requested the Audi A5 Cabriolet. I thought it would be a great road trip and beach car. I wasn’t wrong about that, but I also wasn’t entirely right. During its week with me, the A5 went from Baltimore, Md. to Hilton Head and back, along with several day trips. Familiarity can breed contempt. I think that’s what happened with me and the A5.

There’s no doubt that the A5 is a looker. In a parking lot, I overheard a guy saying, “That Audi convertible is hot.” It was quiet and smooth, with decent, but not overwhelming, power. It held my husband’s and my bags, but we pack light. There was just enough space for two carry-ons and a small backpack. I even rode in the back seat with my sister for a day trip to Savannah, Ga. At 5’3”, we each had barely enough legroom. The back seat was fine for about an hour, but I wouldn’t want to spend more time back there. And, if you have back seat passengers in the A5, put the top up or down before they get in. Both my sister and I got whacked in the head when we put the top up or down.

The A5 is great for day trips where you stop and get out for lunch and have scenery to keep you entertained. But on a straight shot down I-95 south, the A5 was an annoyance. There are two cup holders in the front seat, but one is too small to hold anything wider than a 16-ounce bottle of water. You can use the two cup holders in the back, but that requires some gymnastics every time you want a drink. And, if you try to shove a larger cup into the smaller cup holder, be ready with some paper towels.

The electronics on the A5 were also hard to decipher. It took us a good hour to figure out how to get the menu to display all of the satellite radio stations, not just the presets. The iPod integration was particularly bad. It would only play all the music on a device, never recognizing playlists.

For all that, the test A5 had a $50,170 price tag. A big chunk of that came from it having Quattro all-wheel drive and the Premium Plus package, which adds features like Bluetooth (which worked pretty well, except when the top was down), heated front seats and tri-zone climate control. Still, on a model with a base price of $44,190, it would gall me to pay extra for those features, especially since the test A5 cost 50 grand and didn’t have navigation. 

I kept comparing the A5 to the Volvo C70 I tested last summer. I drove the C70 from Virginia to New Hampshire and back, spending almost as many hours in it as I did in the A5. While the A5 kept revealing weaknesses, the C70 kept making me like it more. Sure, the C70 doesn’t look as good as the A5, and it doesn’t have the same cachet, but a model with pretty much everything will only run you $46,425.  That’s not a huge price difference, but when you consider the Volvo has electronics that are easy to use and plenty of space for the extra-large Diet Dr. Pepper you need to conquer I-95, what the Volvo offers and the Audi doesn’t makes all the difference in the world.

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