The all-new A5 Cabriolet takes on BMW’s refreshed 4 Series Convertible
Plenty of posh new convertibles are coming onto the market at the moment. Audi’s open-top version of its A5 Coupé promises quality everywhere, but BMW has revamped its 4 Series Convertible with new cabin touches, toys and suspension.
Audi A5 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI 252 quattro S line S tronic
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Torque: 295lb ft
Top speed: 149mph
CO2 emissions: 151g/km
Both come with near-250bhp 2.0-litre petrol engines, but the use of metal rather than fabric for the roof gives the BMW a lot of extra weight to carry. As a result the A5 builds momentum in a more determined fashion, not just on the motorway but also from a dead halt thanks to its four-wheel drive system. That’s particularly true on damp roads. Press the 4 Series hard to keep up and you’ll soon hear the gruff engine and feel vibration through the pedals. It’s quite a contrast with the smoothness of the A5’s engine at all revs.
Both automatic gearboxes work well, though. The Audi has one less gear than the BMW’s eight-speeder. You don’t really miss that, but the A5 isn’t quite as smooth in parking manoeuvres. It’s more agile and confident than the heavier BMW once you’re out on the open road however, even if its steering doesn’t feel quite so natural.
Neither car has a plush ride on British roads, hamstrung by firm suspension settings and optional 19in alloy wheels. You can opt for softer packages at no extra cost. As convertibles go, they both feel pretty stiff, but the A5 lets a few more wobbles through. The 4 Series’ standard run-flat tyres are noisy at higher speeds, even when the roof is up. You’ll detect more wind noise through the A5’s cloth roof, but road noise isn’t as prominent.
That metal BMW roof can be operated at speeds up to 8mph. The process takes 29 seconds, compared to the 19 seconds it takes for the Audi’s roof, which can be deployed at anything up to 31mph. In open mode, the BMW is more efficient at keeping the wind off four passengers up to about 60mph. You can pay extra for a removable wind deflector in either car, but that stops anyone sitting in the back.
It’s easy to get a good driving position in both cars thanks to grippy and electrically-adjustable seats. There’s standard adjustable lumbar support in the A5, but it’s a cost option on the 4 Series. Slim windscreen pillars give you a good view to the front in both cars, but roof-up rear vision is compromised. Fortunately, front and rear parking sensors are standard, and reversing cameras aren’t fiercely expensive options.
BMW 4 Series Convertible 430i M Sport auto
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Torque: 258lb ft
Top speed: 155mph
CO2 emissions: 146g/km
The A5 wins in terms of the modernity and quality of its interior. In isolation the 4 Series isn’t exactly cheap looking, but you do wonder where your £40,000 has been spent.
Front passengers get more space in these cars than those in the back, and that’s more the case in the A5. The 4 Series has a bit more head room too, but the Audi fights back with a surprisingly useable boot: it took six suitcases against the BMW’s four. The Audi also provides standard 50/50 split-fold rear seats. BMW asks £170 for a folding one-piece rear seat back.
Infotainment is important in modern cars, and the A5’s system is brilliantly easy to use. Our test car had the £1100 Technology Pack option which expands the screen from seven to 8.3 inches, puts a Virtual Cockpit digital instrument panel in front of the driver and adds a wireless smartphone charging dock. It’s a good option.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard in the A5, but BMW charges £235 for that. The revamped 4 Series has a new Professional infotainment system with a crystal-clear 8.8-inch screen and an excellent iDrive rotary dial controller.
Generally speaking you won’t feel short-changed on standard equipment in either car. The A5 is more expensive than the 4 Series, but it includes a few more features. For example, automatic emergency braking is standard, but a £370 extra on the BMW.
On list prices, there’s not much difference, but you should be able to wangle a more substantial discount on the BMW that could save a cash buyer up to £5000. The A5 should have slower depreciation, but sharper BMW finance deals mean that monthly PCP repayments on the 4 Series will be lower.
The BMW is a good company car choice thanks to its lower CO2 emissions and that cheaper list price. 40% taxpayers will retain about £1400 more of their salaries over three years. Daily running costs will be lower too.
The BMW has more passenger room in the back and will cost less to run, but it lags behind the Audi on speed, handling and boot size. Its petrol engine feels rough next to the Audi’s, and generally feels like an older car.
The Audi isn’t perfect. It’s dearer to buy and run and has less space in the back, but it includes more equipment as standard, has a more useful boot and is superbly constructed. The fabric roof is a net gain as it boosts performance without allowing in much more noise. The A5 takes the win.