Test Drive: 2018 Audi S5 Cabriolet

Courtesy of Audi

Top-down driving is all about sky, speed, and steering, and the S5 makes it special.

The road is too short. I’ve been driving the new 2018 Audi S5 Cabriolet for just over an hour and I’ve already almost reached my destination. It’s my first time at the Glenmere Mansion in Chester, New York, a stunning Italianate hotel originally built in 1911 as a Gilded Age country retreat for the industrialist Robert Goelet. The 18-guest Glenmere resembles a villa imported from a Mediterranean coastline and dropped into the countryside of the Lower Hudson River Valley. But as nice as the hotel is, I’m not keen to get out of the car. I’m ready to start the drive all over again.

There are a lot of sound reasons for the way I’m feeling. There is a V6 engine under the hood—married to an 8-speed gearbox—that produces 354 horsepower, getting the car up to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. That’s a half second faster than earlier incarnations of the S5; dropping 99 pounds does a lot for quickness. This S5 is also a little longer and wider, which means the interior cabin is more spacious. The steering is precise and the handling is deft.


Courtesy of Audi

But the main attraction is the blue sky overhead. The Cabriolet’s soft top comes down in 15 seconds, and on this warm day I have no intention of putting it back up. The S5 accelerates smoothly and the open cockpit makes me feel like I’m navigating among the wisps of clouds floating above me. Sky, speed, and steering are all I care about right now, although most pilots would be envious of the well-appointed interior with leather seats; the superb 20-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system; safety systems like an adaptive cruise control that is particularly effective in stop-and-go-traffic; and a variety of entertainment and information options that can be controlled with voice commands via a microphone built into the safety belt—so prompts can be understood even with the top down. Goggles aren’t necessary—a screen keeps the wind at bay—but I’m wishing I brought a scarf for effect.

Closing in on the hotel, I’m now alongside a guy in a baseball hat driving a red pickup truck with the sound of Elton John spilling through his open window. “Rocket Man” hits our ears as he begins to pass, but unlike the titular subject of the Elton John song, I have my wife with me and I’m gently reminded of a spa appointment before dinner at the Glenmere. I’m putting that extra half second of speed to the test.

As driven: $75,000; audiusa.com.