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The convertible: a car for all seasons

Joe Loriowriter

It used to be that convertibles demanded so many compromises, they were cars you drove in summer only. But having just spent a late autumn week in an Audi A5 Cabriolet, I am reminded how incorrect that idea has become.

Like the best of today's convertibles, the A5 Cabriolet is a car for any and all seasons. Whereas once convertibles were leaky and drafty, the A5 is tight as a drum. Whereas convertibles used to transmit additional road and wind noise, the A5 is commendably quiet. Whereas convertibles often had an unfinished look inside, with exposed top rails, the A5's multi-layer roof is beautifully finished—the headliner even incorporates an overhead light, just like a hardtop's. Convertibles also have suffered inferior driving dynamics compared to their tin-topped siblings, because cutting off the roof so compromised their structural rigidity. But again, the A5 displays a surprisingly stout structure, and its chassis is able to shrug off bad pavement yet still deliver responsive cornering. Of course the open-air driving aspect remains a pleasure, and it's one you can enjoy a bit longer than before, thanks not to global warming but to better management of wind buffeting and the arrival of heated seats (a must for convertibles in northern climates). The Audi goes even further than most other convertibles in its winter appropriateness by offering all-wheel drive.

Finally, a word about soft tops versus retractable hardtops. Increasingly, carmakers are opting for retractable hardtops over traditional soft tops for their convertibles. Another example of technology improving the breed? I say not. Yes, it's true that retractable hardtops often have larger rear windows and therefore better visibility. But a lowered retractable hardtop usually eats up a substantial portion of the trunk space, and if you can't put the top down when you're heading out on vacation, what's the point? Additionally, retractable hardtops are heavier and they're often unhandsome as well. I'll take the classic look of a soft top every time. Give me one as well-executed as the Audi A5, and I'll be happy to drive it twelve months a year.