PRESTIGE modern motoring seems focused on making driving simpler.
An amazing array of gadgetry is helping reduce tailgating, warning when cars are in your blind spot, advising you when it's time for a rest, and even helping to avoid an accident with automatic braking.
But cars like the Audi RS5 Cabriolet help reinvigorate the love of getting behind the wheel.
Sure it ticks all those contemporary expectation boxes, but it also rekindles the spirit of having the wind in your hair and taking to the open road.
With a powerful V8 within its beautiful skin, the RS5 is something special. Rather than falling into the metal roof realm, Audi has maintained the cloth-top rage and delivered something which assaults the aural and visual senses.
Climb behind the flat-bottom sports steering wheel and immediately you know it's something special.
It's backed up by the V8 donk's rumble when you hit the start button.
Sitting low and typically athletic, the RS5 dash is finished almost entirely in black with chrome and high-gloss finishes to add some zing.
Our test car had the Nappa leather trim on the S sports seats, although these aren't the most comfortable pews from Audi we've sampled. Side bolsters at the base are firm and feel plasticky and we'd like some more cushioning at the base.
While there is reasonable space in the back for two adults, it is heavily dependent on the seat position of the pair sitting up front. Sliding too far back means there is minimal leg and knee room - but that's pretty much standard fare in the convertible genre.
Getting into the back can also be a challenge with the front seats having limited slide and fold flexibility.
With the roof down there isn't too much wind swirling around the cabin for those in the front, but anyone in the back gets the full top-down experience.
On the road
What better way to embrace the intoxicating sounds of a V8 than with the top down?
The RS5 lid folds neatly into the boot in about 15 seconds, and at speeds up to 50kmh, where you can enjoy uninterrupted tunes from the bent-eight jukebox.
It's not outlandish or too attention grabbing, but a refined sporting note which is especially evident in "dynamic" mode. It firms up the suspension, quickens the steering and acceleration response, while it also drops the automatic transmission into "sport" mode - you can also achieve this in "comfort" just by pulling back on the shifter.
Exercise your ankle and the full force can be heard and felt as the drop-top powers away with ease.
There is a hint of scuttle with the roof off and rough roads do test its resolve, yet the RS5 manages to feel wonderfully planted and taut in the bends.
Tick an option box to get the 20-inch rubber, combine that with all-wheel drive, monstrous brakes along with that hearty engine and it's a recipe for pure exhilaration. Cornering is flat and composed at speed and despite gaining some weight over its coupe sibling the cabriolet loses little in ability.
What do you get?
On the stock-standard list are19-inch alloys, xenon headlights which change direction with steering input, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, sat nav with 20GB hard drive and two SD card slots, 180w sound system with 10 speakers and a subwoofer along with heated sports seats front and back.
You can also up the ante with a selection of three $4990 packages which have different styles of 20-inch alloys, but all include Sports suspension plus DRC and the Sports exhaust system with black tailpipes.
It's hard to find direct rivals with this much power and four seats without delving into the two-pew realm, worth a look at this point are the BMW 435i ($126,600) before its M4 Convertible stablemate arrives or maybe the Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabrio ($142,545).
For a V8, averaging just above 10 litres for every 100km is not bad given it can sprint from standstill to 100kmh in less than five seconds.
Expect it to drink more with vigorous use of the right foot. Insurance, too, would be reasonable, and servicing is not typically cheap although trips back to the dealer are usually annual.
Few drop-tops can claim commonsense but the RS5 actually has a boot which can cope with a grocery shop - and it's not dramatically impeded if the rag-top is down. You can also pull a lever in the boot to drop the back seats to cope with awkward-sized cargo.
Up front are twin cup holders, while there are bottle holders in each door. There are limited storage spots with a shallow console bin, and the phone/MP3 player adaptor is in the glovebox.
Audi flies the heritage flag with the soft-top.
All convertibles wearing the four rings remain rag-tops, and the RS5 loses no appeal by not having the hard-top folding roof like many others. It remains a lust-worthy shape which looks at its best with the lid stored.
What matters most
What we liked: Rorty V8 tune, fast operation of electric folding roof.
What we'd like to see: Plusher seats, improved seat sliding functionality to access to back.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty, servicing is annual or every 15,000km.
Model: Audi RS5 Cabriolet.
Details: Two-door four-seat all-wheel drive performance convertible.
Engine: 4.2-litre V8 generating maximum power of 331kW @ 8250rpm and peak torque of 430Nm @ 4000-6000rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch automatic.
Consumption: 10.7 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 4.9 seconds.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $175,900.
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