Ever since I was a child, every car I have been associated with has had a name.
From the reliable people-mover vans to the racy little sports roadsters, each vehicle has its own personality.
If you drive a car long enough, you will begin to learn its quirks and characteristics.
You don’t always refer to it fondly; in fact, some vehicles you are more apt to curse than praise.
However, love it or hate it, you have to respect your automobile and what it does for you.
Thus, you personify it with a name.
This then is Natalya. Natalya’s official name is a 2013 Audi S5 Cabriolet. Both names exude self-importance. Convertibles are for peasants, Natalya is a Cabriolet. The name is beautiful yet stern, composed, somewhat cold; much like the car itself.
And beautiful it is. The famous designer Walter de Silva called the original S5 “his greatest creation”. This model is the facelift version; the most obvious difference being the sharply angled tubular LED daytime running lights which take the place of the original model’s distinctive “bubbles”. Whether these aesthetic changes were improvements or defilements is subjective, with most owners understandably preferring the model they purchased. For my money, I think the new styling is more modern and aggressive.
The paint is another feature of this vehicle which is somewhat controversial. To begin with, the Phantom Black Pearl effect shimmers with a brilliance to which photographs cannot do justice. In the right light, the finish captures the glow of the sunset and luminesces with all the colors therein. However, at a $500 premium over standard Brilliant Black, this is not a choice for the frugal or the practical. And as with all Audi paints, it is unspeakably soft. The slightest abrasion will damage it, leading to costly repairs. A large number of owners elect to protect their precious paintwork with clear bras. I however, am unwilling to undermine the beauty of the vehicle for such a mundane purpose. After all, one does not buy a German sports car to be practical.
No one buys a sports car to sit in the parking lot admiring the leather, and so we come now to performance. When you first begin to drive the car, the first thing you notice is the incredible amounts of grip. This is partly due to Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel drive and partly due to the standard Pirelli summer performance tires. The S5 is unshakable in its stance, begging you to take that corner at full speed though it feels heavier than some drivers prefer. With Natalya’s optional Drive Select function, you can configure a number of key car settings such as suspension and gear ratios to ranging anywhere from sluggish yet efficient to exhilaratingly power-hungry. I find the Sport and Dynamic modes preferable for daily usage (though expensive to run on Premium fuel) while Comfort mode comes in handy to ease the pain on long highway road trips.
The S5 Cabriolet is rated with a 0-60 in a jaw-dropping 4.2 seconds. However, achieving that potential requires you to enter a somewhat complex series of controls to enable Launch Control; whereby the onboard computer will take over and maximize acceleration by precisely timing the gearshifts. I find it noteworthy that the best professional driver is a full third of a second slower on the manual transmission than on Audi’s 7-speed, double clutch direct-shift S-tronic gearbox. And what a transmission it is! The power is supple and silky-smooth. The kick-down feature will instantly drop down a few gears to boost RPM when heavy pressure is applied to the throttle. Although there is sometimes an annoying hesitation while the engine spools up in Comfort mode, in Sport mode the response is immediate and the transitions are seamless enough to make you forget that you even have the manual shift override option. Through it all, Natalya remains quietly composed. So quiet, in fact, that an aftermarket exhaust is the single most common alteration to an S5.
Of course, the soundtrack is improved substantially when you put the dual layer acoustic soft top down. The newer models are capable of deploying and retracting automatically at speeds up to 30 mph. Some owners have complained that this design is not as resilient as previous models, and that unsightly wear marks quickly develop in the fabric. It remains to be seen if Natalya will suffer from this ailment. Additionally, while there negligible wind noise with the ragtop up, the complex folding mechanism tends to rattle slightly and the noise detracts from the premium feel of the vehicle. This distraction is most noticeable at low speeds with the stereo turned off. Audi technicians provided me with a temporary remedy, but it soon reoccurred after a few deployments of the roof. Thus, a convertible remains a compromise that even German engineering cannot completely reconcile. It is not for everyone. However, on a cruise through the countryside on a sunny spring day, the feeling of freedom and exuberance will quickly erase any doubts you might have had about your decision in body styles.