Taking a great looking performance car and chopping off its roof is risky business – compromises are inevitable. That’s especially true in this modern age of unibody structures. Removing a big chunk of a vehicle’s architecture without adequately reinforcing what’s left can yield a chassis incapable of managing the position of the wheels, let alone result in a vehicle that loses its level of driver engagement and enthusiasm. On the other hand, reinforcements add mass – often lots of it. It’s a treacherous path, as both flaccid body control and weight are the mortal enemy of performance.
You can understand our trepidation, then, upon learning that Audi was planning on introducing its S5 Cabriolet at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show. By our reckoning, the German debutante’s rollout was cause for both consternation and celebration. When the A5 and S5 coupes arrived in 2007, they were hailed as being among the best looking cars ever to wear the brand’s Four Rings. The new Cabriolet models would bring with them the euphoria of open-air motoring, but we had to wonder – would Audi’s rakish new hardtop be turned into a floppy flier just by giving it a roofectomy? Equally as important, would the model’s newly downsized engine drop the performance? There was only one thing to do: Put the range-topping S5 Cabriolet through a week-long test.