In its bid to become the world’s largest maker of premium automobiles, Audi recently showed off the latest arrow in its burgeoning quiver in the south of France.

Arriving in Canada in late summer, the four-seat 2010 Audi A5 and hotter S5 Cabriolet, both with quattro all-wheel-drive, will fill the void created by the departing previous generation A4 drop top. No Canadian pricing has been set, but rest assured, Audi wants to lure buyers away from the BMW 328i Cabriolet ($55,600) and the 335i Cabriolet ($65,600).

Audi is using a three-layer fabric top for this cabrio, giving the benefits of reduced complexity, weight and volume. Top up, it’s a relief to see this car carries much of the A5 coupe’s chiseled good looks.

With the roof tucked under the tonneau cover (15 seconds down, 17 seconds up, operates up to 50 km/h) it cuts quite a graceful profile. The brushed aluminum trim ringing the cabin is a lovely detail.

The folded top takes up only 60 litres of the generous 380 litre trunk, and the rear seat splits and folds, offering up to 750 litres of storage volume.

Carrying on Audi’s tradition of class-leading interiors, the cabin is beautifully done, highlighted with wood inlays and/or brushed aluminum trim. You sit low in this cab, and the multi-adjustable driver’s chair and manual tilt/telescope wheel make finding the optimal driving position a breeze. Back seat room is tolerable for adults as long as the front seats aren’t pushed too far back.

Audi has borrowed a couple of ideas from its German rivals: Optional neck warming vents in the front seats like Mercedes’ AirScarf, and specially treated leather seating surfaces that resist solar heat buildup, as first seen in the 2007 BMW M6 convertible.

With the windblocker in place (which stores in a compartment under the trunk floor) and the tri-level neck breeze on easy-bake, a good toque is about the only thing you’d need to drive this car topless (no, not that kind of topless) pretty much all year round in Canada.

The windblocker, however, turns this car into a two-seater.

The 2010 A5 Cabriolet carries a naturally aspirated 265 hp 3.2-litre FSI V6 mated to a 6-speed Tiptronic autobox. This proved a satisfying combination, delivering smooth performance that was well suited to the A5’s mission as a comfy tourer.

Enthusiasts will opt for the S5 Cabriolet, which sports 18-inch wheel (up from 17) and a 333 hp supercharged TSFI 3.0-litre V6 that makes 324.5 lb-ft of torque from 2900 rpm to 5300 rpm. Out on the breathtaking switchbacks just inland from the Mediterranean coast, this supercharged six delivered its considerable force in a linear, if not aurally exciting fashion, and pulled hard right to its 7000 r.p.m. redline.

For much of this test route, which resembled the trajectory of a highly intoxicated sailor, horsepower was not a pressing issue. More pertinent was the ability of Audi’s latest cabrio to provide good grip and balanced handling.

The quattro full-time all-wheel-drive with a default 60 per cent rear bias is a good start. Standard in the S5 Cabriolet is Audi drive select. A trio of buttons (comfort, auto and dynamic) call up pre-programmed groupings of throttle response, shift maps and servotronic steering assist. Naturally, “dynamic” is the most aggressive.

My S5 tester also featured the optional variable-rate dynamic steering and the new rear sport differential that will send torque to the outside rear wheel when cornering, essentially pushing the car around the bend.

Phew. That’s a whole lot of tech to throw at a car just to try to keep pace with those folks at BMW. Happily, all this computerized mechanical mojo integrates into a seamless whole, giving the S5 Cabriolet some serious B-road cred.

2010 A5/S5 Cabriolet

Type: Sports sedan
Price: Not Available
Engine: 3.2L FSI V6/ 3.0L TFSI Supercharged V6
HP: 265/333
Torque: 243 lb-ft/324.5 lb-ft

Highlights

• Chiseled good looks
• Most likely to be cheaper than similar BMW models, although no price has been announced so far

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