Battle of the soft-tops: Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet V Audi S5 Cabriolet V Range Rover Evoque Convertible
Jack Evans gets behind the wheel of three convertibles to find out which one is best
Summer is upon us and, since we’re in Britain, that means there’s at least two full days of sunshine to be enjoyed before the weather closes in on us once more.
Brits buy more convertibles than any other country, despite the UK’s persistent rain. We’ve got three premium drop-tops here, all priced close to the £50,000 mark. There’s the classy-looking Audi S5 Cabriolet, the raucous Mercedes-AMG C43 and the eye-catching Range Rover Evoque Convertible. The tie between them all? They all use four-wheel drive. Let’s find out which one is best.
In terms of newness, the S5 tops the list here. Powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6, it develops 359bhp and 500Nm of torque – enough to allow it to sprint to 60mph in 4.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 155mph. Inside, you get a classically robust Audi interior, with plenty of high-quality materials used throughout.
The Evoque is up next. Drawing glances wherever it goes, there’s nothing like it on the market today – which is why we’ve put it up against two well-established names in the convertible game. It has a folding cloth hood that takes just 18 seconds to rise or fall at speeds of up to 30mph. You also get the added bonus of having the Evoque’s high ride height with that wind-in-your-hair feeling.
Finally, the C43. It’s the most powerful contender here, with 362bhp coming from a twin-turbocharged V6 engine. It’ll crackle and pop to its heart’s content, too, though not in the same league as its larger V8-powered C63 brother. Inside, the interior easily looks the oldest here, with Mercedes’ latest cabins (in the current E-Class, for instance) now far more refined.
Looks and image
There’s no denying that each of this trio has their own unique styling. The Mercedes’ stands at the beefier side of things, with wide wheel arches and a glitzy front grille giving it plenty of presence on the road. However, it does looks noticeably close in design to regular AMG-Line Mercedes cars, which could put those who want to stand out from the crowd off.
The Audi, meanwhile, is a far more subdued affair. You’d be hard-pressed to tell it apart from a regular A5 Cabriolet were it not for the small boot and bonnet badges or the quad exhaust pipes at the rear of the car. It’s a look that will no doubt find favour with those who want to go under the radar but still have plenty of performance to hand.
Then there’s the Evoque. Like it or love it, it certainly stands out from the crowd. The interior is largely unchanged from the standard car – save for the electric roof buttons – and it feels like a high quality place to be. The exterior may not be to everyone’s tastes, but at least it’s interesting.
Space and practicality
Here’s an area that convertibles tend to not be too accomplished at. However, all three of the cars actually have a reasonable amount of practicality on offer, as well as room for four people.
The Audi’s 380 litre boot is more than big enough for a few weekend bags, and its square size means that it’s well suited to larger items too. Rear space in the S5 isn’t too bad either, though taller passengers may be a little squashed during longer journeys.
The Mercedes meanwhile offers slightly less boot space than the Audi at 355 litres, and this drops to 260 litres when you lower the roof. Front seat passengers have plenty of legroom and overall cabin space, though, again, those in the back are slightly less well catered for.
Swapping into the Evoque brings with it a degree more comfort. The front seats are well padded and comfortable, while those in the rear aren’t bad either – though not well-suited to taller passengers. There’s also plenty of storage options within the cabin, which are useful for keeping the interior de-cluttered.
Behind the wheel
In terms of outright performance, the Mercedes is the outright winner. It feels noticeably quicker compared to the Audi, and its raucous exhaust note is quite addicitive. The S5, in comparison, feels far more restrained – but this is something we’d expect from a S car. Both cars have a relatively firm ride, no doubt hampered by large alloy wheels and low-profile tyres. The Mercedes’ steering feels the faster of the two, giving it a frantic, agile quality. The S5’s is far more relaxed, though has an excellent amount of precision.
It would be unfair to judge the Evoque Convertible’s handling in the same breath as the other two. It simply cannot compare in terms of acceleration nor handling, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its own merits. The steering has a good deal of accuracy to it, and the engine pulls strongly throughout the rev range. However, the gearbox does let the whole car down, as it’s slow to respond and can struggle with sudden presses of the accelerator – an annoyance around town.
Value for money
All cars sit at around the £50,000 mark without options. The S5 came out at £60,880, though it was fitted with Parking Assistance – a £1,350 option – as well as a full £750 upgraded sound system. Do without these luxuries, and the Audi costs from £50,350.
Prices for the C43 start at £50,580. Our test car came in at £55,075, and for that you get a full AMG performance exhaust system, 18-inch alloy wheels and AMG sports seats as standard. Options fitted to our car included a premium sound system and uprated LED headlights.
The Range Rover Evoque is in just the same ballpark, with prices starting at £51,700. With options such as large 20-inch alloy wheels and premium metallic paint added, our test car came in at £53,200. However, you do get a full 12-speaker sound system as standard, as well as 12-way electric front seats and Bluetooth connectivity.
Out of the three here, it’s hard to pick a winner. If you want a rounded, good handling performance convertible then we’d have to choose the Audi. It’s easily the most refined and has the highest-quality interior of all the cars in this test. However, if you’re after fun – and let’s be honest this is key in convertibles – then go for the Evoque. It may not be the best handling here, but it has all of the character that you could want from a soft-top – and more to boot.
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