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Doctor wants a ride for summer and winter

2010 Audi A5 Cabriolet

Audi

Hi Jeremy:

We met each other flying into Dusseldorf. I am still pondering which car to buy - either an Audi Q5 3.2 or a BMW 335 convertible.

The issue I have is that I often go up to Collingwood in the winter and thus the stability of the (Audi) quattro really appeals to me. The BMW folks tell me that due to the 50:50 (weight) balance of the 3-Series, traction is not really an issue.

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I would appreciate your thoughts. I also realize that my above choices are really quite different, but I thought that I would ask your advice.

Charles

Cato: Hey, great to hear from you, doc. I remember you well. You and the family were heading off for some fabulous vacation, starting with a week in Paris. You're fluent in French, you're wife also is bilingual and the kids are in French immersion. And you're a car nut.

Vaughan: Cato, you are the Mr. Congeniality of Business Class - riding up front schmoozing the executives and rich docs.

Cato: Never know when you're going to need a good doctor. Think about that, you with your eye mask, ear plugs and that big, grumpy scowl on your face. Who'd talk to you? You get on a plane and it's straight into the Cone of Silence.

But let's get to the question.

Vaughan: Okay, Dr. Chuck wants an SUV or a convertible. Could any two vehicles be less alike? Maybe he has a split personality and should see one of his colleagues in the psych department before he buys.

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Cato: And here's another reason people don't talk to you, Vaughan.

Charles is a perfectly rational man. Nice guy. Family type. He just happens to enjoy his summers as well as his winters and wants a dual-purpose ride.

That truth is, either the Audi or the Bimmer will do fine 12 months of the year. However, the convertible is at its best in summer and the SUV in winter. If Charles wants a drop-top 3, then he absolutely must get winter tires for his Collingwood weekends.

Vaughan: Well, because Chuck is all over the place with his choices, I've got a third one that will do equally well in both: the Infiniti G37 with all-wheel-drive. The coupe, of course, not the convertible.

Cato: There is no AWD option with either the G37 convertible or the BMW cabriolet.

Vaughan: Of course. What I'm saying is that Dr. Chuck might go with a car that falls in the middle between an SUV and a convertible.

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Cato: Well, then. Despite your social shortcomings on airplanes, you are making a contribution here.

I like the idea of putting the Infiniti on his shopping list. But not in the top three. If Charles thinks AWD is something he wants in a premium convertible, why not have a look at the Audi A5 quattro convertible?

Vaughan: That's two Audis.

Cato: Well, he wants AWD and that's Audi's big calling card.

Okay, let's deal with the Q5 first. As my pal Dan Neil at The Wall Street Journal says, people who are interested in the Q5 are not price constrained; they are guilt constrained. So instead of a big, luxury SUV - big and powerful and sumptuous and swimming in privilege - they consider a Q5 or an Acura RDX, BMW X3, Infiniti EX35, Land Rover LR2, Lexus RX350, Mercedes-Benz GLK350 or Volvo XC60. I love how Danny Boy describes them all: "preppy, princessy soft-roaders."

I will say that the Q5 has a gorgeous cabin and is pretty user-friendly over all.

Vaughan: For an SUV, this one has really good driving dynamics. It's on the same platform as the sleek A5 Coupe so it will whistle around corners in ski country without putting you on the roof. And, of course, Audi quattro system is bullet-proof - with 30 years under its belt.

Cato: Now the 335 Cabriolet. Lovely to drive; very entertaining from behind the wheel.

Vaughan: And no ragtop, this one. It is available with a three-piece folding aluminum hardtop roof. This is a very slick top that goes up and down with the touch of a button and will be snug and warm in a cold Collingwood winter.

But as for the 50:50 balance that the salesman was flogging as an all-wheel-drive replacement: hog wash. If all that balance and a good set of tires will do it, then why does Bimmer offer all-wheel-drive in the "X" this and the "X" that?

Cato: Because it helps sell more cars at a higher price.

That said, if Charles really does plan to plow through the snow drifts that pile up off Georgian Bay, he might have more peace of mind with all-wheel-drive.

The G37 coupe with all-wheel drive will do, but if he wants a convertible, the A5 is a better option because it is sold with AWD, unlike the G37 convertible and the BMW 3-Series Cabriolet.

Vaughan: The convertible is pretty new to the A5 line. It's the open-air version of the A5 coupe, which, of course, is a two-door, hunkered-down alternative to the A4 sedan.

Cato: Charles has kids, so he should think about this: A5s are a bit shorter than the A4 and somewhat less roomy inside. Worse, in the A5 Cabriolet, even more space is used up by the folded top; the back seat and trunk suffer.

Vaughan: Cato, the A5 cabrio's lid is cloth and that may be a problem for Chuck and his Collingwood ways. The BMW has a folding metal top.

Cato: Yes, but the cloth lid works well enough.

The problem with the A5 Cabriolet from my end is that it's sold only with Audi's 2.0-litre turbocharged, four-cylinder engine. This engine may put out 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, but it's also being asked to move two tons of car. That's a tall order. What we'll call "modest" performance may not suit a car guy like Dr. Charles.

Vaughan: So Cato, what's your choice? I'd like to go with G37 coupe with AWD, but you're fighting me on this - ranking it No. 4. So I'll have to say the A5 Cabriolet. At least Chuck will have something different in the hospital parking lot.

Cato: The Q5.

Dr. Charles needs to wait a few more years for the kids to grow up before he goes with a two-door car, coupe or convertible. So it's the SUV this time around.





2010 Audi Q5

3.2 (Tiptronic)

2010 Audi A5

2.0T Cabriolet quattro

2010 BMW 335i Cabriolet

Wheelbase (mm)

2,807

2,751

2,670

Length (mm)

4,629

4,625

4,588

Width (mm)

1,880

1,854

1,782

Height (mm)

1,653

1,383

1,384

Engine

3.2-litre V-6

2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged

3.0-litre, six-cylinder, twin turbocharged

Output (hp)

(torque)

270 hp

243 lb-ft

211 hp

258 lb-ft

300 hp

300 lb-ft

Drive system

All-wheel

All-wheel

Rear-wheel

Transmission

Six-speed automatic

Six-speed automatic

Six-speed manual

Curb weight (kg)

1,895

1,830

1,815

Fuel economy

(litres/100 km)

11.5 city

9.0 highway

10.1 city

7.5 highway

11.7 city

7.6 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$43,500

$56,300

$68,400

SOURCE: CAR MANUFACTURERS

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 2 p.m. on CTV.

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

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