As the weather warms, the minds of every car nut turn to just one thing: convertibles. And it seems like there’s never been more intriguing drop tops to choose from. Case in point, this Audi A4 Cabriolet, a new German temptation that delivers unique open-air motoring, Audi style.
Audi has been without a proper 4-seat drop top since its Cabriolet model went away in 1998. It was never a big seller here in the states anyway. But now, with the 2003 Cabriolet an integral part of the impressive A4 family, Audi hopes to change all that.
The A4 Cabriolet does bear a resemblance to the A4 Sedan, but actually shares no sheet metal with its 4-door cousin. The Cabriolet has a look that is unique, with some styling cues taken from its smaller, sportier sibling, the TT.
Putting the top up doesn’t hurt those good looks either. The three layer top, with a glass rear window and integral defroster, keeps both the elements and the noise out. This is one of the tightest fitting fabric tops we’ve ever seen. Dropping the top couldn’t be simpler. Just press a switch and 24 seconds later, you’re basking in the sun. No latches to deal with here, and there’s a hard tonneau cover to hide it all.
Now that the top’s down and the sun’s out, it’s time for a cruise. And cruising is what this Cabriolet does best. Seek out open roads on a warm summer day, and you’ll quickly recall why you bought the Cabrio in the first place. It’s the perfect vehicle for a leisurely jaunt through the countryside. And, you’ll look good in it, to boot.
With a curb weight of over 3600 pounds, however, the Cabriolet does give up a good bit of the sedan’s agility and prowess for a very rigid structure. Pot holes are no problem. And, when the asphalt gets smooth and twisty, the A4 Cabriolet can hold its own against other imported soft tops. Pushed hard through our slalom test course, the A4 Cabriolet performed admirably. Turn in is a little slow, and there is initial understeer, but it responds quite well to inputs. Overall the Cabrio is very predictable, with a minimum of body roll and convertible body flex. It is in a word, solid.
When it comes time to bring the A4 Cabriolet to a stop, you notice its weight the most. Stops from 60 averaged a longish 135 feet. The pedal feel is soft, but the process is smooth and controlled.
Our A4 Cabriolet is powered by Audi’s 3.0-Liter V6. This longitudinally-mounted V6 is rated at 220 horsepower with 221 lb ft of torque, coming at a useful 3200 rpm. Audi’s 170-horse 1.8 Liter Turbo 4 is also available. Front drive only, Audi’s Multitronic CVT is the singular transmission choice. That’s fine with us since it’s the best CVT that we’ve ever driven, and makes for a very relaxed cruising atmosphere. And those that want more control can manually select from 6 different virtual gear ‘‘ranges.’‘
This combination provides reasonable track sprints, too. 0-60 miles per hour in just under 8 seconds. While 16.3 seconds was our best quarter mile time, at 88 miles per hour. More proof of the A4 Cabriolet’s mission as a relaxed cruiser. Witness too from EPA fuel economy ratings of 20 City and 27 highway. Our test loop returned a spot on 24 miles per gallon.
The cabin of the A4 Cabriolet is luxuriously trimmed, using the basic design of the sedan to present a truly inviting four-place sun worshiper. Once you slide into our car’s optional leather upholstery, you face a clear, well-lit gauge package. And like all A4s, the necessary controls fall easily to hand. Dual zone automatic climate control and a stereo with a 6-disc in-dash CD-changer are standard. Our car had the optional 225-watt Bose system, while Audi’s competent GPS navigation system is also available.
Access to the rear is aided by the ‘‘easy entry’’ front seats that move forward and out of the way. Rear seat room is better than most competitors, though leg room remains at a premium. Conversations among a foursome at speed are not a problem. And if there’s just two of you, the optional wind deflector reduces wind noise even more.
Maybe you’ll be discussing how much top down cruising ‘‘Audi-style’‘ cost you. If you pick the 1.8T, the tab starts at $35,610. Our 3.0 liter V6 begins at $42,160. Add in our tester’s Premium Package, leather seating, Bose Premium Sound System, 17’’ alloys, and heated seats and you get a grand total of $46,685. Oh well, you can always lie on the beach for free.
But this is the time to be shopping for a convertible. And if your convertible needs include a luxurious, well-built, yet relaxed cruiser with room for four, we think your search will begin and end at your local Audi dealer.
Engine: 3.0-Liter V6
Torque: 221 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 8.0 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.3 Seconds @ 88 MPH
60-0 MPH: 135 Feet
EPA Mileage: 20 MPG City 27 MPG Highway
Motorweek's Mileage Loop: 24 MPG Mixed City/highway