2007 Audi A4 Convertible Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Audi A4 Convertible
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2007 Audi A4 Cabriolet

Fabric-top convertibles are not usually known as all-weather vehicles. Yes, they're great for fun in the sun, and can shield occupants from a little rain, but once it gets cold it's time to park for the winter and switch to another vehicle. Right?

Not so with Audi's A4 Cabriolet. With its well-insulated three-layer top and available quattro all-wheel drive system, the A4 Cabrio is useful year-round. I've just finished a week with one, with daytime temperatures varying from highs in the mid-60s (top-down weather for winter!) to the high 30s. While none of that is extreme to anyone in, say, Fargo ND or Prudhoe Bay AK, with the A4 Cabrio's top up at 40 degrees, it's as snug and well-insulated as a sedan. Conversely, when the first-generation A4 Cabrio was introduced in late summer 2002, I drove it in a Southern California heat wave. 100 degrees out? No problem, heat stroke is no fun, put the top up and turn on the air conditioning.

And as always, that top goes up and down automatically at the touch of a button, no manual latching necessary. Structural reinforcements give the A4 Cabrio rigidity on a par with its sedan counterpart, for precise handling and a luxury-car level of refinement. In standard trim, with Audi's 2.0-liter, 200-horsepower FSI direct fuel injection four-cylinder engine and FrontTrak¨ front-wheel drive or quattro¨ all-wheel drive drivetrains or the 3.2-liter, 255-horsepower FSI V6 engine and quattro, it's a fine sport-oriented luxury car. Both engines significant improve upon the previous 1.8T and 3.0 V6 offerings of the past few years. Add the S-Line sport package, with a firmer suspension tuning, plus-one wheels and tires, and sport-look cosmetic upgrades, and the sports quotient is increased. Need more power? Then there's the S4 Cabrio. "S" denotes Audi's high-performance line, and S4 Cabrio means a 340-horse V8 under the hood, driving all four wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic with "Tiptronic" manual shifting.

When it debuted for the 2003 model year, the A4 Cabrio very successfully filled a void left with the demise of the Audi Cabriolet in 1998. It looked like a two-door version of an A4 sedan with its top replaced by a convertible soft top, but all body panels were subtly different. When the A4 sedan was restyled in 2006, the Cabrio remained unchanged. Now it has been brought up to the latest Audi specification with the "single-frame" grille and revised taillights as highlights.

My 3.2 V6 quattro test car was well-equipped for all-season duty, and not only in the relatively mild climate in which I live. Perhaps the best is the acoustic convertible top, optional with the 3.2 V6 and standard in the S4 Cabrio. Made of new, denser materials, it creates an even quieter and better-insulated top-up interior experience than the already commendable standard top. Add quattro all-weather traction, and there is no reason to keep the A4 Cabrio in the garage for the winter.

APPEARANCE: As with other Audis, the A4 Cabrio's lines are simple and elegant. Top-up or top-down, it is identifiably and Audi thanks to its shape, and of course now the large "single-frame" grille featured across the company's lineup. Strong character lines in the hood and at the shoulders offset the rounded body shape. In planform, the Cabrio is more rounded in front than the sedan. It has two doors to the sedan's four, so all body panels differ just a bit between the two, but there is no doubt that the Cabrio is an A4. Aluminum trim around the outside of the cockpit is a distinctive touch, and the A4 Cabriolet looks as handsome with its top up as with it down. When down, the top completely disappears beneath a hard tonneau.

COMFORT: Inside as out, the A4 Cabrio's styling is clean and simple, with a tasteful geometric design. The anti-glare arch over the instruments continues into the line of the center stack and console, and the round instruments and air vents - five - are accented with aluminum bezels. Aluminum is also found on the door sills. The steering wheel hub now has a representation of the single-frame grille, with the four-ring Audi logo inset. It has a thick leather rim, perfect for a driving grip, and is manually-adjustable for both tilt and reach. Convenient roller-knob auxiliary audio controls are mounted on the steering wheel spokes. Front seats are top-quality, especially the optional leather sports seats in my test car. The rear seat is similar to that of the A4 sedan, and holds two medium-sized adults comfortably. Top-down, wind buffeting is minimal, and can be decreased by a wind deflector unless there are rear passengers, as the deflector covers most of the rear seat. The top is completely power-operated, and goes up or down quickly. The standard top provides excellent insulation when up; the new "acoustic top" is even better. Visibility with the top up is better than average for a convertible. The top folds into the area behind the rear seats, and does take up some trunk space. Still, the A4 Cabrio has more luggage capacity with the top down than most hardtop convertibles.

My test car had the optional navigation system, which moves the CD changer from an in-dash unit to one hidden in the glovebox. With the nav system, there are two slots for SD cards behind the LCD screen, to play MP3 music files. System control is by Audi's MMI system, which is more intuitive than other similar systems if less so than a touch screen.

SAFETY: Extra reinforcement in the door sill area, under the floor, and at the bulkhead between the passenger cabin and trunk gives the A4 Cabrio structural rigidity equivalent to that of the A4 sedan. An extra-strong windshield frame and a rollover-protection system consisting of two bars that pop up from behind the rear seats protect passengers in rollovers; front and front side airbags and strong door beams provide further protection.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The chassis modifications that increase safety also improve the Cabrio's ride comfort and handling precision. There is virtually no cowl shake, even on poorly-paved roads, and newly-upgraded steering allows more feedback from the road. As in the A4 sedan, suspension is fully independent, by Audi's "Four-Link" modified double wishbone system in front and their trapezoidal link rear system. In standard form, it's tuned moderately, in the European luxury-sport manner. The S-Line sport package, as in my test car, gives a firmer spring and shock tuning and 18-inch, 235/40 sports performance tires that probably aren't the best solution for winter driving but work very well in dry or moderately wet conditions. The quattro all-wheel drive system is a proven system that makes optimum use of the power and traction available in all conditions, wet or dry.

PERFORMANCE: Who can argue with more power, particularly with no adverse impact on fuel economy? FSI direct fuel injection, which allows higher compression for improved power and efficiency, and more displacement add up to notable power increases for both the 2.0-liter four-cylinder and 3.2-liter V6 engines, which are both 200cc larger than their predecessors. My test car had the V6. With 255 horsepower (at 6500 rpm) and 243 lb-ft of torque (at 3250 rpm) matched to a six-speed torque converter automatic with "Tiptronic" manual-shift mode, it bests the old 3.0-liter V6's 220 hp and 221 lb-ft while returning slightly better gas mileage, with EPA ratings of 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. A six-speed automatic transmission also benefits performance and economy. It works well in daily use in "D", and even better for sport driving in manual mode, when it can be shifted by paddles mounted on the steering wheel spokes or a lever on the console. Integration between the engine and transmission electronics results in rev-matching during downshifts, for quicker, smoother shifting.

CONCLUSIONS: A convertible is not merely a summer toy if it's an Audi A4 Cabriolet quattro.

SPECIFICATIONS

2007 Audi A4 Cabriolet 3.2 quattro

Base Price			$ 46,950
Price As Tested			$ 57,020
Engine Type			aluminum alloy dual overhead cam
				 24-valve V6
Engine Size			3.2 liters / 191 cu. in.
Horsepower			255 @ 6500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			243 @ 3250 rpm
Transmission			6-speed torque converter automatic
				 with manual shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		104.3 in. / 180.0 in.
Curb Weight			4079 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		16.0
Fuel Capacity			16.6 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				235/40 ZR18 Conti Sport Contact 2
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA,
				 ESP standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent four-link /
				  independent trapezoidal link
Drivetrain			longitudinal front engine,
				 permanent all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		19 / 27 / 21
0 to 60 mph				6.9  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
S-Line sport package - includes:
  18" alloy wheels and high-performance summer tires
  sport suspension, S-line bumpers and badges, brushed
  aluminum trim, 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel	$ 2,500

Audi Navigation Plus					$ 2,100
Convenience Package - includes:
  Homelink ¨ remote transmitter, auto-dimming mirrors,
  memory for mirror and driver's seat adjustments, rain and
  light sensor, bi-xenon headlights with adaptive front
  lighting system, acoustic convertible roof		$ 1,800
Sports seats with Perlnappa leather			$ 1,500
Premium Audio Package - includes:
  Bose¨Ępremium sound system, Sirius¨ satellite radio	$ 1,000
Heated front seats					$   450
Destination Charge					$   720

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