New Car/Review

1997 AUDI CABRIOLET

by Tom Hagin

audi

SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 34,600
     Price As Tested                                    $ 40,240
     Engine Type                            2.8 Liter V6 w/MSFE*
     Engine Size                                 169 cid/2771 cc
     Horsepower                                   172 @ 5500 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               184 @ 3000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                    100.6"/67.6"/176"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3373 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  17.4 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     195/65R15H
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                  5 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.34

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            19/24/22          
     0-60 MPH                                       11.2 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       18 seconds @ 82.5 mph
     Max speed                                           125 mph
     * Multi-point sequential fuel injection

Audi's Cabrio convertible was introduced in Europe in 1991, but it took three years for it to reach our shores. When it finally hit American streets, it enjoyed much positive public acceptance. It seems that everyone loves a convertible - including our test crew. Sunny days put great demands on our test car during its week with us.

It's noteworthy that Audi has been on a sales roll lately, due in part to a simplified lineup and lower pricing, as well as a corporate refocus on Audi's extremely capable "quattro" all-wheel-drive system. The Cabrio isn't offered with all-wheel-drive, but is nonetheless a practical "fun" car.

OUTSIDE - Its slippery top-down shape looks muscular and block-like, and can be likened to a well-tailored suit. Audi utilizes simple but classic lines, with the hood sloping gradually up to the windshield header, then to the rest of the vehicle on virtually a single plane. It also features a relatively high beltline. Lowering the top is amazingly simple: a twist of the T-handle at the top of the windshield frame, then push a switch on the center console. This activates the seven hydraulic motors it takes to perform the operation and makes the top disappear into a well behind the rear seat. A hard cover then flops neatly over the well, hiding everything. In all, the process takes about 20 seconds. Our test car was finished in optional pearlescent white paint and rolled on 15-inch, ten-spoke alloy wheels, while a 16-inch high performance tire/wheel option is available.

INSIDE - To control the internal wind buffeting that can occur at highway speeds in a convertible with the top down, Audi offers an optional wind screen that fits just behind the front seats. Wood trim is sparingly applied to the dash and center console, while its sound system, a 120-watt AM/FM cassette, is pre-wired to accept an optional six-disc CD changer. Front seat occupants will appreciate the amount of room in which to stretch, as well as the comfortable front bucket seats, but the rear seating area is small. The Cabrio's standard features list is lengthy and includes cruise control, air conditioning, powered outside mirrors, windows and door locks, a rear window defogger (with a built-in fan system), and deluxe floor mats. Our car came with an optional all-weather package that included heated door locks, front seats, and windshield washer nozzles.

ON THE ROAD - Audi powered the Cabrio with its smooth 2.8 liter V6 engine which features 24 valves and dual overhead camshafts, as well as sophisticated fuel injection and ignition systems. It produces 172 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque and from a standstill, Cabrio acceleration is smooth, but slow. However, when the engine begins to spin to around 5000 rpms, it comes up on the power band and the leisurely acceleration livens quickly. This slow off-line power can be attributed to its high gear ratios, which Audi feels is perfectly suited to high-speed Autobahn driving. A smooth-shifting four-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment, but a manual gearbox is unavailable. The Audi Cabrio is an archetypical boulevard cruiser.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The undercarriage of this Audi consists of strut-type front suspension that uses many forged alloy pieces, supported by coil springs and aided by an anti-roll bar. Its rear suspension is quite basic with a rigid axle, trailing arms, coil springs and an anti-roll bar. Its power rack-and-pinion steering system features variable assist, which gives more power boost at slow speeds, such as during parking maneuverers, yet offers more road feel at highway speeds. The handling is predictable and the car can tackle twisty roads with enthusiasm. Since it incorporates front-wheel-drive and is shod with standard touring tires, unusually heavy cornering produces some plow. By adding the optional tire/wheel package, its handling prowess could be considerably enhanced.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS and side-impact beams are standard.

OPTIONS - The all-weather package adds $400, while the Premium Equipment Package is $3,700 extra. Pearlescent paint adds $570 more.

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