Yesterday I was given the opportunity to get behind the wheel of Audi’s A4 Cabriolet for a few hours. I have always been a fan of Audi’s conservative European styling and functionality, but have never been the type of guy who likes the wind blowing in my hair while motoring down roadway. And this coming from a native Californian who grew up in the “golden” state with over 300 days of annual sunshine. Now I can honestly say that my outlook on drop-tops has changed after spending some quality time with the A4 Cabriolet. Someone please pass the sunscreen.
Pros and Cons
Conservative and attractive European styling
Fun and practical car to drive
Predictable handling and enough acceleration to keep a smile on your face
Lots of luxury features without having to take out a second mortgage on the house
Smooth shifting 6-speed automatic
Plenty of head room for tall people -- even with the top up
Seating for four grown-ups
Limited trunk space (golf clubs barely fit inside the trunk)
Fitment issues with grills located on top of dashboard which I find untypical of European cars
Side view mirrors not large enough and do not return to their original position when shifting from reverse to drive
The A4 Cabriolet is a car with multiple personalities. On the conservative side is the styling and functionality of a well designed car. The 6-speed automatic makes it easy to drive around town and in commuter traffic. The satellite radio allows you to tune into the NPR radio or your favorite music genre. The interior shows off its luxury character with power adjustable 12-way, heated, leather seats and genuine wood trim.
To expose the A4’s fun side, reach underneath the center console and locate the switch for the powered soft top. Transformation from conservative European sedan to boisterous playmate takes about 20 seconds. Lowering and raising the rooftop is simple and quiet. No fuss, no muss. Put on your favorite sunglasses, turn up the volume on the Bose 9-speaker audio system, and you are ready to get “jiggy” with it while cruising your favorite scenic drive.
Performance and Features
Getting down to business, the 2006 A4 Cabriolet is fitted with a 3.0L V6 engine that puts out 220 horsepower at 6300 RPM and 221 foot-pounds of torque at 3200 RPM. The engine is mated to a 6-speed Tiptronic® manually interactive automatic transmission. Power is smooth throughout the torque range and the engine just buzzes along like a contented worker bee. What impressed me was the smooth transition of gears while up-shifting. I tried a couple of hard accelerations with the transmission in full automatic mode. Each time the engine reached it’s redline at 7,000 RPM, the up-shift to the next gear was quick, ultra-smooth and barely perceptible. Zowee! Tom Kristensen couldn’t shift this smoothly. The shift points under normal driving conditions are around 3,200 RPM and just as smooth.
The curb weight of the A4 is a little over 4,000 pounds and does feel a little heavy getting around tight turns and accelerating out them, but the 3.0L V6 does a good job of avoiding the Monday morning blues and getting you on your way quickly. Some of that extra heft is due to the reinforced construction of the chassis and sound dampening materials. There was nary a shake, rattle or hum from the chassis during my time with the A4. Interior cabin noise was minimal when the top was up. Making it easy to listen to the radio or talk on the cell phone. Driver connection to the road is established through the suspension and drivetrain inputs. So the driver is never really disconnected from the driving experience.
(Editor’s note: I do not condone the use of cell phones while driving and did not use my phone during the test drive)
Getting the driver connected with the driving experience is so easy with the Cabriolet. The sun was shining, albeit on the cool side, and it was a great day to be test driving the A4 with the roof down. Sure it was a sunny day, but the temperature was hovering in the low 50’s. Factor in the wind chill factor with the top down and you get a cold reminder that it is still winter. Ahhh, but the Audi engineers were thinking of much colder climates than winter in California. The dash displayed the outside temperature as 50 degrees. With the environmental controls set to 74 degrees and the seat warmer turned on, keeping comfortable at 60 MPH was not an issue. Even the passenger gets to set his or her own individual comfort setting. Very cool, err warm.
I appreciated some of the design features that the Audi engineers
thoughtfully integrated into the car. One of the best features is the integration of the
power windows with the roof actuation. If the windows are up, all four
windows drop a few inches before the roof is either lowered or raised.
A nice touch is that the windows will roll up once the roof is up and
locked down – all with the single button that controls the rooftop. Nice. The driver’s door has five buttons to control the power windows. Four buttons control each individual window and a fifth button controls all four windows simultaneously. Very nice.
Ergonomic layout of the switches and controls surrounding the steering wheel are almost intuitive. Most of the switches can be actuated without the hands leaving the steering wheel. The red LED display is easy to read and placement is centered between the analog gauges.
For those who are willing to share their driving experience or families with multiple drivers, the driver’s seat boasts four memory settings. Heated seats are available for both the driver and front passenger as part of the individual climate control feature. The leather covered seats are comfortable and feel good on extended drives. I’ve been in some cars where it gets uncomfortable sitting in the seats for more than an hour.
I did notice the plastic assembly, located on top of the dashboard, holding the dash tweeter and functioning as an air vent was not seated properly. I tried pushing the plastic pieces back into place, but they would just pop up about 1/8 of an inch. Possibly the heat from the sun or closed interior caused the dash pieces to change its shape. Both the left and right grills would not snap into their slots.
The A4 Cabriolet does a good job of melding multiple personalities. I really appreciated the European styling and no-nonsense German engineering. The driving experience was thoroughly enjoyable whether I was driving in city streets, commuter traffic, or zipping along merrily on a quiet and curvy two-lane road. Having the option to switch between fully automatic and manual intervention mode of the Tiptronic® is great for those people who like to be involved with their driving experience.
The four-person configuration allows me to bring friends along to enjoy the ride, but they have to leave their baggage at home. Trunk space isn’t very large due to the design accommodation of the roof when it is retracted.
The A4 does have its limitations and is not meant to be driven hard like a sports car. The hefty curb weight, due to the structural engineering and all-wheel drive system, makes cornering less than nimble. As long as you don’t drive like Ayrton Senna, the car is in its element and a joy to drive.
Nice touches such as the retractable headlamp washers, satellite radio, and single-button control of the power windows, maintains the convertible’s status in the luxury car category. There are many more notable features, but the list is too long for this article.
The A4 Cabriolet would be a great car for those who like mixing a
little fun with their driving experience and appreciate the finer
details of German engineering. In my opinion, Audi does a great job of
putting together serious engineering into a fun package. How many cars
that you know of can assume a whole new dynamic when the top goes down
and the music goes up?