2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet 3.0 Quattro
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Review and photos by Russell Purcell

Unfortunately I live in a region of the world that seems to be draped in rain clouds for 300 days out of the year. As a result, ownership of a convertible would not seem practical, as the extra cost to purchase a car with a drop-top could be used to put gutters on the house or buy a lot of raingear. Well Audi’s A4 Cabriolet is so well engineered that it is easy to forget that you are riding in a convertible when the top is up, and when it is retracted, you quickly realize that driving around in a convertible (even if opportunities are few and far between) is such a pleasant experience that you may catch yourself crunching the monthly payment numbers while the wind lightly tussles your hair.

The A4 Cabriolet carries the basic aerodynamic look of the standard A4 (which benefited from a facelift in 2003), complete with the creased waistline and curved corners. However, the cars themselves share no body panels. The interior dash treatment is also unique, as chrome rimmed gauges and a revised layout for the cab ventilation give the Cabriolet its own identity.

Audi engineers were determined to make the A4 Cabriolet a car suitable for all-season use. A triple-layer top keeps the road and wind noise to a minimum and fits so snug, that leaking may never be an issue.

2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet 3.0 Quattro
Click image to enlarge

Heated seats make it a pleasure to take those moonlit drives with the top down, and in the event of a cross-breeze, the four windows can be raised creating a cozy passenger compartment. An optional wind blocker is available that quickly folds away into a briefcase sized bag that can be stowed in the trunk. When in use the unit acts as a semi-rigid tonneau that covers the back seating area (keeping cargo from blowing out of the car), while the upright shield pops up at 90-degrees behind the front seat head-rests. The unit works well at reducing interior turbulence, but it did generate a fair amount of wind noise, making conversations a little difficult. It also acts as a light diffuser at night, keeping the headlamps of following cars from blinding you in the rear-view mirror.

2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet 3.0 Quattro

2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet 3.0 Quattro
Click image to enlarge

The top itself is an incredible piece of engineering, as a simple button on the centre console sets the process in motion. The windows drop a few inches to prevent binding, the top unlocks itself from the aluminum shrouded windshield header (no latches, locks or levers to pull or twist- very cool) and the top lifts up over the driver’s head. There is a brief pause as the rear section lifts up to allow the hydraulic panel to lift up and out of the way to make room for the impeccable top. The whole process takes a hair over twenty seconds, and when completed, the car looks as if it doesn’t even come with a top at all, as the body-coloured cover completely hides the top. Amazingly, the system still manages to leave a fair amount of trunk space. My only complaint with the top’s design became evident when I chose to retract the top while carrying rear passengers. When the top lifts up from the windshield header it forms a fold near the leading edge of the rear window which intrudes into the cabin space. Rear seat occupants must lean forward or the fabric-lined top will make short work of their hairstyles.


All the goodness that is the Audi A4 is also part of the A4 Cabriolet, although the weight penalty that comes with the structural design of a convertible makes the car a tick slower. The extra weight sits low, so the car still tracks well and turns-in crisp, no doubt aided by grippy Pirelli P6 tires and Audi’s advanced traction and stability-control systems.

2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet 3.0 Quattro
Click image to enlarge

This first wave of A4 Cabriolets that took flight in 2003 were not available with Audi’s legendary Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Instead, they featured Audi’s ‘FrontTrak’ front-wheel drive layout. While the front-wheel drive cars will likely prove capable in light snow, the Quattro system is now available to ensure that buyers in milder climes will truly have a four-season convertible.


The A4 Cabriolet can be had with either Audi’s venerable 1.8-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder or with the 3.0-litre V6 as tested. The V6 is extremely smooth in operation, and even with the continuously variable automatic (CVT) transmission, blasts from 0-100 km/h take less than 8 seconds.

2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet 3.0 Quattro
Click image to enlarge

The 5-speed Tiptronic auto-manual was my choice when it came time to exercise the car’s 220 ponies, as I always like to select the shift points, and is part of the package when you choose to opt for the Quattro system. The CVT system however, when left to its own accord, offers an interesting driving experience.

CVT transmissions are designed so that the car operates as efficiently as it can, taking power availability and load demands into consideration and then adjusting the gearing to maximize the car’s efficiency. Acceleration from a standstill is a new experience as the car does not have a ‘set’ series of gears as in conventional automatic transmissions, so acceleration will continue until the car approaches redline. This is startling at first as your ears have been trained to hear the transition from one gear to another, an occurrence that is missing in this system unless you are using the auto-manual feature. This set-up allows you to use the transmission as if you were driving a manual, although minus the clutch action. An indicator in the driver’s information display reveals that the car is set up to behave as if it has 6 forward gears.

Things that make you go ‘Hmm’

The Audi A4 is one of the best handling automobiles on the road today and offers a lot of equipment for a fair price. However, I did notice that at higher elevations the A4 3.0 test vehicle I had most recently seemed to lose its legs. Climbing out of Kamloops, B.C. on the dreaded Coquihalla Highway I set the cruise control at a level to stay with the flow of traffic. In an effort not to incriminate myself I will say that it was a safe and sane level, which still put me at the back of the pack. I glanced in my mirror to see a black BMW flying up behind me at an amazing rate of speed.

2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet 3.0 Quattro
Click image to enlarge

Expecting one of the company’s M cars to blast me into the weeds I was surprised to see that it was merely a 2001 525i, a car that should be struggling at this elevation as well as the A4 beats it on horsepower alone by 35 ponies! I looked down and the speedometer was struggling to keep the car where I put it, falling some 20 km/h below where it should have been stationed. Bad gas perhaps? A long day of travel? Too many donuts on my part? It just seemed funny as the VW Touareg I tested recently (under similar road and weather conditions) tore this stretch of highway up, and it was only the V6 model! Based on my impressions of previous iterations of this car in 3.0-litre guise I have never found one wanting for power, so my vehicle must have needed attention.

Audi’s interior

2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet 3.0 Quattro

2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet 3.0 Quattro
Click image to enlarge

I always feel very important when behind the wheel of an Audi, as the quality of the materials, overall fit and finish, and thoughtful design of Audi interiors set them apart from many of their peers. The thickly-padded roof liner, supple leather seats and real wood trim bespeak luxury, while aluminum-trimmed gauges and vents hint at the sporty side of this car. The mellifluous 8-speaker, 6-disc, 180-watt Bose audio system is powerful enough to pump music throughout the cabin, even when motoring at speed with the top down. It also adjusts automatically to counter road and wind noise, and benefits from steering-wheel mounted secondary controls.

The list of options for this car is very small, but includes self-levelling Xenon lighting and an onboard navigation system. Audi also offers ten exterior colours for the Cabriolet complemented by twelve interior colours and a handful of coloured tops. This level of colour customization is unheard of.


2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet 3.0 Quattro
Click image to enlarge

Advanced ABS brakes and traction control systems do their best to keep you and the car in check, but accidents do happen. Audi has made passenger safety priority #1 for all its passenger vehicles, and the Cabriolet takes this to a new level with an advanced rollover-protection system. A series of sensors will trigger a pair of spring-loaded roll bars from the rear deck immediately behind the headrests in the rear passenger compartment. In the event of any crash or impact front and side airbags will deploy and the car’s brain will automatically unlock the vehicle’s doors and turn on both the interior lighting and the hazard flashers to help with extraction and visibility. This innovative system will also shut off the fuel flow to the engine and in cars equipped with On Star, contact help and relay the car’s location.


The Audi A4 Cabriolet is an attractive package and should hold up well against convertibles from rivals BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Saab and Volvo. With room for four passengers and healthy performance, the A4 Cabriolet may also attract a few buyers from the Boxster and TT crowd, as the extra seats increase the car’s utility and add a little extra cargo room. With the perfect mix of performance, luxury and safety, the A4 Cabriolet offers good value in a very distinctive package.

Technical Data: 2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet 3.0 Quattro

Base price $62,300
Options $5,680 (Premium Package $2,210, Sport Package $400, Blue Premium Leather $1,500, Blue Top (N/C), Caribic Blue pearl effect $650, Bose Premium Sound $920)
Freight $600
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $68,680
Type 2-door, 4 passenger compact convertible
Layout longitudinal front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.0-litre V6, DOHC
Horsepower 220 @ 6300 r.p.m.
Torque 221 lb.-ft @ 3200 r.p.m.
Transmission 5-speed automatic Tiptronic
Curb weight 1730 kg (3814 lb.)
Wheelbase 2654 mm (104.5 in.)
Length 4573 mm (180.0 in.)
Width 1911 mm (75.2 in.)
Height 1391 mm (54.8 in.)
Cargo capacity 282 litres (10.2 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.5 L/100 km (25 m.p.g.)
  Hwy: 8.1 L/100 km (35 m.p.g.)
Fuel type Premium unleaded
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km

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