March 19, 2007
Surrey, British Columbia – Winter seems be hanging around longer than normal this year, but milder weather can’t be too far away. As the seasons change and temperatures rise, so does that primal desire buried deep within us to tear the top off our automobile and enjoy the sunshine…some of us anyway.
Alternatively you could buy a convertible, like the completely redesigned 2007 A4 Cabriolet. It’s a little pricey but this compact soft-top offers premium creature comforts, a chic interior and an engaging and sporty driving experience. And within its trim dimensions there’s an incredibly high-level of advanced technologies at work.
A word of warning: if being able drive with small children on board is important, this is not the vehicle.
Although the Audi A4 sedan, on which the Cabriolet is based, was completely redesigned last year, the Cabriolet make-over was delayed a year. So, this is the first year (2007) of the new-generation A4 Cabriolet.
In addition to new styling, the Cabriolet is offered with a choice of two gasoline engines in essentially three versions. Surprisingly, the two rear seats are functional, in that they could be used by adults, and a clever expansion feature in the trunk transforms it into a useful cargo space.
The base engine is a state of the art turbocharged, direct fuel injection 2.0-litre four-cylinder that can produce up to 200-horsepower. It’s also remarkably fuel-efficient and meets ultra-low emission standards.
In the front-drive version, the 2.0-litre engine is mated with either a six-speed manual or a CVT automatic transmission. My test car was the Quattro (all-wheel drive) version and it came with a six-speed automatic.
The third and top-line version of A4 Cabriolet is the 3.2-litre V6, which only comes with Quattro-drive and a choice of manual or automatic (not the CVT) transmissions.
“Big grille” is a new styling theme at Audi these days and the four interlocking chrome rings that symbolize the company are prominently positioned on it. Clear headlight assemblies are another attractive new styling enhancement.
Like most convertibles the A4 Cabriolet looks better with the soft top down, but this one also looks good with it up. The fully lined top is well insulated and it has a glass rear window. The fully automatic roof opens quickly and apparently it can be closed on the move at speeds up to 30-km/h – I didn’t have the nerve to try it.
Inside, my car’s extremely well finished interior was predominantly black and came with aluminum trim on both the console and a wrap-around trim strip on the dash and doors. Also of note was a nicely finished head-liner on the inside of the soft-top.
The front passenger gets the same power seat adjustments as the driver, which includes a power lumbar support that inflates and can be moved up or down. And an Audi motif on the steering wheel centre cover that matches the front grille design was a nice touch.
The best thing I can say about an awkwardly positioned centre armrest, however, was that it folded back and out of the way.
It’s a compact vehicle so interior space is limited and additional space is needed to store the folded top. Surprisingly the rear seat is still usable and can fit a taller than average adult, with some cooperation from the front passengers.
Two additional features that were particularly clever were the trunk expander and a secondary fore/aft seat switch that’s mounted high on seat back. When the soft top is up you can flip a lever in the trunk that collapses the storage space for the top and provides more trunk room.
The A4 Cabriolet has some unusual but good safety features. Front knee air bags hide under the dash and pop-up roll bars are concealed behind the rear seat head restraints. There’s a complete first aid kit behind the centre rear armrest and the test car also came with optional adaptive Bi-Xenon headlights.
On the downside, it’s not possible to safely install a forward facing child seat in the A4 Cabriolet. It has attachment points for a rear facing infant seat and a booster seat, but it does not have the top tether anchor attachments needed to hold a forward facing child seat in place.
This is a convertible that you can drive all year round. The cabin is warm and the quiet. The sound insulation is particularly impressive when you take the Cabriolet up to cruising speeds on the highway and the Quattro drive system seems to find traction any road surface.
It’s also a nicely balanced car with light and agile personality, plus a tight turn circle. The weighting on the steering is perfect and it has a stable, well-centred feel on the road.
While the power output and technology behind 2.0-litre engine is most impressive, it’s not perfect. The idle speed (800/900 rpm) is quite high. Even when stopped on an incline, the vehicle would creep along if I lifted my foot off the brake pedal. It’s probably not an issue with the manual transmission version.
The transmission’s normal (D) drive position is obviously geared to give best fuel economy, but it also makes the A4 appear sluggish at times. That said, you’ve also got a choice of an “S” or sport position, which definitely ups the shift tempo, and there’s also a sequential manual mode. In manual mode you can use the floor shift lever or shift paddles on the back of the steering wheel.
Overall, the A4 Cabriolet is a premium convertible that’s not too big – the perfect cure for those winter blues.
Pricing: 2007 Audi A4 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro
Base price: $58,100
Freight $ 700
A/C tax $ 100
Price as tested $58,900
Manufacturer’s web site