The Audi A4 is about to get a major overhaul for the 2008 model year, but the 2007 A4 Cabriolet has plenty to recommend it to those not willing to wait until next year. With many of the same technology options as the 2007 A4 sedan we got in earlier in 2007, our A4 Cabriolet tester was well stocked with cabin gadgetry, including a usable--albeit dated--navigation system, a great hands-free calling interface, and a sweet-sounding audio system. Like the A4's outgoing stack-mounted multimedia interface (MMI) system, the A4 Cabriolet's roof mechanism shows its age, and could do with an overhaul in the 2008 model. Nevertheless, the convertible does have plenty to recommend it, including a stunning side profile with the top down and a clever trunk-expanding mechanism with it up.
Test the tech: Bed, Bath and Beyond
The main drawback with 2+2 convertibles is their limited amount of cargo space. Sure, it's fun to take your buddies out for some mobile tan maintenance now and then, but what happens the other 95 percent of the time when you want to use the car for more necessary tasks, such as grocery shopping or trips to the mall? The designers of the Audi A4 Cabriolet tackle this problem by means of a unique feature called a variable storage bay. With the top up, this lever-activated mechanism enables the area that is used to store the hood to be converted into usable cargo space. On the A4 Cabriolet, the variable cargo bay delivers around 6 extra inches of depth to the trunk, giving it a total cargo capacity of 10.2 cubic feet. Considering that the A4 sedan has a luggage capacity of 13.4 cubic feet, this is an impressive feat.
In the cabin
The view from the driver's seat of the 2007 Audi A4 convertible is much the same as that in the sedan. The leather-covered power front seats are wide enough for comfort, although we found that they left something to be desired in terms of lateral support for hard cornering. Seating space in the backseats is usable, but rear passengers more than 6 feet tall will find their heads brushing up against the roof liner when the top is up. When putting the top down, the automatic mechanism intrudes even further into the limited headroom space of the backseats, and rear passengers have to duck to avoid it.
To put the roof down, drivers must stop the car and locate the Open/Close button hidden beneath the armrest in the center console. In contrast with other soft-top (and some hard-top) convertibles we've tested, the A4's roof takes a conspicuously long 20 seconds to open and close--a fact that we found out when we tried to open the top while at a stoplight, only to find the light turning green before the roof had finished its two-stage opening process. With the top down, the A4 looks great, as its rising beltline gives it a side profile to rival that of the 2007 BMW 335i convertible. Our tester came with the optional S-line sport package, which--along with five-spoke alloy wheels, and sport suspension--gave us a wind deflector, which can be fitted over the rear seats for better aerodynamics.
Under route guidance, you get a split screen with a colored map on the right side and the next three suggested upcoming turns on the left. When approaching a turning, the left side of the screen displays a close-up of the junction with the suggested route shown in bright blue--a useful feature that helps drivers avoid missing their turns. The A4's navigation system can show routes in either a plan view or bird's eye view of the route, which gives drivers a nice visual option. We found the maps on the LCD display to be colorful but lacking in the graphical quality that we have seen on some 2007 models from other manufacturers. Another gripe we have with the system is that it offers no way to scroll around the map, either at the current location or at the destination.
Under the hood
Considering it had the smaller of the model's two engine options, our 2-liter A4 Cabriolet tester was an impressive performer. It may take all of 7.9 seconds to get to 60mph (half a second slower than the heavier A4 sedan) but in city driving, the direct-injection turbocharged A4 Cabriolet feels responsive and light on its feet.
Like the sedan version of the A4 and the 2008 Audi TT we reviewed recently, our car was equipped with Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system, which allocates power to the front or rear axle depending on their respective levels of traction. Combined with the sport-tuned suspension that came courtesy of the S-line trim package, our A4 Cabriolet displayed immaculate road-holding capabilities, giving us the confidence to throw it about on some of the more winding stretches of California's Highway 1, south of Monterey.
In our week with the car, we drove it more than 600 miles in mainly freeway driving and through the winding coastal roads of Northern California. Over that distance we observed an average fuel economy of 22.6mpg--toward the low end of the EPA's 2007 estimates, but right in the middle of the revised 2008 rating of 19mpg city/ 27mpg highway.
Our 2007 Audi A4 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro came with a base price of $41,200. To that we added $3,000 for S-line trim (18-inch alloy wheels, high-performance summer tires, sport suspension, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel, wind deflector); $2,100 for navigation; $1,000 for the premium audio package with Sirius satellite radio; $500 for Bluetooth hands-free calling; $450 for heated front seats; and a $475 paint job. The peppy A4 Cabriolet 2.0T will appeal to those looking for a stylish, sporty ride with an element of real-world functionality thanks to its relatively good gas mileage, comfortable cabin, and impressive storage facilities. At just under $50,000, it's not cheap, and finds itself up against the Volvo C70 on one side and the BMW 335i convertible on the other, both of which come with the added bonus of retractable hard tops.