sports cars are sometimes a hard sell to self or significant others because they’re short on practicality. Can’t drive ‘em in winter. Nowhere for the kids. Trunks the size of a Dixie cup. Well, as a public service to those who would dare to drive open air all year ‘round, we offer the following. A club to smack down your left brain: the Audi S4 Cabriolet.The trip from top up to top down in the Cabriolet takes about 25 seconds, and it’s one touch simple. When up, the triple layer, cloth lid is snug and insular, with a heated glass backlight. When down, the top stashes neatly beneath a hard boot, and nibbles about two cubic feet off of your trunk space. Sailing along at highway speeds, wind flow is just moderate. If you add the wind deflector (oddly not standard, but part of the $875 Premium Package), you remove virtually all of the cabin turbulence (along with the possibility of any rear seat companions – the screen straddles the plus two back seat).
The S4 interior is comfortable, understated and well appointed. The Nappa leather buckets are bolstered to keep you in place, and adjust quickly to a supportive driving position.
The front row is a little short on storage space, and if you use the smallish center console/armrest, it can make for an awkward angle to reach the shifter. Flipping it back gives you a straight shot to the stick, though you’ve lost your elbow support. Rear seats are plus two size and hold kids comfortably. The trunk ranges from 8-10 cubic feet, depending on whether the top is deployed. It’s big enough to be useable, even in its smallest iteration, and there’s a pass-through ski-sack portal to the rear seat area that is said to be sufficient to hold a set of golf clubs.Power is provided by Audi’s 4.2 liter V8, coupled to a six speed manual (or optional Tiptronic automatic. The Audi eight is a beautifully smooth operator. With 340 hp peaking at 7,000 rpm and 302 lb. ft. of torque cresting at 3,500 rpm, the engine is responsive over a wide range of revs. Audi posts a 0-60 best of 5.8 seconds, and a top speed governed at 155 mph. That’s several ticks slower than the lighter S4 sedan, but right in line with many hot roadsters.
In charge of pushing that power to the pavement is Audi’s quattro all wheel drive system. A Torsen torque sensing center differential distributes the payload fore and aft. No driver interaction is required.
Page 3: Stealth Looks
The AWD has a seamless feel; grippy with no sense of the car fighting itself. In snow belt states, quattro also imparts a stable and secure feeling on a sloppy track - all season drivability in conditions that would send other sports cars to the bench to ride out the winter months. Steering is progressively weighted, handling stable and centered and the brakes are strong and fade free. The S4 Cabrio has a fairly stiff chassis. Ride quality never left the comfort zone in my travels, but a rough, washboard section of road did coax some top down cowl shake.
All of the above is wrapped in a stealthy set of sheet metal. The S4 wears few clues to the musculature beneath the body. Beefy tailpipes, 18” aluminum rims, big air inlets below the grille and small S4 badges alert the cognoscenti. The S4 might lose a beauty contest to the TT cabriolet (join the crowd), but it compensates with higher performance, exclusivity and the ability to fly (swiftly) under the radar - attributes that are easy to appreciate.
For the combination of sensible and sporty, few convertibles can match the S4. It’s fast and responsive, surefooted in all conditions and big enough to be small family friendly. There’s something here to satisfy both halves of your brain – and that’s a rare find in a roadster.
Page 4: FAQS
Why buy an S4?
Stealthy looks, exclusivity, all season drivability. Audi expects to build about 2,100 a year - chances are you won't see one in the parking lot. And, true, four season capability means you don't have to park it for the winter and add another vehicle to the family fleet.
What's the downside?
What's stealthy to some is subdued to another, in terms of styling. And the air deflector should be a standard feature at this level, not an option.
How about other options?
An audio upgrade (Bose sound and Sirius satellite radio) costs $1,000. The Premium Package adds the wind screen, memory features and auto dimmers for $875. $450 for heated seats will seem like money well spent unless you like the feel of cold leather on a frosty winter morning.Page 5: Writer's Notes
As tested: $59,045
The 2005 Audi S4 is a 2- or 4-door, up to 5-passenger convertible sports car, luxury sports sedan, or luxury wagon, available in 6 trims, ranging from the Sport Sedan to the Cabriolet with Tiptronic. Upon introduction, the Sport Sedan is equipped with a standard 4.2-liter, V8, 340-horsepower engine that achieves 15-mpg in the city and 21-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard. The Cabriolet with Tiptronic is equipped with a standard 4.2-liter, V8, 340-horsepower engine that achieves 17-mpg in the city and 23-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard. The 2005 Audi S4 is a carryover from 2004.