With all the topless cars we've been featuring lately, we could probably rename the column Cars Gone Wild. From the small and sporty Mazda MX-5 to the spacious and luxurious Volkswagen Eos, our recent reviews of drop tops have offered completely varying experiences.
Up next, a convertible bred for the Autobahn offering a luxurious interior and stuffed with a powerful V-8 - the Audi S4 Cabriolet.
The 2007 Audi S4 Cabriolet is a perfect example of what happens when a manufacturer lets its performance technology trickle down to everyday models. Building off Audi's success in various levels of automotive racing, Audi has created competent rivals to BMW's M vehicles and Mercedes-Benz's AMG vehicles with their own performance brand, the S- and RS-line. Upon applying the S-line performance enhancements to the mild-mannered A4, Audi had a car that performs even better than it looks.
From a mere performance standpoint, the S4 feels like a pure sports car. Powering the S4 Cabriolet is a 4.2-liter DOHC V-8 that produces 340 horsepower and 302 lb-ft of torque. Upon acceleration, the Audi S4 roars up to its 7,000-rpm redline where it finds its peak horsepower as the quad chrome-tipped dual exhaust belts out an enjoyable, yet aggressive, note. The S4's sport-tuned suspension provides stiffer shocks and stronger stabilizers for increased handling and cornering, while Audi's famed quattroÂ® permanent all-wheel drive system helps to keep all that power under control.
Running from 0-60 mph in the mid five second range, the S4 is a quick and agile vehicle. Although Audi's six-speed Tiptronic transmission is available for duty, we're glad the car we tested was equipped with the six-speed manual transmission that provided smooth, effortless and precise shifting. While 'cowl shake'? and 'body roll'? are commonly associated with convertibles, the S4 is both solid and steady whether it's being taken over bumpy roads or driven hard into tight corners.
Visually, the S4 Cabriolet varies little from the basic A4's already stunning looks. Apart from the athletic stance that is 30 mm lower than a stock A4, Audi limited the S4's exterior upgrades to keep the car's clean, stylish look in tact. In addition to the S4-specific front calipers peering out from behind the 18-inch, seven twin-spoke alloy wheels, S4 badges grace the decklid and Audi's trademark grille, while small 'V8'? badges under the side marker lights reaffirm what rests under the hood.
While most soft-top convertibles have a less inspiring design than their steel-topped counterparts do, the S4 Cabriolet offers a very attractive profile. The roofline has a slight upward curve that not only improves the S4 visually, but it also adds an increased sense of interior space.
Inside, the bright red leather interior features black stitching and beautifully complements our S4's Ibis White exterior, while carbon fiber accents adorn the instrument panel, center console and door trim. From the driver's seat, all of the controls are easy to reach and to operate. A large tachometer and speedometer flank the digital information system, while smaller temperature and fuel level gauges finish off the instrument cluster. The S4-specific tachometer bumps the redline from 6,500, on the regular A4 models, up to 7,000, which the ferocious V-8 isn't afraid to hit.
Our only complaints about the S4 Cabriolet's interior are the awkward placement of the parking brake lever and speed control stalk. The armrest itself is quite useful providing a small amount of storage and is height adjustable. Unfortunately, when it comes time to park, the armrest gets in the way of the parking brake lever making the motion of setting the parking brake not as fluid as one would expect. As for the speed control stalk, first timers may find a bit of a challenge in operating the speed control due to the stalk being located directly behind the left spoke of the steering wheel (when the wheel is straight). Once accustomed to the positions of the various buttons, the cruise control is easy to engage with the left hand.
Cruising with the top down is the only reason to buy a convertible in the first place, and the S4 transforms from a quiet coupe to open-air luxury in just 24 seconds. With the top up, the S4 Cabriolet is surprisingly quiet - sounding almost as quiet as its solid-topped brethren. Even dropping the top on a nice sunny day won't result in the necessity for blaring the optional Bose radio or loss of conversation. At highway speeds, there is no problem holding a conversation without yelling or hearing a moderately tuned radio especially with the windows up and, even better, with the removable wind deflector in place over the rear seats.
Despite the fact that many manufacturers are switching to retractable hardtops, the A4 Cabriolet lineup continues to use a cloth top. Ample headroom is available for both front- and rear-seat passengers, although the long-legged passengers may want to avoid the rear seats. Up front, passengers get up to 37.8 inches of headroom and 41.3 inches of legroom; in back, headroom drops to 36.3 inches, while legroom shrinks to just 32.4 inches.
Being a performance car with a heavy price tag, anyone in the market for an Audi S4 Cabriolet should not be squeamish when it comes time to fill 'er up. The powerfulÂ and high-revvingÂ V-8 has an EPA rating of just 14 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. Running on premium unleaded only, it's not exactly cheap to fill the 16.6-gallon fuel tank.
The performance and luxury attributes of the S4 Cabriolet don't come cheap. The 2007 S4 we tested had a starting MSRP of $55,700 and came with a laundry list of optional features and a $1,700 gas-guzzler tax for an as-tested price of $64,100.