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2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet

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San Francisco: After a four-year hiatus, Audi is offering a topless model again. The Audi A4 Cabriolet is designed to compete with upscale convertibles from Saab, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Though based on the outstanding A4 platform, the Cabriolet has its own styling cues and indeed it does not share exterior body panels with the sedans or Avant wagons. For instance, the Cabriolet's nose and tail are a bit more rounded. This stylish convertible should age gracefully and could even be a future classic.

The A4 Cabriolet comes in three versions - the 1.8T, 3.0 V6 and 3.0 V6 quattro, the latter being a new model for 2004. The 1.8T version shares 1.8-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with the other Audis plus being available in most VW models. This engine is rated at 170-horsepower at 5900 rpm and has 166 lb-ft of torque at 1950 to 5000 rpm. The 3.0-liter V6 produces 220-horsepower at 6300 rpm and 221 lb-ft at 3200 rpm with nearly 90 percent of the peak torque available from 2200 to 5200 rpm.

While the front-wheel-drive versions use the Multitronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) transmission, the quattro uses a traditional five-speed automatic transmission. Even though a CVT uses a single belt running between two pulleys, essentially eliminating gear changes, Audi has programmed the transmission to provide a pseudo-shift feel. A manual transmission is not available on any A4 Cabriolet.

The soft top Audis are fitted with the latest in electronics including ABS with traction control and ESP (Electronic Stabilization Program) that keeps the driver from getting into serious trouble, which is less likely with the Cabriolet. Compared to Audi A4 sedans I have tested recently, the Cabrio seemed to have a softer, less aggressive feel and ride. It also felt much heavier since the A4 V6 I tested was about 350-pounds heavier that the comparable A4 sedan.

Though not sluggish by any means, with the smooth CVT Transmission, the Cabriolet is not exactly a tire burner. Handling and steering, through also with bit of a heavy feel, are still very good as expected in a car wearing the Audi logo. The ABS features electronic brake-force distribution, along with hydraulic Brake Assist so it automatically senses emergency braking situations and applies maximum power boost to reduce stopping distances.

The Cabriolet showed no signs of body flex that is often found on ragtops even on rough gravel roads. Indeed, it felt no different than closed top A4 models. This convertible has a rollover protection system that uses six separate onboard sensors to constantly monitor the Cabriolet's stability and if there is a possible rollover situation, two supports behind the rear seat headrests are deployed. The A4 is also fitted with dual front and side impact airbags.

The A4 has the easiest to operate tops I have ever experienced. Using the single button located on the console between the front seats, it goes up or down virtually silently, though somewhat leisurely. There are no locks or handles to hassle with. A fiberglass cover that operates while lowering and raising covers the lowered top. The windows also work in unison with the top. When erected, the bonded tri-layer top with the heated glass rear window makes you feel like you are in a closed coupe. About the only complaint are the typical rear blind spots with the top up. The A4 Cabriolet comes with a rear windscreen that does a good job in reducing wind buffeting.

The new A4 Cabriolet is about four-inches longer in both wheelbase and overall length than the previous Audi ragtop with most of this added length going into the rear seat area so now two adults can ride back there in reasonable comfort. The new Cabriolet is also 2.5-inches wider. The A4 Cabriolet has a large trunk, at least by convertible standards. For extra space, there is a variable soft-top compartment, but if you fill the trunk with stuff, you will have to keep the top erected. The pull-down, pass-through is large enough to handle a golf bag.

Compared to the gaudy, imitation brushed aluminum instruments found in vehicles today, it was pleasure to see the elegant dashboard in the Cabrio. The combination of wood veneer, vinyl and leather is done just right. Instrumentation is easy to read, though I prefer alphanumeric information be displayed all in one place rather spread out in several locations. Both the typical Audi/VW audio and climate controls are easy to use, once you decipher them and use them a few times.

Prices for the A4 1.8T start at a $35,940 while the A4 V6 and AV6 quattro are priced at $42,490 and $44,240 respectively. Naturally, at these prices the Audi A4s are fully loaded with all the standard equipment expected in an upscale luxury model. A navigation system costing $1350 is available only on the V6 Models. By Bill Siuru & Andrea Stewart AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  Audi is offering a topless model again
Topic:  2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet
Word Count:   879
Photo Caption:  2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet
Photo Credits:  Audi Internet Media
Series #:   2003 - 45

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