August 15, 2004

Living Topless in Lotus Land: 2004 Audi A4 3.0 Quattro Cabriolet Review
Article by: Joe Wong

Living in "Lotus Land" a.k.a. Vancouver BC, we are fortunate to have the longest convertible season in Canada, thus the popularity of ragtops.

It was a hot and sunny Thursday when I picked up a Caribic Blue A4 3.0 Tiptronic Quattro Cab for a 1-week evaluation. You couldn't have asked for a more perfect day to go topless! Having owned and driven a considerable number of convertibles over the years, I consider myself uniquely qualified to review Audi's re-entry into the 4-seater convertible market.

The particular test subject in question came with a starting base price of $64,600 CAD. Options included: Caribic Blue Pearl Paint ($650), Bose Sound ($920), Premium Package ($2,210), Blue Premium leather Sport seats ($2,250), all-season tires ($400) and a $600 Destination Charge. The as-configured price totaled $71,630 CAD before applicable taxes. I think the only option missing was the Navigation system.

With 220hp @ 6300 RPM & 221 ft/lb torque @ 3200 RPM, I was expecting adequate power to motivate the 1820 kg beauty. Equipped with the 5-speed Tiptronic transmission, I drove it in both fully automatic and "manual" shift mode, varying the choice depending on traffic situations. Launching the A4 was as expected, smooth in either mode. However it is undoubtedly more responsive in manual mode. Down shifting on the other hand is delayed as the computer starts making decisions in order to match speed and RPMs. Although I have not driven a car equipped with "Tiptronic S" transmission, (perhaps only available on a Porsche or an S4?), it could use some remapping to minimize the delay. Clearly Audi's new DSG transmission would be the solution here but unlikely for this target market; having it as an option for the S4 Cab makes more sense.

When you drive convertibles on a beautiful day, you always seem to have a silly grin on your face as drivers of Minivans and SUV's pull up beside you at a stoplight and look on with envy. Or were they actually noticing the sunburn starting to develop on my forehead? "Note to self: wear a hat!"

In stop and go city traffic, the A4 was effortless. The optional Bose sound system more than adequately drowned out most background construction and traffic noise. People crossing the street at a stoplight always seem to notice convertibles, no doubt hoping to catch a glimpse of a beautiful woman at the wheel (particularly in Vancouver). Sorry to disappoint!

As I drove along the Stanley Park causeway, I couldn't help but look up and see the old growth trees that framed the road and the blue sky above. Life is good, topless. If you aren't starting to catch on then let me be more blunt - the more time you spend in a convertible, the more time you want to spend in a convertible.

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