Cars Worth Noting - 2003 Audi A4 Cabriolet
Audi is that “other” German luxo-marque, squeezed between BMW and Mercedes and the upscale aspirations of its own parent company, which is working hard to move Volkswagen into blue-chip-brand competitiveness. I’ve spent recent quality time in three excellent Audis, all delectable treats. First came the criminally quick and agile S4, a pocket rocket powered by a 330-hp 4.2L V-8.
Then the creamy A8L sedan with limo-like rear cabin, world-class feature load and that same lovely V-8. Now the A4 Cabriolet, a compact S4 sibling powered by a silky 220-hp 3.0L V-6 through the world’s most enjoyable continuously variable transmission (CVT).
I was fortunate to enjoy the A4 Cabriolet on a 2,000-plus mile trip. So smooth was it on the road that it took a while to remind me of the CVT connecting its engine to the road. Other CVTs sometimes feel like a centrifugal clutch, with revs racing ahead of vehicle response.
Audi’s shows that tendency only occasionally.
Left in Drive, it feels mostly conventional... but never shifts! Stand on it, watch rpms rise to 6,200 rpm and enjoy turbine-like shiftless acceleration — like a jet aircraft on take-off — until you have to lift. To enhance control and fun on curvy roads, move the shifter to manual mode and slap it up and down through six distinct ratios like the best manu-matic.
The tight convertible top powers into an expandable box in the smallish trunk, and the typically benchmark Audi interior impresses with precision switchgear feel and aspirational materials and fits. Teutonic brands have suffered quality lapses of late, but nothing went wrong with the Audi trio I tried. Only the CD changer random function dissatisfied by dwelling on one or two discs while all but ignoring the others.