Audi RS4 Cabriolet 2007 review
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Audi's RS4 is well documented as a fast, fun and lively executive express.
But what happens when you slice the roof off, replace it with cloth and remove two doors?
You end up with the RS4 Cabriolet. And 26 of them have been imported into Australia for lucky drivers who can afford to place an order for one.
But how does it compare with what it was before the surgery.
There are a few variants of the RS4.
First there's the sedan — a serious performance car at the pointy end of the market. It goes like a rocket, handles fantastically and is subtle enough to the eye not to attract every radar you pass.
Then there's the Avant (something most of us would instead call a station wagon). In many respects, the Avant is even better.
It loses none of the handling and is the same as the sedan in nearly all respects — except you can pack your entire family and bucket loads of luggage within the confines of the wagon's generous load area.
Then there's the two-door RS4 Cabriolet. It's basically a sedan minus two doors — and comes with an electronically retractable soft-top roof.
But in removing the roof, Audi has also removed part of this special car's soul.
Let's first look at the engine. No troubles there. It's the same 4.2-litre, direct injection V8 as the other RS4 models. It's one of the best-sounding, best-performing, highest-revving V8s available today. This beast would take on just about anything short of an exotic performance machine worth twice the money. And it sounds twice as good with the roof down.
Matched to a wonderfully slick and smooth six-speed gearbox, this high-revving juggernaut propels driver and passenger from standstill to 100 clicks in under five seconds, pumping out 309kW at 7800 revs and 430Nm of torque at 5500 revs.
In other words, it's fantastically fast. In fact, with few exceptions, it's about as fast a production car as money can buy.
And the faster you push it, the faster it wants to go. The 0-100 speeds are terrific. But get the engine revving over around 5000 and it's a bullet.
But apart from perhaps getting more attention from fellow drivers, it's hard to see the value for an extra $20k or so over the Avant.
In many respects, it's less car for more money.
While it's beautifully appointed, with first-class leather seats and enough gadgets to please any tech-obsessed teenager, the removal of the roof takes away a lot of space and makes the car less stable. And it pretty much loses its back seats.
Despite the seats being adjustable, heated and wrapped in the same gorgeous leather as the front, there's simply no room for anybody larger than a small child.
Rather than a reasonably spacious four-seater sedan, the Cabrio is essentially a practical 2+2.
Then there's the boot which, while is reasonable in size, is immediately eaten up by the roof when it is folded back.
This is another reason to consider whether or not the additional money — and we're talking the price of a small car here — is justified.
But more disappointing is the impact the lack of roof has when you hit the road. Like many soft-tops, which were originally designed to have traditional tin roofs, the RS4 chassis has more flex than its hard-top brother.
This makes handling less responsive and inspires less confidence when you want to hit the steering wheel-mounted sport button and throw the thing around a little.
The lack of any tin above the seats also leads to rattling and squeaking in the dash below the windscreen.
This was immediately evident in our test car, which had been driven less than 10,000km when we picked it up.
To be fair, this car had been driven all of its life by drivers who don't own it, so it may be treated a bit more carefully by those who actually fork out the money for their own.
As far as soft-tops go, however, the cloth roof on the RS4 is excellent. It goes up and down at the push of a button (even while you're moving, albeit at less than 30km/h), soundproofs the car well and has a high-quality feel to it.
And, even though there's the odd rattle and shake, the quattro system makes it stick to the road like it's been glued.
A highlight is the electronic stability controls, one of the least intrusive systems we've experienced.
But even when it does manage to slip somewhat, you would hardly know the electronic nanny had stepped in, if not for the light on the dash.
And, as any real performance car should be, it's nice to see Audi has stuck to its guns by only offering the RS4 range in a manual — in this case a six-speed job with some excellent ratios to make the most out of the monster engine.
In the end, the RS4 in any variant is a stunning car.
But without a roof, and despite the additional $20,000 or so on the cost, the cabriolet is simply an inferior drive to the sedan or Avant.
Now, if only there was a road somewhere in this country where we could actually test even a small part of the RS4's potential...
Range and Specs
|Quattro||4.2L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$29,700 – 35,750||2007 Audi RS4 2007 Quattro Pricing and Specs|
|Quattro||4.2L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$31,790 – 38,280||2007 Audi RS4 2007 Quattro Pricing and Specs|
|Avant Quattro||4.2L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$32,890 – 39,160||2007 Audi RS4 2007 Avant Quattro Pricing and Specs|