2007 Audi A4 Cabriolet Road Test Review
Theres more than meets the eye to the recently refreshed Audi A4 Cabriolet.
Updated for the 2007 model year and basically unchanged for 2008, the convertible features upgraded engines, thoroughly reworked suspensions, upgraded brakes and revised steering.
There are a couple of changes that meet the eye, too. To bring the car into line with the rest of the Audi models and distinguish it from its predecessors, the revised convertible now sports Audis dominating trapezoidal front grille. Less obvious, but also new, are the restyled clear-glass headlights and the revised rear tail lamps.
While the gasoline powerplants are new to the convertible, Audi buffs will recognize them as the same ones previously introduced on A4 sedans and station wagons.
The smaller of the two is the two-liter, four-cylinder engine. The first to combine direct fuel injection with turbocharging, it produces 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. The bigger powerplant is a 3.2-liter V-6, which generates 255 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque.
Customers choosing the four-cylinder engine have two choices. They can order a front-wheel-drive model that is paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission or an all-wheel-drive convertible that comes with a six-speed automatic shifter. Those who want the six-cylinder powerplant will get standard all-wheel drive and the six-speed transmission.
The independent suspension a four-link setup in front and self-tracking trapezoidal links at the rear wheels has been reworked and changes have also made to the spring and shock-absorber settings. The result is a car with sharper responses and little, if any, sacrifice in ride quality.
Revisions to the power steering give the driver more feedback from the road and more precision in turning.
The antilock disc brakes have been upgraded to match the increased engine power. They feature stability control, automatic brake pressure distribution, emergency assist and a wiping feature that keeps them dry when the road is in wet.
The car provided for my inspection was a fully optioned six-cylinder model and I was fortunate to have it during a week of mostly sunny, low-humidity weather. With a tug on a button, I could lower the top and watch it disappear beneath its metal tonneau cover in 24 seconds.
With the roof down, the Audi was a joy on the back roads and a comfortable companion on the highway. Wind lash was never a factor, so I had no need to install the rear-seat wind deflector that comes with the car.
However, top-down motoring did come with one annoyance that was not nearly as evident years ago when I owned a sports car. The huge increase in highway traffic has been accompanied by a huge increase in noise. It is nearly overpowering when you are traveling in a tunnel created by tractor-trailer trucks on both sides of the car.
Top up, however, the atmosphere inside the Audi was always serene. The standard Audi roof, with its thermal insulation and heatable rear-glass window, does a good job of insulating the passengers from the outside world.
For 2007, the German manufacturer offers an optional acoustic top that does the job even better. With even more densely woven fabric, it reduces noise nearly to the level of a coupe.
To make the Cabriolet as safe and rigid as its A4 sedans, Audi reinforced the body, strengthened the windshield pillars and installed two protective bars that will pop up behind rear-seat passengers in milliseconds when sensors determine the car is going to roll over.
As I considered the acoustic top and the modern safety features, it occurred to me that there might be no real advantage to having a convertible with a retractable hardtop. Are the extra weight, cost and complication really worth it?
However, there is one feature which I wish Audi would add for its United States customers a standard transmission. A six-speed manual shifter, offered to Americans only on the much-more expensive, V-8 powered S4 convertible, would really enhance the A4s sports-car-like competence.
Now, for the bad news. These Audis are not cheap.
The least expensive, front-wheel-drive Audi Cabriolet starts at about $40,000. Base price of a 2008 version of the car I drove is $47,900, and it includes one standard item that was optional in 2007- heated front seats. Also included in the base price are dual-zone climate control, leather seats, cruise control, trip computer and 10-speaker sound system with an in-dash 6-cd player and MP3 capability.
Add all of the options, which include a premium sound system, optional Perlnappa leather, special paint, navigation system, Bluetooth phone preparation, rear-parking assist, acoustic roof and delivery charges, and the bottom line jumps up to $55,400.
The Audi A4 Cabriolet has always been an enjoyable, but expensive automobile. The recent upgrades make it is even more desirable.
Saturn is one step closer to a total revamp of its product line. Like the Aura and Outlook, the Vue is a dramatic step forward in styling, quality and performance.
The second-generation Vue is a compact crossover based on the Opel Antara and GMs Theta chassis platform. Opel is a German division of GM, and its becoming commonplace for Saturns to be based on Opels.
The 2008 Vue is built in Mexico. Steel has replaced the earlier models composite body panels because steel panels fit better and give the vehicle a more expensive look.
Compact crossovers blend carlike manners with SUV function, and do so in a relatively small overall footprint. The new Vue is offered with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Prices start at $21,395 for the front-wheel-drive XE and range to $26,895 for the all-wheel-drive XR.
Powertrain choices include a 2.4-liter four-cylinder in the front-wheel-drive XE and Green Line hybrid, a 3.5-liter V-6 with 222 horsepower in the all-wheel-drive XE and a 3.6-liter V-6 with 257 horsepower in the XR. A sporty XR Red Line and a Green Line hybrid will be available later in the year.
The test vehicle was a pre-production XR with all-wheel drive. The 3.6-liter engine with variable valve timing is smooth and strong. It is capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds when the vehicle is properly equipped. In larger vehicles, this engine sometimes feels as if it needs more midrange torque for a stronger throttle response, but that wasnt the case with the Vue.
The fuel economy rating is 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 on the highway. The 2008 figures have been revised to be more realistic. On an extended highway trip, I averaged about 23 miles per gallon.
The XR comes with StabiliTrak, a vehicle stability program that includes a special tow-stabilization program to help control the vehicle if the trailer begins to sway. RV owners will be pleased that the Vue can be towed with all four wheels on the ground.
The new Vue has athletic, coupelike styling. A mock engine-air vent sits behind the front wheels and forms the leading edge of a character line that is stamped into the side of the body.
Inside, the Vue looks like a more expensive vehicle than its price would suggest. The level of interior design is light years ahead of the current Vue. Surface textures on the dash and door panels are nicely textured. Brushed silver accents on the steering wheel give a contemporary look. A navigation system and upgraded CD player are offered also, but the test vehicle was not so equipped.
The steering wheel has fingertip controls for the cruise control and radio, and theyre small thumbwheels that are rolled up or down. That motion is intuitive and simple to use.
The Vue has seating for five. No third seat is offered, which makes sense because it would have to be very small.
The test vehicles cloth seats were reasonably comfortable. After four hours behind the wheel, however, I wished for deeper cushions with more lumbar support.
The split-folding rear seat makes it easy to configure the cargo compartment for a variety of uses.
On the highway, wind and road noise were not at all intrusive. The most obvious sound was some minor wind whistle around the outside mirrors.
Because the new Vue is sportier than before, and because it has such an improved interior, it will appeal to buyers who might not otherwise consider a Saturn.