Tobias Rau shown with his 2003 A4 Cabriolet
The new A5 Cabriolet is the latest chapter in a long history of success written over the last 18 years by the brand with the four rings. The first open-top Audi of the modern automotive era appeared in 1991 and was based on the Audi coupe. The four-seater had a wheelbase of 2.56 meters (8.4 ft), was 4.37 meters (14.34 ft) long and offered 230 liters (8.12 cubic ft) of trunk space. The smooth lines and the softtop, which even then resided in its own compartment behind the rear seats, imparted the vehicle with an understated, classic yet modern appearance and defined a style that remains current today.
From 1993, optional front seats with integrated seatbelts and rollover protection provided greater safety in the event of a crash. A wind deflector and an electrohydraulic drive that opened the top in 30 seconds were first offered in 1993. A hardtop followed in 1997.
The Cabriolet debuted with a five-cylinder engine producing 98 kW (133 hp). Early 1993 saw the introduction of an entry-level gasoline engine displacing two liters and producing 85 kW (115 hp) and two newly developed V6 units – a 2.6 liter with 110 kW (150 hp) and a 2.8 liter with 128 kW (174 hp). In spring 1997, a 1.8 liter four-cylinder unit with 92 kW (125 hp) assumed the role of the new entry-level engine. All power plants transferred their power to the front tires via a five-speed manual transmission. Four-speed automatics were available for the more powerful engines.
In September 1995, the 1.9 TDI with 66 kW (90 hp) made its debut in the Cabriolet. This diesel engine marked another pioneering move by Audi in the premium segment. The 202 Nm (148.99 lb-ft) of torque at 1,900 rpm allowed for relaxed cruising with minimal fuel consumption. In 1997, Audi gave the Cabriolet some minor cosmetic updates. Production ended three years later.
2002: The Audi A4 Cabriolet
In early 2002, the brand launched the second edition of the open four-seater, which this time was built by Karmann from the very beginning. In the second generation, now called the Audi A4 Cabriolet, the wheelbase grew to 2.65 meters (8.69 ft) and length increased to 4.57 meters (14.99 ft), which meant significant gains in interior space. The trunk held 315 liters (11.12 cubic ft), and the drag coefficient was an impressive 0.30.
Like its predecessor, the quiet, harmonious silhouette featured an optical highlight – an aluminum frame around the windshield. Special reinforcements like the double rear wall, which harbored two roll-over bars, endowed the body with high rigidity. The three-ply softtop with the glass rear window was once again electrohydraulically powered, and a two-zone, automatic climate control system was included as standard equipment.
The front suspension was a four-link construction. In the rear was self-tracking trapezoidal link suspension. Most axle components were made of aluminum. Four large disk brakes, ventilated up front, provided the stopping power. The ESP stability program was included standard for active safety. Its 16-inch alloy wheels gave the Cabriolet a safe and nimble ride.
Audi initially offered new V6 gasoline engines with five-valve cylinder heads. The 2.4 liter produced 125 kW (170 hp), and the larger displacement, sonorous three-liter 162 kW (220 hp). In fall 2002, the 2.5 liter diesel with 120 kW (163 hp) debuted as the world’s first V6 TDI in a convertible. The equally powerful, 1.8 T four-cylinder turbo rounded out the portfolio late in the year. Joining the standard five-speed manual transmission as an option was the new multitronic – the world’s first continuously variable transmission in an open-top car. The 1.8 T and 3.0 versions were available with quattro all-wheel drive beginning in 2003.
In late 2003, Audi introduced the S4 Cabriolet as a highlight at the top of the model line. The 4.2 liter V8 with five valves per cylinder produced 253 kW (344 hp) and launched the open-top four-seater to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) in 5.9 seconds on its way to a top speed of 250 km/h (155.34 mph).
A six-speed tiptronic was offered as an alternative to a six-speed manual. Rounding out the program was a new entry-level model with a two-liter four-cylinder producing 96 kW (130 hp).
2005: Next generation with large single-frame grille
The model series was discontinued in fall 2005. The successor model bore the large single-frame grille. Audi completely reshuffled the diesel lineup, which has since comprised the 2.0 TDI with 103 kW (140 hp) and the 3.0 TDI with 171 kW (233 hp). The 2.7 TDI with 132 kW (180 hp) followed shortly thereafter. The gasoline engines saw the 1.8 liter four-cylinder joined by two new direct injection engines – the 2.0 TFSI with 147 kW (200 hp) and the 3.2 FSI, which delivered 188 kW (255 hp).
Two top-of-the-line models rounded out the range. The open-top S4 kept the motor of its predecessor. It was joined in fall 2006 by the RS 4 Cabriolet, developed and manufactured by quattro GmbH. Its newly developed FSI V8, also a 4.2 liter engine, was designed for high revs and put out 309 kW (420 hp). With front-wheel drive and quattro all-wheel drive, with five and six-speed transmissions, with the continuously variable multitronic and comfortable tiptronic, Audi offered a broad range of drivetrain options for the A4 Cabriolet.