2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet
It's hard to make a case for the Audi RS4 Cabriolet on a rational basis. With destination charge and gas-guzzler tax, it costs nearly $85,000. That's almost $20,000 more than the RS4 sedan, and roughly $27,000 more than the S4 Cabriolet. It's convertible top means that it doesn't have the structural rigidity of its sedan sibling, so - as any car magazine geek will tell you - it doesn't handle quite as well. It's based on the outgoing version of the A4, which for the sedans and wagon has already been replaced, so it's not the latest-and-greatest. Oh, and it gets 12 mpg, city.
But who cares about all that? I sure don't. I just spent a week with a red and black RS4 Cabriolet, and I didn't want it to end. First of all, the car looks absolutely badass; sporty - with its slightly lowered suspension, nineteen-inch wheels, and wider wheel arches - but still subtle. The seats, upholstered in fine, "silk nappa" leather with contrasting piping, are deeply sculpted and very comfortable. The perforated-leather-wrapped steering wheel feels perfect. Start it up, and the high-revving, 420-hp V-8 sounds great; hit the "S" button (which quickens the throttle response and alters the exhaust flow) and it sounds even better. Putting the top down lets you drink in the sound all the better. This is a car where you find yourself holding a lower gear just to hear the engine rev.
Speaking of keeping it in a lower gear, shifting the RS4 is a blissfully simple task thanks to the wonderfully fluid and straightforward six-speed manual gearbox (the only transmission available) and perfectly tuned clutch. The steering is linear and nicely weighted. The standard dynamic ride control provides a surprisingly supple ride and firm, stoic grip through the corners. This is a car that never beats you up or bums you out; it's just a highly polished, highly seductive muscle machine that offers the option of the 360-degree view of the rushing scenery.
So, a case must be made. How about this? Compared to the Audi R8, the RS4 Cabriolet has the same direct-injection, 420-hp V-8 (minus the dry-sump lubrication) but it costs more than $20,000 less. It also seats twice as many passengers and has more trunk space. And compared to the RS4 sedan, it's far more exclusive: The total production run is only 300. Case closed.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor