What's New for 1997
Base price drops a couple grand, but at the expense of the power top, burled walnut wood trim and leather seats. Opt for the Premium Equipment Package, and these items magically reappear. Casablanca White and Cactus Green join the list of paint colors, and three new top colors debut. Leather seats can be had in two new shades, too.
Audi has been selling the Cabriolet for several years now, with little success. A high price, a limp powertrain, and an aging design based on the old 90 Coupe have steered buyers to BMW, Saab, and Ford showrooms. This year, Audi makes a feeble attempt to revive interest in the Cabriolet by dropping the price and deleting the power top, burled walnut interior trim, and leather seating.
Audi's 172-horsepower 2.8-liter V-6, mated to an automatic transmission and hauling around nearly as much weight as the A6 wagon, feels anemic in this application. A manual gearbox would improve matters, but is not available at any cost.
In an effort to provide some added individualism to consumers, the Cabriolet is available in two new exterior colors, and the top comes in three new colors, bringing the total to five. The optional Kodiak leather seating is also more distinctive this year, with two new shades of cowhide on the roster. Formerly standard equipment that was deleted for 1997 can be had so long as the Premium Equipment Package is ordered. This package reinstates the power top, the leather seat upholstery, and the wood interior trim to the equipment list. Also, by ordering this package, buyers gain access to options like competition-style alloy wheels and sport seats.
It's no surprise that Audi sells few copies of the Cabriolet in the U.S., considering that the BMW 3-Series and Saab 900 convertibles are priced in the Cabriolet's range and are more viscerally satisfying automobiles. Buyers looking for both luxury and speed can get a loaded Mustang GT convertible and save a few grand, or pop for a similarly-priced Cobra variant. The BMW, Ford, and Saab have more character than the Audi, and are more fun to drive. Audi needs to go back to the drawing board on this one, and we doubt that the upcoming TT roadster is the answer, unless the question is "What 20th century automobile looked the most like Miss Piggy?"