The 2009 Audi S4 is still a decent high-performance small luxury car, although the aging Cabriolet is rapidly becoming eclipsed by competitors. A forthcoming all-new sedan and wagon should thrust the S4 back near the head of the pack.
For 2009, the Audi S4 sedan and wagon have been temporarily discontinued as Audi readies new versions based on the latest A4 generation. The convertible version of the Audi S4 carries over unchanged.
When Audi released its latest-generation S4 in 2004, it broke new ground by stuffing a 4.2-liter V8 under the S4's relatively compact hood. This, along with a sport-tuned suspension, bigger wheels and more powerful brakes, allowed the S4 to take on any of its high-performance German competitors. But times have changed. No longer is 340 horsepower a jaw-dropping spec in this segment, and nonperformance versions of rival cars now match (or beat) the S4's specs.
For the 2009 Audi S4, only the convertible version remains as a carryover from last year. The sedan and wagon have been dropped, as Audi is presumably readying new versions. A fully redesigned A4 sedan appeared this year, and it will serve as the template for the new S4 when it debuts. As for this year's S4 convertible, it maintains its good looks and excellent interior quality, two of the model's best selling points.
Because other brands have considerably upped the ante on their high-performance models, the S4 convertible no longer directly competes with the likes of the BMW M3. The Audi now sits, price- and power-wise, between the 300-hp BMW 335i convertible and the 382-hp Mercedes-Benz CLK550. From this vantage point, the 2009 Audi S4 remains a solid choice for those looking for extra oomph in their small luxury convertible.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Audi S4 is currently available only as a convertible (Cabriolet) in one well-equipped trim level. Standard features include 18-inch wheels, performance tires, a power-operated and sound-insulated soft top, xenon HID headlights, 12-way power-adjustable seats, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated mirrors, heated front seats, Bluetooth and a 10-speaker audio system with a six-CD changer and satellite radio.
Options include heated rear seats, a navigation system, a rear parking system, iPod connectivity and a Convenience package that adds 18-inch wheels, auto-dimming mirrors, driver-seat memory and a Bose premium sound system.
Powertrains and Performance
The Audi S4 is fitted with a 4.2-liter V8 that makes 340 hp and 302 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent through either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic. The latter transmission allows manual-style shifting via steering-wheel-mounted paddles. The standard Quattro all-wheel-drive system employs a 40/60 front-to-rear power split in normal situations to give the car a more dynamic attitude when cornering. Audi claims that an S4 Cabriolet with the manual transmission can sprint from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds.
Fuel economy for the 2009 Audi S4 cabriolet is rated at 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined for the manual transmission, and a slightly better 14/21/16 mpg for the automatic.
Stability control, antilock disc brakes with brake assist and front-seat side airbags (for both chest and head protection) are standard on the 2009 Audi S4 convertible.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like every Audi, the 2009 S4 convertible features superb materials, excellent fit and finish, and efficient controls (although the optional navigation system isn't particularly user-friendly). The two-person rear seat is fine for children and small adults, but otherwise it's cramped. Cargo space is decent for a compact luxury convertible; total luggage capacity is 10.2 cubic feet, more than its German rivals.
Even though its numbers aren't comparatively as impressive as they once were, the 2009 Audi S4 Cabriolet still packs plenty of power and ability. The S4's top-notch underpinnings result in excellent handling on demanding roads, while still maintaining a comfortable ride. The Audi doesn't offer the precision handling of BMW's 3 Series, but the extra traction provided by the all-wheel-drive system just might make the S4 worthwhile, especially in areas of the country where otherwise sun-loving drivers have to navigate through inclement weather in the winter months.