Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
We can hardly believe our eyes. We're part of a group huddled in the pre-dawn light of Paris, and no one has stepped up to snag the keys to the 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet present for our edification. Yes, that RS4 — the one with the fantastic 420-horsepower V8 up its nose now comes as a convertible.
Apparently everyone else is afraid that by wading into the notorious Parisian traffic they risk getting brushed off the road by a wayward bus, into the path of an apple cart or a row of café tables.
Enough of this. Haven't they seen the short film Rendezvous (1976) by Claude Lelouch? You know, the one where a guy races through the pre-dawn light of Paris in what is supposed to be a Ferrari 275 GTB to meet with his sweet mademoiselle near the steps of the Sacré Coeur? Decision made. Hand over the keys already.
Rendezvous With a 4.2-Liter V8 Years after Lelouch was arrested by the French police because they believed he had broken every traffic law on the books, the director finally said that Rendezvous is actually a masterpiece of automotive lip-synching. Lelouch admitted on French television that the car to which he lashed his camera was in fact a Mercedes sedan, not a blood-red Ferrari. Tire squeal and damn good engine noises were dubbed in.
With the top peeled back on the 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet, we get a full dose of the spine-tingling DOHC 4.2-liter. And it puts Mr. Lelouch's admirable sound effects out to pasture. By sheer luck, our route is nearly identical to that taken by Lelouch for the first half of his short film, almost corner by corner, so the 420-hp (SAE) wail of the Audi V8 echoes off many of the same walls — and more than a few buses.
We don't run nearly as many red lights down the Champs-Élysées as Lelouch did on his infamous run, and there are more scooters jockeying for position these days. But this simply presents us with more opportunities to stab the loud pedal and ratchet up and down through the six-speed manual transmission, blipping the throttle rather more than necessary in pursuit of more noise. As with the RS4 sedan, the six-speed manual is the only gearbox offered for the RS4 Cabriolet.
Who knew that Audi's all-wheel drive makes it a cinch to put down 420 hp, even on greasy cobblestones?
Two Doors, Top Down The top itself is standard fare from the A4 Cabriolet. Though there's lots of enthusiasm these days for hardtop convertibles, this one remains a fabric contraption trimmed with a handsome lining. All-electric operation ensues with the touch of a button; there's no need to manipulate additional levers or interlocks.
Any mechanism for a convertible top takes up space in the passenger package, and the RS4 cabrio is no exception. Rear-seat legroom shrinks from 34.3 to 32.4 inches, and narrower quarters dictate that only two can sit back there. The trunk also gets smaller, but not by much — it's 10.2 cubic feet instead of 13.4. But this figure stays constant, top up or top down. A hard tonneau covers the folded top, leaving no bustle to impede the hustle.
There is no such thing as a coupe in the A4 nation, so the two-door body is specific to convertible variants like the 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet. The changes to the RS4's rear quarters take some of the aggression out of the car's stance. But fear not, because the RS4's well-tuned suspension, massive brakes and 255/35ZR19 Michelin Pilot Sport tires reside within the flared wheel arches of the RS4 Cabriolet.
Heavy Date It's a good thing, too, as the rubber has a bit more work to do. Based on our editorial calculus (official figures are still pending) we expect the RS4 convertible to weigh nearly 4,300 pounds, upward of 340 pounds more than the RS4 sedan.
This weight, combined with the structural side effects of roof decapitation, is sure to dull the edge of the RS4 Cabriolet's performance. But it's impossible to know or care here on the streets of Paris. Final word will have to wait until we can get our hands on one back home in America. Last time we checked, there was plenty of RS4 performance to go around.
Beyond Montmartre Finally clear of town, the RS4's 420-hp V8 has no trouble propelling us at ludicrous speed. Our baseball cap doesn't stand a chance of staying in place, yet we don't mind going without, as the wind buffeting isn't too bad if the side windows are rolled up. An effective windblocker can also be fitted across the rear seat.
Cabriolet versions of the A4 and S4 typically cost between $8,000 and $9,000 more than their fixed-roof counterparts, so this makes the $82,675 price tag for the RS4 Cabriolet a real jaw-dropper, as it's some $15,000 higher than the cost of the RS4 sedan. As it turns out, the RS4 Cabriolet will come fully loaded with all of the options of the RS4 sedan as standard equipment, but we're thinking this is still a lot of money for something that looks like an A4.
Audi of America realizes that the 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet will appeal to a limited audience. But it's in the lineup now because there are always those who want to be seen in the most exclusive model, even if it means trading a portion of the go for a bit of extra show. You probably won't ever see one on the showroom floor, however, since a special order is necessary.
Meanwhile, Somewhere in France As our turn at the wheel of the RS4 Cabriolet comes to an end, rain begins to fall and the top goes up. Outside Paris, the roads prove to be smooth and straight as an arrow, with no chance of enjoying what the V8 has to offer.
We're glad to have roared around Paris in the 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet with its top down. The City of Lights has been in full view, the 19-inch Michelin rubber lightly chirped on the cobbles and the engine provided a suitably fierce soundtrack.
Are you ready to film a sequel to Rendezvous, Monsieur Lelouch? We've got the car for you, and no lip-synching will be necessary. You'll need a bigger budget, though.
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