Start with an Audi A4 Cabriolet, one of the most stunning four-seat convertibles ever to stroll American roads, but somewhat of a slouch in the performance department. Oh, it's solid and secure in the corners, but with a modestly powered V6 and no option to shift your own gears, you won't be coming out of them very fast.
Then consider the high-performance S4 sedan, which answers the BMW M3's call for more horsepower with a 340-hp, 4.2-liter V8. Engineers also battened down the stock A4 running gear for quicker runs through the switchbacks and installed a pair of Recaro seats that effectively secure the driver during said runs.
Side by side, these cars may share their genealogy, but they cater to two very different drivers. One is a sun worshipper who wants to travel in high style and high comfort 365 days a year. The other may tell you how much he likes the understated elegance and all-weather capability of an Audi, but underneath the small talk and tailored suit beats the heart of a performance fiend who doesn't care a bit about practicality and eggs on M3 drivers at stoplights. Ah, but what if these two individuals were in fact the same person a sunburned enthusiast who has saved like mad for a four-season dream ride? Well then, that man or woman will probably be one of the first in line to buy the 2004 S4 Cabriolet.
This Cabriolet brings all of the S4 sedan's (and the S4 wagon's) performance enhancements to bear on the roads of your choosing. The aforementioned V8 is packed into its compact engine bay and all 340 original horses and 302 pound-feet of torque are at your disposal. And because Audi knows that serious drivers want to be given the option of shifting their own gears, a six-speed manual transmission is standard on this drop top. If you decide you'd rather not, a six-speed automatic with a Tiptronic automanual mode is optional.
Although an automatic is a nice option to have in congested areas, we wouldn't have minded seeing another iteration of Audi's Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) instead. Essentially a manual transmission without a conventional clutch pedal, the DSG provides virtually all of the convenience and smoothness of an automatic. At the same time, it has a very responsive manual-shift mode that's more conducive to the higher-intensity driving S4 owners are likely to do in their free time. Given the choice between the DSG and Tiptronic, we'd take the DSG every time at least in an S4. We shared these thoughts with Audi product planners, who, although receptive, noted that this new gearbox is currently only compatible with transverse-mounted engines (the 4.2 is longitudinal) and is limited in the torque loads it can handle. They did tell us that the engineers in Ingolstadt are working on a version of the DSG for future use in the A4 and A6 lines (possibly including the high-performance S4 and S6 models).
You can opt out of the quattro all-wheel-drive system on the regular A4 Cabriolet, but it's standard on the S4 so that owners can take full advantage of the oversized engine. The all-weather aspect of quattro is important, too, as Audi has identified the prospect of year-round use as a top priority for target S4 Cabriolet buyers who presumably will test-drive it back-to-back with the rear-drive M3 convertible.
While quattro keeps the S4 Cab all lined up in the turns, a modified chassis sharpens its reflexes. Engineers lowered the stock A4 suspension by 30mm and fitted the car with stronger stabilizer bars and stiffer springs and shocks. A new steering rack provides a quicker 14.5-to-1 ratio (compared to 16.3 to 1 on the A4) and varies the amount of assist according to the actual vehicle speed. A larger, fully ventilated set of brakes helps drivers keep a rein on all the muscle under the hood, and Z-rated 235/40R18 Continental ContiSport tires form the bond with the pavement.
Audi turned us loose with all of the above running gear on a perfect spring day in the high desert. Only manual-shift S4 Cabriolets were available for journalists to drive, and frankly, we wouldn't have had it any other way. Sure, the throws between gates are long and the clutch take-up a bit spongy for a performance car but it doesn't matter: The six-speed manual gearbox is still an enjoyable means of extracting performance from the 340-hp V8.
With plenty of torque on its side, the engine pulls hard at any speed, and there's nothing explosive, finicky or even boisterous about its power delivery. With an estimated 0-to-60-mph time of 5.8 seconds, the S4 Cab is not as fast as the M3, which we've timed at 5.4 seconds in SMG form (curb weight is the culprit, as the Audi tips the scales at over two tons 300 pounds heavier than the BMW). Nor does its 4.2-liter V8 have the feverish personality of the BMW's worked-over inline six. What the S4 drop top does offer is versatility. There's enough juice to blast out of the turns on your favorite coastal highway, but when Monday comes around, the 4.2 doesn't mind retreating into the background so that you can hear the radio news.
The S4's ride and handling characteristics present the driver with a similar compromise. Although we had feared that the S4 Cab's serious poundage would be a liability on winding two-lanes, the lowered suspension does a fine job of managing that weight. Body roll is held in check, and grip is doled out in liberal amounts. Indeed, the majority of drivers will love the way the car threads their favorite roads. But solid as the S4 Cabriolet is at high speeds, it doesn't have quite the buttoned-down feel of its fixed-roof sedan sibling. And if you're looking for a car that fits like a glove and never met a corner it didn't like, an M3 or even a 330Ci would be a better choice. In trade, the S4 Cab offers an exceptionally smooth ride for a car with high-performance intentions it's comfortable enough to drive to work everyday. However, we did note a surprising amount of cowl shake over the rougher roads along our driving route, and wondered if this might be a consequence of the more tightly wound chassis. In any case, those living in pothole-stricken regions of the country should check this out during their test-drive.
Cosmetic upgrades are few and far between on the S4 Cabriolet, as there's not so much as a deck lid spoiler to break up its sleek profile. There was no functional reason for a spoiler, Audi executives told us, and it would have been difficult to mount one on the convertible's composite trunk lid. The only distinguishable changes from the A4 drop top are a new grille with "S" badging, larger front air intakes, larger exhaust outlets and simple six-spoke, 18-inch wheels at the corners. Also, xenon headlights are now standard. If you've always liked the A4 Cab's clean lines and prefer a sleeper-type look, you'll appreciate the design staff's light touch. If you envisioned a more aggressive look for the topless S4 (along the lines of, say, the M3), aftermarket retrofits may be necessary.
Inside the cockpit, the subtlety continues. Instead of the S4 sedan's race-ready Recaro seats, there's a more conventional set of leather sport seats with elegant piping along the edges. While this change in furnishings gives the impression that Audi softened up the Cabriolet, after a day of driving, we can't say we missed the Recaros. These seats are wider and less confining, and they're pleasantly, but not excessively firm just what you need on a long summer road trip. What's more, they do a fine job of holding you in place when the road turns twisty. Aside from the unusual piping on its seats, the S4 Cabriolet is distinguished from its less sporting siblings by gray-faced, white-needle gauges and a three-spoke steering wheel. Tasteful "S4" logos drive home the point without cluttering up the convertible's refined ensemble.
Audi is asking $54,570 for the S4 drop top, and you'll pay an additional $1,150 if you opt for an automatic transmission. (Fuel economy, by the way, is one of the few cards the automatic holds in its favor, as it earns a decent 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway estimate compared to the manual-shift Cab's subpar 15/21 rating.) If you want a wind deflector, heated seats, auto-dimming mirrors and a "premium" 215-watt Bose stereo (the stock system offers just 150 watts) to accompany you on your journey, you'll need to visit the options lists. Indeed, this is a far cry from the mid-$20Ks starting price of the A4 line. But it's still less than you'll pay to get an M3 convertible. And if you've previously shied away from the BMW because it didn't play well in snow, know that Audi has once again created the winterproof alternative.
2004 Audi S4 Overview Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2004 Audi S4 and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2004 S4 featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
Our Review Process This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2004 Audi S4 and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2004 S4 4.7 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2004 S4.
Review This is the perfect car if you don't want to be seen in a "sports car". Not to mention, you can haul a few kids along the way as well. Although it is not as athletic as a Cayman, it will easily blow away your expectation as to what a grocery hauler can do. It has the class inside and out as you'd expect from an Audi. The 4.2L V8 is a battle-tested dynamo in the lineup. Sure, you can complain about the mileage, but don't buy this car if that's on the top of your list - high performance is what it is. Although we haven't used it to tow anything, it is our do it all car anytime of the year. If you can find one (sedan or wagon), jump on it, you will be happy
Edmunds Value Edmunds has deep data on over 6 million new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles, including rich, trim-level features and specs information like: MSRP, average price paid, warranty information (basic, drivetrain, and maintenance), features (upholstery, bluetooth, navigation, heated seating, cooled seating, cruise control, parking assistance, keyless ignition, satellite radio, folding rears seats ,run flat tires, wheel type, tire size, wheel tire, sunroof, etc.), vehicle specifications (engine cylinder count, drivetrain, engine power, engine torque, engine displacement, transmission), fuel economy (city, highway, combined, fuel capacity, range), vehicle dimensions (length, width, seating capacity, cargo space), car safety, true cost to own. Edmunds also provides tools to allow shopper to compare vehicles to similar models of their choosing by warranty, interior features, exterior features, specifications, fuel economy, vehicle dimensions, consumer rating, edmunds rating, and color
Available Audi S4 2004 Submodel Types: Sedan, Convertible
Available Trims: Premium Plus quattro, quattro, Prestige quattro
Exterior Colors: Brilliant Black, Ibis White, Monsoon Gray Metallic, Ice Silver Metallic, Light Silver Metallic, Florett Silver Metallic, Glacier White Metallic, Misano Red Pearl Effect, Mythos Black Metallic, Tango Red Metallic, Phantom Black Pearl Effect, Daytona Gray Pearl Effect, Navarra Blue Metallic, Sepang Blue Pearl Effect, Sprint Blue Pearl Effect, Dolphin Gray Metallic, Estoril Blue Crystal Effect, Moro Blue Pearl Effect, Quartz Gray Metallic
Interior Colors: Black leather/sueded microfiber, Black premium leather, Ebony, Black/Silver premium leather, Magma Red premium leather, Black/Brown Fine Nappa premium leather, Black/Red premium leather, Black/Red Fine Nappa premium leather, Black/Silver leather/sueded microfiber, Ebony premium leather, Rotor Gray leather/sueded microfiber
Popular Features: AWD/4WD, Alarm, Auto Climate Control, Multi-Zone Climate Control, Power Driver Seat, Rear Bench Seats, Stability Control, Trip Computer, Upgraded Headlights, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Aux Audio Inputs, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Bluetooth, Sunroof/Moonroof, Heated seats, Tire Pressure Warning, Post-collision safety system, Leather Seats, Navigation, Parking sensors, USB Inputs, Blind Spot Monitoring, Back-up camera, Keyless Entry/Start, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, Automatic Emergency Braking, Electronic Folding Mirrors, Pre-collision safety system, Upgraded Stereo, Mobile Internet, 360-degree camera, Heads up display, Adaptive Cruise Control, 2nd Row Bucket Seats, Soft Top