Coachella proved a perfect backdrop for a zoom through the desert in a snappy Audi Cabriolet A4.
Notice how smoothly those words roll off the tongue: Audi Cabriolet. Almost as smoothly as the German uber-drop-top rolled over freeway bumps and dips on the 10 Freeway to what has become the kick-off event to the festival season.
Suitable soundtrack to the three-or-so hour drive was Arctic Monkeys, Bjork and a rake of other tunes that could give you more of an insight into what this reviewer likes to listen to, but I'll leave it that every track sounded glorious through the Audi's symphonic stereo, even with the hood down.
Opportunity abounded for top-down cruising but, for the festival, the wife wanted her hair looking messed up and windswept, so we kept the top up to preserve the way she blow-dried it earlier. I'm just kidding. And I've said it before, but, again: I don't like showing up to events looking like Nick Nolte.
The way back was different as, after stumbling soberly through several car parks blindly pressing the keyless entry fob and hoping for a respondent "Beep" we eventually tracked it and leaped in, to sit in a jam for at least two hours. Not nice at 2am. At least its short turning circle proved helpful a coupla times.
Still we made it back to LA, and Coachella wasn't the only residing memory. Flat-out best memory of the Cabriolet was its all-round smoothness through its dynamic six gear Tiptronic automatic box and its roadholding, its ability to grip on without losing any of the pulsating fun of pushing a car to its limits. And when you're unleashing 255 horses while doing so from its directly injected V6 - upgraded to a 340hp V8 for '08 - that experience sticks in your head for a very long time.
To avoid the A4 looking like its precursors - I believe, perhaps wrongly, there hasn't been a fundamental change in the look of the A4 Convertible since I ragged one around in the UK more than 10 years ago - the new one boasts the elongated grille that covers the entire front of the car between those Xenon headlights, as witnessed across its sister VW range, too. It's a bold design move for usually the most reserved of carmakers and one that sharpens its image to a new generation of nuveau riches-types that will make up Audi's target audience.
The S-badge gets you stiffened and tuned suspension, 18-inch rims and all manner of inside tweaks and badges alongside its increased performance (for about $2,500 for the package). Another about $1,800 will get you dibbings including driver's seat memory and auto-dimming mirrors and the like. As standard you'll also get four-wheel-drive when needed through Audi's almost legendary Quattro power-distribution system. Ride is stiff, but not too stiff to enjoy. I loved it.
Downside in my book is the soft top. I'm firmly on the side of hardtops though appreciated you get much more cargo space with the soft top. This softy was better than most, with minimal windnoise or tire roar creeping into the cabin.
Audi's are usually extremely reliable safety-wise; this one packs driver and passenger airbags, thorax and head side restraint bags and pretensioning seat-belts.
Gas is reasonable at 19 and 27 town and freeway. Warranty is reasonable at four years, 50,000 miles.
Go get one, whether you're a festival crawler or a wine-bar creeper.