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Audi A4

It's quicker, smarter and quieter - and that's just the new Audi A4 Cabriolet's roof! Opening or closing the elegant fabric top takes only 21 seconds, which is five seconds less than before, and the automated design now works while you are on the move at speeds of up to 20mph.

The current A4 Cabriolet is residual gold, the firm's old 80-based drop top still attracts good money... and now the latest model is set to be a massive hit, too. An impressive range of new engines, a reworked fabric hood and the revised suspension all add to the appeal of Audi's latest drop-top. It's a car that you can buy with your head as well as your heart.

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It's quicker, smarter and quieter - and that's just the new Audi A4 Cabriolet's roof! Opening or closing the elegant fabric top takes only 21 seconds, which is five seconds less than before, and the automated design now works while you are on the move at speeds of up to 20mph.

As part of a comprehensive range of upgrades, the convertible has also been given the German firm's new corporate face, as well as revised headlights and tail lamps. The alterations are subtle, allowing the newcomer to maintain its discreet, classy appearance. Even so, there's no doubt the car still looks absolutely fantastic.

And it's not only about the design. To improve the handling, the suspension has come in for attention, too, and there's a quartet of new petrol and diesel engines. One of the big-sellers is expected to be the car driven here, the 197bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre FSI. It replaces the 168bhp 2.4-litre unit and will be available to order, along with the rest of the range, from next month.

The cabin is what we've come to expect from Audi, with high-quality materials and a brilliant finish. The driving position can be adjusted to suit virtually everyone and rear space is reasonable, too, for all but six-footers, who might find the otherwise comfortable seats a little tight. Practicality is generous and the boot a decent size, offering a surprising amount of space even with the roof down.

On the road, it's clear that Audi's engineers have been concentrating on improving refinement. The most dramatic result of their work is an optional 'acoustic' fabric roof, which was fitted to our car. It features denser materials and increased padding to cut noise levels. Audi claims it closely matches the saloon in terms of refinement, and after a lengthy motorway drive we'd have to agree.

Importantly, thanks to a neat wind deflector, it's possible to have a conversation at high speeds with the roof down. Buffeting is kept to a minimum, and the decent heater means there's no excuse for hood-up motoring, even in the coldest conditions.

On the road, the 2.0 turbocharged unit gives the A4 Cabriolet a decent turn of speed, but it feels rather flat at low revs. Work it hard and you can make fast progress, while the exhaust note improves as the revs rise.

Our car was fitted with the firm's Multitronic CVT transmission. It suits the car's laid-back character, but its tendency to hold higher gears means keen drivers will find themselves using the steering wheel paddles to change between the seven pre-set 'gears'. Sadly the firm's DSG sequential manual won't be offered - the system is incompatible with the A4's engine layout.

Suspension tweaks help the drop-top tackle high-speed sweeping bends, although it was all too easy to get the front tyres squealing on the tight, slow corners of our test route. There's noticeable body roll under hard cornering, and you're always aware of the A4's weight. However, the Cabrio isn't supposed to be a sports car and is admirably rigid for a roofless model, with only severe imperfections disturbing the interior.

Deliveries start in March, so buyers will miss the worst of the British winter - but with a roof as good as the A4's, they'd have little to fear anyway.

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