The Audi Cabriolet is a general name given to the German carmaker’s convertible versions of their compact executive car range. The Cabriolet was introduced with the Audi 80, which itself was first introduced in 1966. When the 1980s’ first version, the B1, was introduced, it had the same platform as the Volkswagen Passat, and it was available in sedan and station wagon models. There were coupe and convertibles as well, but they were sold as different models despite sharing the same platform and most parts. During its early days in the 1970s, the B1 was sold as the Audi Fox here.
In 1986, the new Type 89 Audi 80 was introduced in Europe and in other international markets in later years. This new Audi 80 was based on an all-new platform that was completely different from other Volkswagen B-Series. Although its official internal name was the Type 89, most people know this car by its more popular name, the B3. Its brand new design was more aerodynamic than ever before with a fully galvanised body shell. It was the first mid-size car to have a galvanised body, making it more durable and resistant to corrosion. It was so popular and effective that Audi still used galvanised bodies for its current steel-chassis models. This time, car buyers saw the B3 being marketed in its true name, the Audi 80.
Its convertible model also got the name that is so popular today – the Audi Cabriolet. This new model was introduced from 1988 onward with the internal name Type 8B. It was similar to the B3 in design and specs, but it had a shorter wheelbase, a new front suspension, and a modified rear suspension that was later used in the next generation B4 Audi 80. Other markets saw the Audi Cabriolet with various engines, including a 2.0E 10-valve engine and a 2.3E 20-valve engine. However, the Cabriolet here had only one engine with no other options.
The B3 and, later, the B4 Cabriolets ended up outliving their original sedan siblings, which stopped production and were replaced by the A4 sedan in the 1997. The model lasted for around 5 more years in the market and was replaced by the new A4 Cabriolet in 2002, which was also late to the party.
As mentioned before, the Audi Cabriolet was available with just one list of specifications during its entire marketing run. It had front-wheel drive, a 4-speed automatic transmission, and a 2.6L V6 engine that delivered 110kW of power. This engine had been introduced here instead of the common 2.3L, 5-cylinder engine that was available in most other countries. The V6 is based on the slightly larger 2.8L V6 engine that was also sold in other European markets and the US. In fact, both engines were similar except that the 2.6L engine had a shorter stroke and a constant-length inlet manifold instead of the 2.8L engine’s multi-path manifold. When compared to the other two international engines, the Australian engine was 10 per cent more powerful than the 5-cylinder engine and around 18kW less powerful than the 2.8L V6.
With this engine, the Audi Cabriolet offered a good amount of torque at mid-range revs up to around 7000 rpm, which is a strong contrast to the bottom-end torque offered by the international 5-cylinder engine. The convertible goes from standstill to 100km/h in just over 9 seconds, and the top speed is an impressive 212km/h. The fully independent and Torsen differential suspension gives the Audi Cabriolet incredible road traction and glues the car to the ground. The suspension is also soft enough to keep pitches and troughs low even when the car is driven hard. Audi’s cars have not been known for good steering response, but the Audi Cabriolet feels quite good considering its creator’s history. Brakes are excellent, and the average fuel economy is 11.2L/100km.
The Audi Cabriolet came with a detachable steel roof as an option, although a cloth roof was standard. Other standard features include anti-lock brakes, driver’s airbag, leather upholstery and trim around the interior, an electric hood with the cloth roof, alloy wheels, power windows, cruise control, and a CD player.
The Audi Cabriolet lacked much competition, but it did have some good sedans to give it company. For instance, the Volvo 850 GLE/SE got a 2.4L 5-cylinder engine that delivered 103kW of power. It had the same set of standard features too, except for a better speaker system. However, its engine lacked the power of the Cabriolet’s V6.
Another competitor was the BMW 320i, with a 2.0L 6-cylinder engine that delivered 110kW of power, the same as that of the 2.6L V6. However, its equipment list falls short of the Audi in certain minor areas. Another European competitor, but this time for Sweden, was the Saab 9000CD. It had the same list of features as the Audi and a similarly rated 2.3L 4-cylinder engine, and it offered good value for money.