A person looking for a high quality European sport sedan with style.
Comparable cars in this class:
BMW 3 series, Infiniti G35, Jaguar X-Type, Lexus IS300, Mercedes C-Class, Saab 9-3, Volvo S40
Following a long, quiet spell punctuated only by the introduction of its new flagship A8 in 2003 - the German auto manufacturer Audi has begun to fill its United States pipeline with a variety of new products.
Practically on the heels of last years all-new A6, Audis 7th generation A4 sedan and Avant (wagon, to us Americans) are just now going on sale, to be followed in six to eight weeks by the V-8 powered S4 sedan and Avant. In mid-2006, The United States will get the 420-horsepower RS-4 super sedan.
The A4 is an extremely important automobile to Audi, accounting for 50 percent of its U.S. sales. It also has been credited with sparking Audis U.S. sales resurgence when the fifth generation model was introduced back in 1995.
Recently, a group of journalists from the United States and Canada was given a first look at the new A4 models during a preview in Tucson, AZ.
For the 7th generation the A4 traces its American roots all the way back to the Audi Fox - Audi has chosen a major redesign that includes new sheet metal, new engines, upgraded manual and automatic transmissions and revised suspensions and interiors.
The 2005 Audi A4 will not be mistaken for any previous one because it features the giant single-frame grille which Audi has made a design focus, first with the 12-cylinder Audi A8 and then with the A6. As is the case with the other cars, the A4 grille looks better on the road than it does in photos because it doesnt dominate the front of the car as much as pictures suggest.
Combined with revised headlights and new bumpers, it gives the newest Audi an edgier, more aggressive look that accentuates its role as a sports sedan. At the rear of the car, revised taillights and bolder exhaust pipes further emphasize the A4s sportiness.
The exterior revisions increase the Audis s length marginally, but interior volume remains unchanged.
The most exciting upgrades are in the engine compartment, where both the four- and six-cylinder engines have grown in size and power.
The 3.2-liter V-6 engine, which first was introduced in the A6, features direct fuel injection. It delivers 255 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque, an increase of 35 horses and 22 pound-feet.
Mated to the standard six-speed automatic transmission, it is capable of launching the A4 from a stop to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, about 3/10ths of a second quicker than before. But that is not really a true measure of day-to-day performance. What is more important is that there is extra power on tap when a driver really needs it, say squirting through traffic or passing on a two-lane highway.
In addition to the automatic shifter, which features a manual override, all six-cylinder models come standard with Audis Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Later in the model year, a six-speed manual transmission and continuously variable automatic transmission will be available.
The all-new four-cylinder engine has grown from 1.8 liters to 2, and features direct fuel injection, turbocharging and four valves per cylinder. It generates 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, increases of 30 and 41, respectively. Leadfoots will be able to catapult Audis with this engine from a stop to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, nearly 3/4th of a second quicker than before. Again, in normal driving conditions there simply is more power whenever its needed.
An A4 sedan with front-wheel drive will be available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive versions will feature either the six-speed manual gearbox or the six-speed automatic transmission with manual override. The same transmission options are available on the four-cylinder Avant, since it comes standard with all-wheel drive.
The basics of the four-wheel independent suspension carry over from the previous generation, but have been retuned with new shock absorbers and bushings. Some parts of the front-suspension have been taken from the A6 and others from the high-performance S4. A stiffer version of the standard suspension comes as part of an optional sport package.
Steering is rack-and-pinion with speed-dependent power assistance. The four-wheel disc brakes have been upgraded to harness the increased power in the new models. Standard wheels are 16-inchers on the four-cylinder cars and 17-inchers on the V-6 models.
Audi personnel selected two routes in the Tucson area designed to demonstrate the improved capabilities of their newest offspring.
All of the cars on hand exhibited greater competence than the Audis they replace, effortlessly caressing the curves and changing surfaces of the two-lane back roads and cruising serenely and comfortably at extra-legal speeds on the interstate.
To sum up impressions from these brief drives, the V-6 models seemed more mature, the four-cylinder cars more playful. All of them offered plenty of power. The guess here is that enthusiasts will get the most enjoyment from the four-cylinder cars with all-wheel drive, sport suspension and manual transmission at least until the manual-transmission V-6 cars arrive. The long distance drivers will probably find the V-6 cars a bit more relaxing.
A note about that sport-suspension: It is more responsive to driver inputs and provides a firmer ride, but not at the expense of overall passenger comfort.
Base prices will range from $27,350 for a front-drive, four-cylinder car to $35,400 for an all-wheel-drive V-6 model. When the S4 arrives, it will cost about $50,000.
Even the basic A4s have Audis typically elegant interiors and a high level of standard comfort and safety equipment, but there is an extensive option list that can drive the price by nearly $10,000.
New for this year is what Audi calls the S line. Slotted between the A4 and S4, it offers the same drivetrains as the A4 but adds sport suspension and some of the equipment and trim that will be available on the S4. Prices were not announced.
People who equate price with size rather than technology and luxury may find those figures high. But executive vice president Johan De Nysschen believes the A4 actually is under-priced compared with its primary competition in the premium segment fellow Germans BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Motorists who understand that size is not all that matters may just be happy with A4 price points.