2005 A4 New Car Test Drive
Model years used to mean something. Come September of each year, fathers and sons, and some mothers and daughters, would make the annual pilgrimage to their local dealers to ogle next year's cars. The anticipation was such that we could almost convince ourselves we were sneaking a peak at the future.
Then came emissions and safety regulations. Now government rules dictate that a car's official model year is the calendar year in which it's first built. Thus, the 2005 Audi A4 cannot be a 2006 because Audi started building it in 2004. But there will be no change to the car when, come summer of 2005, it magically transforms into the 2006 A4. Well, no change other than price, that is; although insiders won't say, that likely will go up a bit. So, for true car nuts, now's a chance to buy next year's car before it's next year's car and at this year's price.
But make no mistake. The Audi A4 is all-new. And it's a car nut's car. It's fun to drive, with all the sporty bits and pieces. It has state of the art powertrains, with intercooled turbochargers, multi-stage intake manifolds, variable valve timing and the latest technological advance: direct injection, the cleanest and most efficient means yet devised of blending fuel and air in an engine's cylinders. Audi's progress hasn't stopped with the engines. A six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic returns as an option, but the A4's standard transmission is a new six-speed manual. And a new option is a continuously variable transmission, where a steel belt and a pair of infinitely adjustable pulleys replace gears and hydraulic pumps to deliver a truly seamless shifting experience. Four-wheel independent suspension with geometry that keeps tires on the true track throughout the compression range is augmented with standard electronic stability assistance that keeps the car going where the driver wants it to when the driver can't. And, of course, there's Audi's quattro all-wheel drive.
On top of that, the new Audi A4 line offers function in the form of the A4 Avant, a wagon that doesn't feel or drive like wagons of yesteryear yet delivers all the storage and flexibility of those earlier multi-purpose transporters.
State-of-the-art safety is included, for the most part at no added charge. Besides the electronic stability program, there are antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution. Airbags abound, with the only extra-cost set a pair protecting rear seat occupants against side impacts.
Fresh styling distinguishes the new A4 from the previous-generation model. Bottom line: This a satisfying package.
The all-new Audi A4 comes in two body styles, sedan and wagon, the latter called the Avant.
Two engines are offered, a 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder and a 255-horsepower, 3.2-liter V6. Buyers of the sedan with the four-cylinder can choose between three transmissions: a six-speed manual, a six-speed automatic or a continuously variable automatic; the four-cylinder Avant does not offer the CVT. The 3.2-liter V6 is fitted exclusively with the six-speed automatic in both body styles. The sedan with the 2.0-liter engine comes with either front-wheel drive, which Audi calls FrontTrak, or quattro all-wheel drive. All V6-powered models come with quattro.
The A4 comes with a luxurious list of standard equipment: dual-zone air conditioning; cruise control; tilt and telescoping steering wheel; power 12-way driver's seat, power auto-heated outside mirrors, power central locking; driver-selected, auto-on running lights; multi-speaker stereo with six-disc CD changer, wired for satellite radio; and carpeted floor mats. Standard upholstery in the 2.0-liter A4 is cloth, in the 3.2-liter A4, leather.
Option packages add myriad features, including a Bose premium system with Sirius or XM satellite radio. Sport Packages ($750) feature firmer suspension components, 17-inch cast alloy wheels and a choice of performance or all-season tires. More fully featured upgrades for the A4 come in the form of a Premium Package and a Lighting Package. On the 2.0-liter A4, the Premium Package comprises power moonroof, Homelink, leather seating surfaces, 12-way power front passenger seat and color driver information system ($2,100). When ordered on the 3.2-liter A4, on which leather upholstery and power front passenger seat are standard, the Premium Package adds driver seat and outside mirror memory settings, rain-sensing windshield wipers, auto-dimming inside mirrors and auto-dimming and power-folding outside mirrors ($2,050). The 2.0-liter A4's Lighting Package, which can be ordered only in combination with the Premium Package, buys adaptive, self-leveling Bi-Xenon headlights, auto-dimming and power folding mirrors, driver seat and mirror memory settings and rain-sensing windshield wipers ($1,425). Stand-alone options are a DVD-based navigation system ($1,950); the 17-inch wheels with all-season tires ($500); headlight washers; power rear and manual side sunshades ($400); wood trim ($400); metallic paint ($450); and California-compliant emissions ($150).
Safety features include a comprehensive array of airbags and full-coverage side air curtains as standard equipment. Rear-seat side airbags ($350) are optional. Front-seat active head restraints are standard, and all seating positions have adjustable head restraints and three-point seatbelts. Antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution are standard. An electronic stability system designed to keep the car going where it's supposed to when the road goes bad or the driver pushes it too far also comes standard. A tire pressure monitor system ($250) is optional.
Other variants on the A4 platform will follow, the most immediate being the S4, due in mid-2005 as a 2006 model. This no-holds-barred sportster will come with a V8 making 340 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque and, according to Audi, capable of 0-60 mph runs in the low five seconds through its standard quattro system. The Cabriolet is set to appear in late summer or early fall of 2006 as a 2007 model and will be offered with the same engines as the sedan and Avant, although transmission choices may be limited to the CVT and six-speed Tiptronic.
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