2005 Audi A4 Expert Review:Autoblog
Now that I've traded a VW Jetta for a new Audi A4 Avant I can really get a sense of how the two sibling brands are differentiating themselves from each other. Before the VW pulled off, the first thing I noticed was it seemed beefier than the Audi, even though the Jetta is about half an inch narrower. But the big difference is in the overall design and the price of course. The A4's starting point is the top price for the Jetta.
The new nose is much more appealing on the sleeker and longer hooded A4. And the lack of chrome is a welcome omission. The rear taillights might be a bit awkward but at least the Audi doesn’t look Japanese in any way. So when they say the two design teams didn’t know what the other was doing I want to believe them.
I’ll quit comparing the two vehicles at this point and talk about the fantastic base engine the A4 is now sporting. A new liter 4-cylinder turbo engine produces 200 horsepower (up from 170) and gives it to you with gusto. My first trip, to run errands and get the rooftop images, proved to be quite exhilarating. This thing feels fast with plenty of boost and a nice six-speed manual transmission. On the trip out I found third gear a bit hard to hit, as the shifter naturally moved to a point between first and third. By the time I was returning home my right arm had learned the proper movement on its own.
This is just a refreshening for the A4. Unlike the completely redesigned A6, the A4 gets new engine choices, brakes and the new looks but everything else stays the same. After hitting a fun ,banked road on the way home, that’s not a bad thing. The sport wagon took the curve flawlessly and pretty fast. There was a bit of body lean that surprised me, but it wasn’t horrible.
The video is still wmv when I convert it with Super AVConverter to AVI it becomes HUGE. Like 397 MB. Please let me know if anyone has suggestions to fix it.
Turbo-charged wagon week continues…
If there is something ergonomically wrong with the layout of the new A4's interior, I don't know what it is. The radio and A/C controls are a bit congested but the tools for the real road work are excellently placed. And not only that it looks pretty good too. So if it's this good, why in the world is there such a horribly placed armrest?
Now as nitpicking goes everyone can easily point out that the armrest is easily lifted to give full access to the six-speed shifter. Otherwise your elbow and forearm are routinely rubbing against the thing. My suggestion would be to create an armrest you can actually use all the time, not just while at highway speeds.
Now that we have gotten that out of the way, I can feel free to slather unbridled love over the Germanic masterpiece of an interior. The metallic looking bar running throughout the doors and dash is a nice touch and even though you’d expect wood trim in a tan interior, the silver color is not offsetting. And while Walt is taking on a Swedish/Japanese vehicle, this A4 is clearly German with flat black controls for the stereo and environmental controls. My only problem with these are the actual placement of the A/C buttons (they’re too far down) and the layout of the CD control buttons (you have to look at the digital display to see what the buttons below do).
We’ll get some more extensive miles on this puppy during the weekend as we take a jaunt out to the suburbs to visit family and Ikea. Then I can tell you if the seats are as nice in the longterm as they are right now. I hate to gush so much over cars sometimes, but on the other hand I don’t want to sound like some pretentious jerk that finds every little thing wrong either. And right now nothing is really bothering me in the new A4. And because it fits my demographic I tend to find it more alluring than the A6 I recently tested.
Surprisingly the added Bose sound system is crisp and clear but has NO bass to it at all. The new Jetta might rattle from time to time but the bass was excellent. The A4 is almost non-existent. And I’m not listening to 50 Cent mind you, just some rich indie-rock.
Now let’s run down the sticker.
Starting Price: $30,450
Premium Package: $2,100 (Sunroof, seat memory etc.)
Lighting Package: $1,425
Audio Package: $1,000
Cold Weather Package: $750
17: Alloy Wheels w/all-season tires: $500
Total w/destination: $37,545
If you saw the report of Roxy's day in the BMW X3 then you need to finish this companion piece. We actually got Roxy's full size kennel into the A4's cargo area with little trouble. It slid right in and we had little trouble on the drive out to the suburbs with such a big metal crate in the back. We needed to bring the kennel because we were spending a full day with family and Roxy is still a puppy. So she gets time-outs to keep her calm. The life of a dog owner.
On the highway the A4 is capable, fast and very quiet. There is minimal road noise and getting to six gear is an easy and smooth affair. The A4’s natural highway cruising speed is near 80 mph so be careful. If you go 65 mph the A4 seems like it’s crawling. Although this seems to be a trend industry wide as cars get more powerful across the board. The Chrysler 300C seemed slow at 80 mph.
The trip out and back to the suburbs is about 60 miles. On the way home night driving was a breeze in the A4 although I had trouble finding the interior illumination control since it wasn’t as bright as I like it. I prefer full brightness on the gauges. And yes I did try and evaluate the turning headlights but didn’t notice any change when making my turns.
After this weekend I came to a few conclusions. I would be very happy driving this A4 every day. It is one of the few testers I’ve had and forgotten it was not my car. Running errands, heading out to the burbs, it all felt very natural. The other major thought was that the wagon is a smart alternative to a sports sedan. Especially one as able as the A4 Avant. At Costco yesterday, we were leaving the parking lot and saw a couple trying to wedge two patio chairs into the backseat of a 1990s BMW 3 Series. It wasn’t going well. With such a great performer in the wagon I don’t think I’d ever go with a sedan. Oh and the cargo cover folding down with the seats is a terrific feature. Usually this is wedged into the frame of the car. It is also removable but this is a great compromise. I can’t remember another tester that did this. Can our readers think of any?
"Seriously, can't you just leave the A4 here another week?" Hold on folks, I'm practicing what to say to the fleet guy when he comes to take my Audi away. While the A4 isn't perfect, it is pretty darn close when it comes to this segment. I still have to drive the new BMW 3 Series, but as of now the A4 doesn't do much wrong.
Sure the $37,000 price tag seems a bit high for a small wagon, but at the same time I don’t see the need for more room. I was able to haul absolutely everything I needed over the week from a large dog cage to runs from Home Depot and Costco. It’s great on the highway, fun to drive around town, has an ergonomically laid out interior and is impressive in almost all areas.
The only gripes to last for the entire week are the poorly designed center armrest and that pesky sticker price. But I could do without the $1,425 lighting package. I guess this is the price you pay for German station wagons these days. Although the base price of an AWD 3-Series wagon is higher than the A4. Huh. The Volvo AWD V50 is a tad less than the Audi. So it turns out the Avant is very competitive.
Driving the six-speed manual was easy in almost every way. The clutch is a tad springy and you must shift before over-revving or suffer a serious shudder. The turbo rewards you on the low end of the rev meter and doesn’t allow for missing your shift window. That’s not a real problem because the transmission is such a joy that you’ll have the precise moves down in no time and feel like a pro. Getting the most out of the turbo is the real trick and once you figure that out the little wagon will surprise a lot of folks on the road. If an RS version ever comes I couldn’t imagine how fast it will be. The 2.0 turbo feels very quick and everyday drivers will probably find it more than adequate.
As for the looks, they’ve grown on me tremendously since I first saw this new snub nose months ago. Audi’s version is much more attractive than VW’s, but in the U.S. front license plates will ruin its aggressive posture. The nose actually gives it a more classic look than before, like a modern interpretation of what Chrysler was going for on the 300. The back taillights aren’t as striking as I’d like, and they have a weird “talon” effect, much like the front headlights. But without the grill, the rear lights just kind of hang over a blank rear hatch. Overall, the design is striking in person and even manly for a wagon. Add the invigorating drive and you’ve got a winner.
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