2006 Audi A4

    (4 Reviews)




    MSRP
    $45,490
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    2006 Audi A4 Expert Review:Autoblog

    2006 Audi A4 Avant 3.2 FSI Quattro

    After saying good bye to the brilliant Mazda, we met our next partner. The 2006 Audi A4 Avant, with the 3.2 FSI V6 that debuted in the new A6, is a different interpretation of what a sport wagon should be. Even from the exterior, the A4 offers a solid image with its broad stance and strong lines. It appears to be machined from a hunk of solid steel. Some may call it bland, but we enjoy the understated elegance. Not only does the A4 impress with visual strength, but the features list highlights technical heft as well. Would it be as fun to drive? Would there be any logical value in a vehicle like this? Would it be as engaging as other German wagons? Wait, where are the other German luxo-sport wagons?

    2006 Audi A4 Avant 3.2 FSI Quattro

    Pulling up on the door handle, the car opens with a purposeful clunk. Sliding down into the driver seat, your heart almost skips a beat. The door closes with a well tuned thump, putting you inside a cocoon of leather, aluminum, and perfectly textured plastic. Lately, Audi has built a reputation for their interiors, and this A4 was no exception. Audi had outfitted this model with just about every option check box filled in. The S-line package brought lustful aluminum trim and a sexy leather wrapped steering wheel with ultra-cool stitching to what is already a stellar interior. We’ve never been that pleased with Audi’s steering wheel with its new-grill-inspired center cushion, but it doesn’t look that bad in this car.

    2006 Audi A4 Avant 3.2 FSI Quattro

    2006 Audi A4 Avant 3.2 FSI Quattro

    2006 Audi A4 Avant 3.2 FSI Quattro

    The interior also features dual zone climate control, four heated seats, sunroof, beautiful leather everywhere, and the navigation system. In today’s cars, the navigation system is more like a computer than a dynamic, on-the-go navigator. Nope, in order to use it you must park somewhere, enter you destination(s) and move out. Just a quick glance through the commands and the functions reveals gobs of features. The system also has Bluetooth built-in, and you can bet your life we’re going to play with it.

    2006 Audi A4 Avant 3.2 FSI Quattro
    The manual for this gadget on wheels is huge. Not only is the car’s owner’s manual large, but the manual for the navigation system is just as big! In this first day, it seems this car is not for the technologically challenged. That might be a strong statement, and we might be wrong. Kind words have not been bestowed on technology found in other German luxury cars, and it seems a driver could ignore eighty percent of the A4’s arsenal and still enjoy the drive. That’s our plan for the first couple of days anyway.
    Audi A4 Avant Manual

    2006 Audi A4 Avant 3.2 FSI Quattro

    Audi A4 Avant

    Besides having an arsenal of gadgets, the Audi possesses some serious grip. All four wheels seem glued to the road like a mutant gecko. It's quick and possesses this unbelievably tenacious traction. You throw it into a corner and let the car do the work. It is effortless to drive quickly, all the while you feel like you're almost a passenger to the Audi's Quattro genius at work beneath your seat. We wouldn't say that it has quick reflexes; it is responsive but not hyperactive to driver inputs. Needless to say, the A4 is a smooth operator.

    Audi A4 Avant
    The S-line definitely gives this car a slight edge over more typical A4s. The S-line package includes a subtle aero treatment, larger 18 inch rims with sticky rubber, and a more aggressive suspension. The wheels and suspension do transmit a sportier ride to occupants, but it is so well controlled that it’s never tiring. Lesser wagons may offer sporty suspensions, but the ride quality compromises can sometimes transmit undue harshness. The A4 has yet to feel like anything but a solid, comfortable car, while providing the driver with a road weapon with limitless grip and useable power.
    Audi A4 Avant
    Audi A4 Avant
    Audi’s 3.2 FSI engine is a brilliant power plant. The 3.1-liter, direct-injection V6 produces 255 horsepower at 6500 RPM and 243 lb-ft of torque at 3250 RPM. The torque curve is almost flat, so the V6 provides plenty of grunt at any speed. The engine zips right up to red line, and Audi reports the A4 Avant 3.2 FSI will sprint from 0-60 in 6.8 seconds. It feels faster than that, and we’ve seen other publications publish numbers closer to 6.1 seconds. Either way, the 3.2 FSI is about one second faster to 60 than its 2.0T stable mate. The only tick against the 3.2 FSI model is the lack of a manual transmission. The six-speed automatic does a remarkable job of applying the V6’s power, but you could imagine how insane this wagon would be with a manual. The manual-2.0T spec is probably more tailored to this enthusiast, but there is never anything wrong with combining high-powered V6 engines and manual gearboxes. Oh well! When left in S-mode, the transmission does a pretty good impression of an enthusiast driver rowing the gears.

    Audi A4 Avant

    Audi A4 Avant
    The silver that covers the A4 is marvelous. The color silver is getting a little played out, but this brings it right back into our mind. The paint seems to be a mile deep, and sparkles in the sunlight. It is beautiful, and it banishes all silver-car malaise. Add to that the aluminum roof rails, and this A4 stops feeling like just another car. Analogies could be made to fine watches, suits, or other luxury goods. The A4 is beyond the typical commodity-like vehicles we all consume on a daily basis.
    Audi A4 Avant
    Audi A4 Avant
    It’s a good thing the Audi isn’t like other cars, because an A4 like this is hard to justify. At a touch over $47,000, this is probably the most expensive A4 you can buy. Many will not understand the expense you would pay for a machine like this.
    Audi A4 Avant
    When you look at how Audi has put this car together, it becomes clear that it’s more than four wheels, some seats, and an engine. It is very hard to explain that its aesthetics are top notch. For a compact wagon, there are other ‘cheaper’ options, but when you look at the Audi’s prestigious competition the Audi is actually a pretty good value. Neither BMW nor Mercedes offer a six-cylinder, all-wheel-drive wagon. Neither BMW nor Mercedes offer a compact all-wheel-drive wagon with their top-of-the-line engine. Their sedans in the large six-cylinder, all-wheel-drive configuration, comparably equipped, are priced higher than Audi’s wagon. Not only do they retail for more, but the Audi A4 has arguably the better interior and higher quality assembly. The quality and sheer thoughtfulness that went into designing the A4’s interior is mind boggling. There are a couple shortfalls, like the ultra small door pockets, but overall it’s brilliant.Audi A4 Avant
    Alright, we got off track a little on the value proposition of this A4. There are other non-German AWD wagons, such as the wonderful Subaru Legacy. We’re talking about an AWD, turbo four-cylinder, in the case of the Legacy GT. Both the A4 and the Legacy GT have similar horsepower figures, but the grunt and sheer flexibility of the A4’s V6 puts it in another league. Actually, it’s not fair to compare those vehicles either. We hate to gush about the A4’s interior, but it’s worth every penny of the $47k+ sticker price. It may be drab and perhaps a touch uninspired compared to other offerings, but for what it lacks in originality it makes up for in solid quality and finish.
    Audi A4 Avant
    Audi A4 Avant

    Audi A4 Avant

    People buy wagons for a lot of reasons. The main attraction has to be the utility. Like other areas of the A4, Audi paid attention in the utility department too.



    Audi A4 Avant

    First of all, there are plenty of little places to squirrel stuff away. The glove compartment is huge, the arm rest doubles as storage, and there is a little drawer under the seats. The door pockets are pitifully small, though. Seriously, what can you fit in here? Our guess is maybe a McDonald’s receipt and a tin of Altoids!

    Audi A4 Avant

    Or you could just throw all your goodies in the back. Even the opening to the hatch is adorned with beautiful aluminum trim. Its touches like this, the above and beyond, that make this such a joyful vehicle. Anyway, Audi’s provided a set of tie down loops, which the elastic net attaches to. You could put a carton of eggs under that net and feel secure enough to scramble your way up Pikes Peak without worry about your Eggland’s Best becoming Scramblers.

    Audi A4 Avant

    Audi A4 Avant

    The thoughtful touches continue when you fold down the seats. The typical P.I.T.A cargo cover stays attached to the seats, and offers a protective screen to keep your IKEA bookcase from becoming an unwanted front seat passenger. In the car’s manual, there are a variety of different tie down solutions as well, beyond the simple elastic cargo net. And under the cargo floor is a fantastic surprise! A full size spare, but not just a spare, a real, honest-to-goodness spare wheel and tire like the ones on the outside. No more embarrassing space saver for your sleek German sport wagon.

    Audi A4 Avant

    Audi A4 Avant

    Audi A4 Avant

    Audi A4 Avant

    Manufacturers seem to be more and more interested in filling our cars with lots of technological headaches. Audi, on the other hand, has managed to place a well-thought out, actually useful suite of applications into their MMI system. MMI stands for Multimedia Interface, and it’s deceptively simple.

    Audi A4 Avant

    First, you have a series of function buttons that place the system into different modes. There is the typical navigation, radio, and CD choices, plus two other features that we’ll mention later. In each mode, the large wheel button on the right does the selection, and in most cases the wheel on the steering does the same thing. For instance, if the radio is on FM, the system will have a list of tunable stations already up for your perusal. Spin the knob on the radio and push with a click to select. The same can be done on the steering wheel control. And every click of every button in the cockpit clicks with the same pressure and gives the same audible response. Is that brilliant or what? Anyway, back to MMI. Each function has several, sub-functions, and those sub-functions are brought up by pressing on of the four quadrant buttons. Ah, that’s just too easy, huh?

    Audi A4 Avant

    Now, besides having a DVD navigation system, which has a pretty decent directory, the Audi has a surprise behind its monitor. Not just one, but two SD/MMC memory card slots for playing MP3 music files. This is some kind of techno-geeks dream car. Files on the SD card can be brought up under the CD/SD function button.

    Audi A4 Avant

    Not only does the A4 offer these SD slots, but it’s also fitted with Bluetooth. If your phone has Bluetooth, you can pair it with the Audi’s navigation system. Turn your phone on, browse for local Bluetooth devices, enter the passkey and you’re on your way. You can then place the call a number of ways; we had the most luck when we put the navigation system into ‘Tel’ mode. When you press the command button on the steering wheel, the system turns down the ventilation system and the radio, beeps and, if you don’t response with your verbal commands, will give you a list of voice commands to use. It’s surprisingly accurate. The system will also bring up your phone’s address book and allow you to choose contacts in the multifunction display in the instrument cluster.

    Audi A4 Avant

    Overall, the features included with the A4 are all usable and helpful tools to ease the business of traveling. The Avant has all the utility of a wagon with an extra touch of class and thoughtful enhancements. It’s a five-star wagon. The more technologically advanced solutions that Audi has added will be a welcome addition to the techno-savvy without totally alienating those who are not interested in gadgets.



    Audi A4 Avant

    For the price of this sport wagon (over $47,000), Audi has brought to the table a ton of technological and mechanical features that actually add value. For all that is offered, you really feel like the A4 is worth the money. We consider this Audi A4 Avant 3.2 FSI with the S-line package to be the ultimate A4, outside the S4 or RS4 of course. The 3.2 FSI is a brilliant power plant with a vicious roar and powerful thrust. The interior is impeccable, and the exterior, despite its critics, looks delicious in this deeply reflective silver paint. It's a tastefully designed package. The larger wheels add strength to the wagon's stance, and the aero treatment combined with the bright work around the windows and the aluminum roof rails add a touch of elegance.

    Audi A4 Avant

    So how does it all boil down? The A4’s a great car, and there are a lot of other ways to own one. The A4 can be ordered a wide variety of configurations. This particular formula is expensive, but, apples to apples, it’s priced better than anything its direct German competition could offer. There are two areas that need to be looked at rather critically. First, you can only get the brilliant 3.2 FSI with an automatic. As always, the manumatic option is there, but we have never been happy with the response time or the constant electro-babysitting manumatic transmissions offer. There is a sport mode, which pretty much shifts how we would, but it’s not the same as rowing the gears yourself. This omission spills over into our other gripe.
    Audi A4 Avant
    Clearly, BMW is the benchmark in the steering feel department, and if someone wants to really play against the boys from Bavaria they need to step up their game. How disappointing the A4 is in this case. Actually, the Audi possesses a wonderful steering wheel behind a perfectly weighted and assisted steering gear, but you can feel where it fails. The A4 has a front wheel drive bias, and you feel it in the steering. You can’t help but wonder, gee, if Audi put a little less power to the front wheels, this whole package would feel so much better. It’s a good thing the rest of the vehicle is so potent. Toss this wagon into a turn and hold on. It’s a point and shoot affair, and perfectly acceptable for most occasions. You just wish, for Audi’s sake, that they could take it that one step farther. Reports of the latest comparisons between the M3 and RS4 show us that Audi is closer with their latest super sedan, so maybe soon people will be talking about the engaging experience offered by BMW and Audi. We would say the Audi A4 is behind the BMW in driving experience, but ahead of just about everyone else in this class when it comes to providing a luxurious sedan or wagon with that’s filtered in a way that special driver-centric way.
    Audi A4 Avant
    Speaking of comparison tests, the latest one from Car and Driver did not treat the A4 too kindly. The lack of a manual transmission and V6 combination seemed to hurt it in this particular test. They don’t openly say that, but every other vehicle in their test group, save the Lexus IS, is equipped with a manual transmission. The Audi finished 5th behind the Acura TL, Infiniti G35, Lexus IS, and BMW 330i. The Lexus undoubtedly has a horsepower advantage which probably overshadowed the mandatory slushbox, but all the others are equipped with manuals. Like we said, manual transmissions play to the driver’s desire to be ‘involved’ in the experience of driving, and we would certainly give the A4 a ho-hum ranking against the row-your-own vehicles. We have to wonder if the Audi would have faired better against a fleet of automatics. The A4 was also blasted for being bland and out-dated. We think that’s not entirely fair, especially considering the very relatively recent redesign. The A4 is more about understated elegance than flash anyway. It has a beauty about it, like a fine watch.
    Audi A4 Avant

    This is an excellent buy if you can afford it. It’s quiet, luxurious, fast, and handles beautifully. It’s a good option for those who want the feel and character of a traditional German compact sedan, but who don’t want a BMW or Mercedes. For us, we’ll continue to dream, and maybe scheme up some plan to get our own 2.0T Quattro with a manual or maybe an A3 with DSG.
    Audi A4 Avant


    Newly redesigned high-quality sedans and wagons.

    Introduction

    Officially launched as a 2005.5 model, the Audi A4 line is all new from the ground up, and the 2006 lineup features new engines and new equipment packages. The A4 is a near-luxury, premium-grade car similar in size to the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, smaller than midsize sedans like the Infiniti G35, larger than compacts like the Honda Civic. 

    The all-new Audi A4 is fun to drive and comes with all the sporty bits and pieces. It feels like it's on rails going around corners. High-quality construction is evident inside and out. Quattro all-wheel drive and the latest in active safety features helps keep the driver on the road no matter the conditions or situation. 

    The 2006 A4 comes in a range of models. Drivers who need to carry gear or cargo will appreciate the Avant wagon, which offers the cargo bay of a wagon while maintaining the A4's sporty driving character. Enthusiasts who just can't get enough power and want race track handling may prefer the S4, which features a powerful V8 engine and high-performance underpinnings. 

    The A4 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. Each of three transmission choices is a good one. The standard gearbox is a six-speed manual, while options include a six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic and a continuously variable transmission, which uses 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. 

    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. 

    Lineup

    The 2006 Audi A4 comes in sedan and Avant (wagon) body styles. Two engines are available for the A4. The 2.0T models use a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 200 horsepower. The 3.2 models have a 255-hp 3.2-liter V6. The S4 features a 340-hp 4.2-liter V8. Sedans are available with front-wheel drive, which Audi calls FrontTrak, or Quattro all-wheel drive. Avants come exclusively with Quattro. (A new convertible is expected within the next year or so.)

    The 2.0T FrontTrak sedan offers a choice of six-speed manual ($27,640) or a CVT continuously variable automatic transmission ($28,550). The 2.0T Avant Quattro comes with a choice of six-speed manual ($30,450) or six-speed Tiptronic automatic ($31,650). 

    The A4 3.2 FrontTrak sedan is fitted exclusively with the CVT ($33,940), while the 3.2 Quattro sedan offers a choice of six-speed manual ($34,840) or the Tiptronic automatic ($36,040). The 3.2 Avant Quattro offers a choice of manual ($35,840) or automatic ($37,040). 

    Standard upholstery in the A4 2.0T is cloth. The A4 3.2 comes standard with leather. 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. 

    Options include Bose premium audio with Sirius or XM satellite radio ($1,000) and a DVD Navigation System ($1,950). Option packages add myriad features. Among them: The Premium Package ($1,850) comprises Homelink, power front passenger seat, rain sensor, heated front seats, auto-dimming interior mirror with compass, auto-dimming and electrically folding exterior mirrors, and 17-inch wheels and all-season tires. A Sunroof Package ($1,400) also includes leather seating surfaces. Technology Package 1 ($1,275) offers bi-xenon headlamps, adaptive front lighting, memory for the driver's seat adjustment and exterior mirror positions and a color trip computer. Technology Package 2 ($1,775) adds Bluetooth and voice control to Package 1. A Cold Weather Package ($400) includes heated rear seats and a ski sack. Also available: dark walnut wood trim ($400), and polished Vavona light wood trim ($400). New for 2006, customers who place an order with the dealer and are prepared to wait can select from a broader selection of options and colors. These include a multi-function four-spoke wood and leather steering wheel ($500), rear Parktronic ($350), power rear and manual side sunshades ($400), headlight washers ($150), and special paint colors. 

    New for 2006 is the S-Line package ($3,000), which features firmer suspension components, 18-inch cast alloy wheels and performance tires, special bumpers, special badging, S-Line steering wheel and brushed aluminum trim. The Sport Suspension ($250) and 17-inch cast alloy wheels with all-season tires ($150) can be ordered. 

    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. 

    The most recent variant on the A4 platform is the S4, available as a sedan ($46,400), wagon or cabriolet. The S4 comes with a V8 making 340 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque and, according to Audi, is capable of 0-60 mph runs in the low five seconds through its standard quattro drivetrain. All three models come with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed Tiptron. 

    Walkaround

    The Audi A4 is essentially all-new for 2006, though officially it was launched as a 2005.5 model. It's a tidy, cohesive design and the closer you look, the more its quality construction becomes evident. 

    The new A4 presents a more muscular and more visually planted frontal view than the previous model, this somehow despite the new A4's track being fractionally narrower than the previous-generation model's track (the distance between right and left wheels). 

    Opinions vary on the big grille. On one point, there's agreement: It's different. Whether this is a plus is subjective, but expect the look to appear in clearly recognizable and evolving form on all Audis as each model comes up for a redesign. We've already seen this on the new A6 and A8. The enlarged, trapezoidal grille opening increases air flow coveted by the turbocharger's intercooler in the four cylinder and the radiator cooling the larger, more powerful V6. 

    The headlamp give the fascia a more assertive look, with lenses that angle upward as they wrap around the fenders. Laterally split intakes below the body-colored bumper and outboard of the grille do dual duty, housing fog lamps and channeling air toward the front disc brakes. A modest hood bulge, a styling cue designers call a power bulge by way of hinting at the latent energy lurking beneath, carries the grille's vertical outlines back to the roof's A-pillars. 

    The side view shows a sharply creased shoulder line running the length of the car, from the trailing corner of the headlamp housings to the leading edge of the tail lamp lenses. Side window glass atop a relatively high beltline is nicely proportioned with the body mass. A bump strip breaks up the expanse of the lower door panels. The front and rear lower-quarter panels dip slightly fore and aft of the round wheel housings, pulling the body closer to the ground. 

    Good-sized tail lamps tie together the three elements of the new A4's rear fascia, positioned for the most part in the panels framing the trunk lid and license plate surround, but overlapping those two pieces to break up what might otherwise be an overwhelming expanse of metal. Single-tip dual exhausts exit beneath the monochromatic bumper at each end of an inset panel painted a contrasting color to the body's scheme. 

    One nitpick: The door handles are a hard to grab and can snap away from your fingers when you're in a hurry. 

    Interior

    The Audi A4 interior was redesigned as part of the all-new generation launched as a 2005.5 model. It's a nice, high-quality cabin, as we've come to expect from Audi. Colors and finishes are muted. A choice of wood trim is available that nicely complements the interior. At certain angles the sun reflected off of the silver trim surrounding the shifter on our 2.0T sedan, however. 

    Seats are well bolstered and have plenty of lumbar support. We found them comfortable and supportive. The standard cloth upholstery feels durable and provides a bit of grip. The optional leather surfaces are elegantly stitched and fit our posteriors well. The seats, mirrors, steering column and other features adjust in every conceivable direction, helping drivers find a comfortable seating position. 

    Interior space in the new A4 matches that of the previous-generation model. It's generally adequate in front but somewhat limited in rear leg room. This is not a car for the full-figured or for people much taller than six feet. 

    All controls are focused on the driver and with few exceptions are ergonomically configured and intuitively located. The steering wheel hub repeats the grille's trapezoidal outline. A minimalist set of secondary controls on the steering wheel spokes manages audio and other functions. Steering column-mounted stalks operate the usual array of features and are clearly marked except the rear window wiper and washer on the Avant, which is controlled by the right-hand lever. A proper handbrake lever resides in the center console with a pair of cup holders alongside. 

    Round gauges shaded by a hooded instrument panel look out through the top half of the three-spoke steering wheel. The information display, reporting such data as radio frequency, trip mileage, service interval warning and such, separates the tachometer and speedometer, with fuel and coolant gauges tucked away down in the corners. 

    The center stack features knobs and buttons for the audio and climate controls, and all easily deciphered and within easy reach. The climate control is easy to operate, but the air conditioning struggled to keep up on a 95-degree day driving through the desert. 

    When DVD navigation is ordered, the stereo panel gives way to the map display, which then doubles as a stereo panel. The navigation display is one of the best of the current generation of such systems. Readily understood controls orient the cursor and shift the map scale, with on-screen telltales stealing very little real estate from the map. The map offers both a flat, two-dimensional and a bird's-eye perspective, the latter with a distant horizon visible running across the upper area of the screen. 

    The premium stereo has MP3 capability and a pair of slots for Secure Digital memory cards. Still, only stereo volume and pre-set radio stations can be changed without first pressing Accept on the opening display panel each and every time the car is started. We find it annoying to have to perform the electronic version of signing a legal agreement just to turn on the radio. Also, the stereo is on all the time the navigational system is active; you don't turn it off, you turn it down, another minor annoyance, but that's the way Mercedes does it, too. 

    We like the lane-change signal feature, where a tap of the turn indicator lever delivers three blinks. We wish the beep confirming the remote lock would sound more promptly, as we constantly found ourselves pausing for a moment to be sure the doors had in fact locked. We like the one-piece wiper blades for their sleek looks, slicker aerodynamics and solid seating against the glass at autobahn speeds. And we're thankful for the red Stop button on the driver's memory settings panel for those times when we pressed the wrong memory setting button. While we are strong believers in seat belts, we found the warning chime annoying because it would urgently sound after starting the car before we started d. 

    Driving Impression

    The Audi A4 offers terrific handling, making it a lot of fun on winding roads, and it's outstanding at high speeds, stable, responsive, like it's on rails. 

    The A4 is Audi's counterpoint to the BMW 3 Series, and it's clearly competitive in the quantifiable, objective measures. Much of the subjective and visceral is present and accountable, too. Even where it follows a different track, it doesn't stray too far. But in one, hugely significant measure, it's far ahead. Audi's Quattro system is almost legendary. The BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class offer all-wheel drive, but Audi remains the benchmark in sporty sedan all-wheel drive. Meanwhile, the Acura TL and many of the other cars that compete in the sporty, near-luxury class only come with front-wheel drive. 

    The Audi engines employ the latest technology in engine management, phased intake runners and variable valve timing, to boost horsepower and flatten the torque curve, making the power more usable over a wide range of speeds and the engine more responsive to the driver's right foot. The 2.0T and 3.2 engines use a new type of fuel injection called direct injection, which pumps the fuel directly into the cylinder, instead of into the intake runner where it would haphazardly mix with the air on the way to the engine cylinders. This new system allows more precise metering of the fuel and the timing of its introduction as well as a better blending of the fuel and air, all of which combines to yield more efficient combustion. With this system, both engines not only make more horsepower and more torque than the smaller engines they replace, but also get the same or better fuel economy. 

    The 2.0T four-cylinder engine works best with the six-speed manual gearbox. The 2.0T suffers some turbo lag, and this is exacerbated by the Tiptronic automatic. Likewise, the Multitronic CVT continuously variable transmission with the four-cylinder and front-wheel drive is a competent package, but it's a combination that doesn't deliver what we look for in an A4. There's not a lot of power down at the very bottom of the rev range. Even with the manual, passing a train of cars on a two-lane road can be a challenge. It's just not that good for squirting at a moment's notice. It's great for winding roads, however, and we had a blast with it on a winding hillclimb out of California's Carmel Valley on the way to Laguna Seca Raceway. The 2.0T also does very well on the highway and feels comfortable cruising at high speeds all day. We did this and got 27 miles per gallon. An A4 2.0T Quattro is EPA-rated to get 22/31 City/Highway mpg. The shift throws in the manual could be shorter, and one tester found the path from second gear to third gear a bit notchy. 

    The 3.2-liter V6 is smoother and more refined than the 2.0T and it works much better with an automatic transmission. 

    The six-speed Tiptronic automatic is almost as responsive as the six-speed manual and by far the more accommodating in day-to-day traffic. It works especially well with the 3.2-liter V6. We prefer to just put it in Drive and go. Most people will do that and never have anything but good things to say about this transmission. The Tiptronic falls a bit short in the sporty, manumatic game, though. An algorithm in the powertrain management computer shifts up a gear when that will put the engine at the optimum point in the torque curve, and a button beneath the gas pedal shifts down a gear when mashed, say, when passing on a grade. This is all fine and good as far as an impressive application of computerization is concerned, but it mocks the Tiptronic's promise of a manual-override automatic. In practice, the downshift is occasionally helpful, but the upshift is disconcerting when it occurs in the middle of a corner. On the other hand, we're nitpicking here, and the Tiptronic's manual feature works great for holding a lower gear on a grade. 

    Steering response. 

    Summary

    The Audi A4 is fun and spirited. It's a bit pricey, but competitive within this class. It delivers plenty of power, respectable gas mileage for its class, state-of-the-art sound and, above all, Quattro all-wheel drive. That makes it hard to beat. 

    NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Tucson, Arizona; with Mitch McCullough in Monterey and Greg Brown in Los Angeles. 

    Model Lineup

    Audi A4 2.0T FrontTrak MT6 ($27,640); 2.0T FrontTrak CVT ($28,840); 2.0T quattro MT6 ($29,740); 2.0T quattro Tiptronic ($30,940); 2.0T Avant quattro MT6 ($30,740); 2.0T Avant quattro Tiptronic ($31,940); 3.2 FrontTrak CVT ($33,940); 3.2 quattro MT6 ($34,840); 3.2 quattro Tiptronic ($36,040); 3.2 Avant MT6 ($35,840); A4 3.2 Avant Tiptronic ($37,040); S4 MT6 ($46,400); S4 Tiptronic ($47,600); S4 Avant MT6 ($47,400); S4 Avant Tiptronic ($48,600); S4 Cabriolet MT6 ($54,640); S4 Cabriolet AT6 ($55,840). 

    Assembled In

    Ingolstadt, Germany. 

    Options As Tested

    Premium Package ($1,850) includes Homelink remote transmitter, power front passenger seat, rain sensor, heated front seats, auto-dimming inside mirror with compass, auto-dimming and power folding outside mirrors, 17-inch wheels and all-season tires; Audio Package ($1,000) with Bose and XM Satellite Radio; Cold Weather Package ($400) includes heated rear seats, ski sack; S-Line Package ($3,000) includes 18-inch cast alloy wheels, performance tires, sport suspension, S-Line badges, front and rear bumpers and steering wheel, and brushed aluminum trim; headlight washers ($150); California emissions ($150). 

    Model Tested

    Audi A4 2.0T quattro ($30,940). 

    *The data and content on this web site is subject to change without notice. Neither AOL nor any of its data or content providers shall be liable for errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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    Read 2006 Audi A4 3.0 2dr AWD Quattro Cabriolet reviews from auto industry experts to gain insight on the Audi A4's drivability, comfort, power and performance.
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