IRVINE, CA - Since the A4 sedan debuted in 1996, Audi has made huge strides in North America. Sales have set records, consumers outside of the Snowbelt have discovered the benefits of the company's quattro all-wheel-drive system, and critics have ranked some of this German automaker's products as best in their class. Audi wants to keep the momentum going, and has given its volume-selling A4 a significant mid-year update for 2006 and beyond. Technically, the revised A4 is a 2005.5 model, based upon the same foundation as the existing car. However, it has received a thorough restyling, new engines, an improved suspension, and fresh technology to keep it competitive in the hotly contested entry-luxury category. Exterior design conforms to the new Audi corporate look, with a huge trapezoidal grille ringed by chrome, thin upswept headlamp lenses, and revised taillights that extend onto the trunk lid. A sharp crease adds character to the somewhat plain flanks of the new Audi A4, and fresh wheel designs help to further differentiate this updated version from older models. Two new engines debut in the 2005.5 Audi A4. The standard direct-injection 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is the same engine found in the 2006 Audi A3, making 200 horsepower and the majority of its peak torque between 1,800 rpm and 5,000 rpm for excellent mid-range response and a minimum of turbo lag when accelerating from a stop. Audi A4s equipped with this motor are expected to accelerate from rest to 60 mph in about seven seconds.
What's under the hood
Stepping up to the direct-injection 3.2-liter V6, which also serves as the base powerplant for the redesigned 2005 Audi A6, nets 255 horsepower and a thicker wad of torque available over a broader spread between 1,900 rpm and 5,900 rpm. However, acceleration isn't much more dramatic than with the A4 2.0, with an estimated 6.5-second time to 60 mph. Power is put to all four wheels through a Multitronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), a six-speed manual gearbox, or a six-speed Tiptronic automatic with manual gear selection. The Multitronic CVT is available only on the A4 2.0 FrontTrak model, which has front-wheel drive. Quattro all-wheel drive is optional on the A4 2.0 and standard on the A4 3.2, matched to your choice of manual or Tiptronic transmissions. Sadly, Audi's excellent Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), a clutchless manual transmission that is offered in tandem with the 2.0-liter turbo motor in the new A3, is not available on the revised A4. At least not right away. To improve the ride and handling, Audi has tossed the old A4's front suspension in favor of the new four-link design that debuted on the 2005 A6. The independent trapezoidal link rear suspension comes from the hot-rod Audi S4, softened for use on the A4. Stability control is standard on the new Audi A4, and includes two new features. First, it allows the driver to shut off the integrated traction control system while retaining the safety net of the stability control system. Second, it includes a new feature that periodically dries the brake discs in wet weather to improve stopping capability.
Inside, the most dramatic difference between the new A4 and the previous model is the Audi corporate steering wheel that echoes the appearance of grille. A basic navigation system is standard on the 2005.5 Audi A4, but a DVD-based upgrade places a large color screen in the center of the dashboard through which additional features are accessed. Real aluminum trim decorates the new A4's cabin, and wood trim is offered as an option. We expect the interior materials to be in keeping with Audi's longstanding tradition of premium quality. Dual-zone climate control is standard, as well as Bluetooth wireless communications capability that allows the owner to make hands-free telephone calls using a personal cell phone. Options include a new adaptive lighting feature that twists the headlamps to illuminate curves, Xenon-plus headlights, a tire-pressure monitor, and rain-sensing wipers. In addition to A4 2.0 and A4 3.2 models, Audi will continue to offer the S4 to driving enthusiasts searching for more performance. Equipped with a powerful 4.2-liter V8 engine driving 340 horsepower through all four wheels, the revised S4 is sure to get the blood pumping. Other equipment that makes the new S4 unique are a firmer sport suspension that lowers the car 20mm, 18-inch wheels, subtle styling modifications, a decklid spoiler, four exhaust outlets, and sport seats. From a technical standpoint, the new 2005.5 Audi A4 is a welcome improvement over the existing model, which is already a favorite of ours. Look for it in local Audi showrooms in February of 2005.
Photo Credit: Audi