During some spirited mountain driving, the sport mode helped the A4 keep pace with our expectations and, conversely, implemented perfect downshifts as we braked when heading into turns. From a driving enthusiast’s view, it was beautiful, and briefly obstructed any negative thoughts we had about the powertrain.
After an outlay of nearly $40,000 for a freshened German sedan with a T-for-turbo badge, you’d expect to be rewarded with a passionate driving experience in a car that’s hard to put to bed at night. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Though our 2005.5 Audi A4 2.0T quattro tester was good fun in the twisties, that rackety four-cylinder engine had staff members constantly questioning what was looking more and more like an inflated price tag. With 200 horsepower on tap, the 2.0-liter motor offers decent power, but it’s far from abundant, and returned a disappointing 19.4 mpg overall. We’d experienced the same engine only a few weeks earlier in the Audi A3, a front-wheel-drive model that weighed about 200 pounds less and delivered power through a clutchless manual transmission. Though not perfect, the A3 felt powerful and provided that turbo “whoosh” with its accompanying burst of power. Not so with A4 – despite using the same motor, the A4 2.0T didn’t offer any burst of power, no whooshing sound, and those 200 pounds of extra curb weight felt as though they’d been magnified a time or two. One editor even popped the hood to prove to himself that there really was a turbo under there. And then there’s the grainy engine sound. Gas it on the highway or pin the throttle at a green light and treat your auditory senses to Audi’s harmonic version of the Chevy Cobalt or Hyundai Elantra. If you’re looking for an unrefined four-cylinder in your entry-luxury sedan, Audi’s got ya covered. It’s with that mindset that you’ll enjoy the slight vibration at idle and the subtle knock emanating from the engine compartment.
The six-speed Tiptronic transmission, on the other hand, deserves its share of praise, though one staff member termed it “schizophrenic.” That characterization came from the tranny’s seamless operation at slow or gradually increasing speeds which was in sharp contrast to the jarring gear changes evidenced during sudden highway passes. But that was during regular operation – with a quick click of the shift lever to the sport mode we were able to experience some genuine fun from the A4 2.0T. It’s here that the transmission holds the lower gears longer, serving to keep the revs up and power delivery more immediate. During some spirited mountain driving, the sport mode helped the A4 keep pace with our expectations and, conversely, implemented perfect downshifts as we braked when heading into turns. From a driving enthusiast’s view, it was beautiful, and briefly obstructed any negative thoughts we had about the powertrain.
It was during that same drive that we encountered some noticeable brake fade, mainly after a lengthy downhill run. During routine driving, however, the all-disc setup provided good feedback through the pedal and easy modulation. Handling is one of the A4’s primary strengths, aided by our tester’s optional quattro all-wheel-drive system, extra-cost 17-inch alloys and Pirelli P6 tires, and standard stability and traction control systems. The steering has a nice weightiness to it, though there is some dead space on center, and we exposed more body roll in the corners than expected, with one driver commenting on excessive weight transition.
Inside the cabin, drivers and passengers alike will notice not only the precise build quality but also the comfortably firm ride, a fair trade-off for an all-wheel-drive sedan that handles so admirably. On everyday drives around town, the 2005.5 Audi A4 2.0T quattro does a fine job of absorbing bumps without disrupting the occupants. The same can’t be said of the seat bolsters – they are largely ineffective in corners, forcing front seat passengers to brace their legs against the doors and hard center console. Despite the small exterior mirrors, kudos were given for the A4’s visibility, thanks to retractable rear headrests and tiny but functional C-pillar windows. Not so good are the interior noise levels, with the most egregious offenders being the Pirelli P6 tires and that uncharacteristically loud four-cylinder engine.