Audi, the third respected premium deutsche marque (after Mercedes- Benz and BMW) in Europe and elsewhere, continues striving for more respect here. ‘It’s frustrating and a mystery to me that we have not yet been able to reach that same degree of recognition in this market,’ said new Executive VP, North America Johan de Nysschen at the 2005 A4’s U.S./Canada press introduction. Then he promised: ‘That is what we are going to do.’
|The new A4 sports the new face of Audi and has had all of its exterior features updated.|
Now, two years past the debut of its terrific top-line A8 and hard on the heels of its awardwinning ’05 mid-range A6, Audi replaces its best-selling compact (global B-class) A4 series with all-new sedan and Avant (wagon) models well equipped to further its credibility quest here and everywhere. Both standard 2.0L turbo four and available 3.2L V-6 engines feature Audi’s new Fuel Straight Injection (FSI) ‘ which squirts the charge directly into the combustion chamber ‘ and the former is an industry-first coupling of turbocharging with FSI. Also unique is the A4’s triple-transmission range: standard 6-speed manual, ‘Multimatic’ CVT (optional with the 2.0L and FWD) and 6- speed Tiptronic automatic (with Quattro).
New high-performance S4 versions, powered by a 340-hp 4.2L V-8 with a choice of 6-speed manual or Tiptronic automatic, will follow soon with specific interior trim, tighter sport suspensions on larger wheels and tires, quad exhausts and a rear deck spoiler on the sedan, and aluminum roof rails on the Avant. A V-6/CVT and a 6-speed manual Quattro combination will join the powertrain party before very long.
|Â The interior exudes Audi quality and craftsmanship.|
Interestingly, a specially designed center console exclusive to the U.S. and Canada has dual size-adjustable cupholders and an extra 12V outlet. ‘I think we’ve finally figured out how to make a good cupholder,’ joked Director, Product Management and Quality Marc Trahan. Largely due to the spaceefficient rear suspension, both sedan and Avant have wide, flat rear floors with 13.4 and 27.8 cu.ft. of trunk and behind-the-second-seat load capacity, respectively.
|A4 buyers have a choice of two powerplants, the 3.2L V-6 and a 2.0L I-4. Both engines use a high-pressure common- rail injection system that ensures the right supply of fuel at all times.|
The DOHC 24-valve 3.2 FSI V-6, which debuted in the new A6 last November, features a 2-stage variable intake manifold and continuous camshaft adjustment of both intake and exhaust. It generates 255 hp and 243 lb.ft. peak torque, with more than 90 percent of the latter available from 1,900-5,900 rpm, propels the Quattro-equipped 6-speed automatic sedan from rest to 60 mph in 6.6 sec. while delivering 19 city, 26 highway and 21 combined EPA mpg.
The new DOHC 16-valve 2.0 T FSI provides a surprisingly strong 200 hp and 207 lb.ft. of torque available from 1,800-5,000 rpm. It shares a basic block with corporate cousin VW’s latest (transversely mounted) four but, in typical Audi fashion, is mounted longitudinally. Teamed with the 6-speed manual, it pulls the sedan from 0-60 mph in 7.3 sec. with 22/31/25 EPA economy.
The A4’s suspension is 4-link front and ‘self-tracking’ trapezoidal-link rear, both mostly of light-alloy components for low unsprung mass. Each front wheel is located by four aluminum control arms with mounts and track rods adopted from the S4 and large rubber damper mounts for acoustic isolation. The electronic-assist rack-andpinion steering gives especially precise feel and feedback along with near-complete isolation from FWD forces.
The lightweight rear suspension’s trapezoidal links and wheel carriers are also borrowed from the S4, while several mounts and the (larger than before) shock absorbers are common with the A6. The hollowsection aluminum control arms, highly rigid in torsion and flex, absorb a large portion of the forces acting on the wheels. The result is outstanding agility and directional stability combined with a high level of isolation and comfort.
All 2005 A4/S4 models have Audi’s latest Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP), which combines ABS brakes with Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution (EBD) and hydraulic brake assist, which automatically increases braking force when it senses emergency braking. The traction control interacts with an electronic differential lock (EDL) to provide effective yaw control, and brake pressure can be applied to all four wheels if necessary to correct excessive under- steer. There’s even a brake disc wiping function that gently presses the linings against the discs at regular intervals to keep them relatively dry for quicker response in wet conditions. The heart of Quattro is a Torsen differential at the back of the transmission. Through sets of worm gears driving spur gears (which lock up when forces try to drive them in reverse), it consistently delivers the most torque to the slowest-rotating axle. Teamed with ESP and traction control, it delivers continuous optimum traction in all conditions on any surface.
|Wagon afficionados can choose the Avant version of the new A4.Â|
The two-stage front air bags are supplemented by Sideguard head-level bags, seatbelt tensioners and belt-force limiters and (optional) rear side bags, all activated by an extensive system of sensors, including remote side sensors. Side-impact crash structure is improved, active front head restraints help prevent whiplash injuries in rear collisions, and a tire pressure monitoring system tracks both pressures and temperatures at each wheel and alerts the driver optically and acoustically in the event of a problem.
Prices and options
|Â While the Audi face dominates the design, careful attention was also given to the rear.|
Audi Chief Engineer Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg calls this new A4 his company’s ‘sportiest and most sophisticated’ B-class car ever and is especially proud of the sporting character designed and developed into every element of each model, from the base sedan to the plushest Avant. ‘We want to make a sporty car,’ he says, ‘so we include the driver as part of the system.’ Asked if he would do anything differently next time around, he ponders, then concedes that he might add a few more premium touches to the interior.
Otherwise, Dr. Hackenberg asserts, “I think the car is quite perfect.”