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2006 Audi A4 review

December 23, 2005 02:41 PM EST | Audi , Convertibles , Luxury Brands , Sedans , Wagons | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

View large imageThe A4 is luxurious, sporty, winterproof and a few grand cheaper than BMW's 3 Series. As such, it's one of our favorite entry-luxury cars.

Pros
Classy, well-constructed interiors; sharp handling; precise steering; available all-wheel drive; generous maintenance program.

Cons
Engines short on low-end torque, tight backseat, S-line package makes for a choppy ride.

What's New for 2006
The Audi A4 has a few new powertrain options this year for the V6. Specifically, the V6 can now be equipped with a six-speed manual on all-wheel-drive sedans and wagons. The V6 can also be ordered this year for a front-drive A4 sedan with the continuously variable transmission (CVT). The only other significant change this year is the "S-line" name for the sport package.

Introduction:
When the Audi A4 debuted in the United States in 1996, it set forth the revitalization of the Audi brand. We've been impressed by the A4 since that time and have always considered it one of the most well-appointed and fun-to-drive cars in its price class. But seven years is a long time for a car in the entry-level luxury car market, so Audi completely redesigned the A4 for the 2002 model year. The new sedan, followed later by the wagon (or Avant in Audi terminology) and convertible (or Cabriolet), was more sharply styled than before, with clear glass headlights, dual exhaust and a high waistline. Although the convertible's clean expression speaks proudly of its fellow A4s, the Cab's sleeker profile and prominent aluminum accents give it an even sharper bite. A substantially refreshed A4 debuted in midyear 2005. It wasn't a total redo, as Audi calls it 60-percent new. Its platform, interior and overall dimensions are basically the same as before. Bold new sheet metal marked the exterior revisions. The updated A4 also boasts a reworked front suspension that picked up numerous components from the high-performance Audi S4. The rear came in for even more revision with links and wheel carriers from the S4 and shock absorbers from the A6. And two new direct-injection gasoline engines reside under the sleek hood. The turbocharged 1.8T was bumped up to 2.0 liters and equipped with direct injection, yielding 200 horsepower. The 3.0-liter V6 was likewise upgraded to 3.2 liters, direct injection and 255 hp. The engines are hooked up to six-speeds, whether you choose the manual or automatic. Overall, the A4 is a blast to drive and treats its passengers to the most luxurious interior in this class. What's more, pricewise it's a steal relative to the competition. If you're in the market for entry-luxury transportation, the A4 should be on your short list.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The Audi A4 is available as a sedan, wagon (called the Avant) or two-door convertible (Cabriolet). The four trim levels -- 1.8T, 3.0, 2.0T and 3.2 -- correspond to what type of engine under the hood. 1.8T (convertible only) and 2.0T models come standard with items like dual-zone automatic climate control, a power driver seat, an in-dash six-CD changer and, for convertibles, an automatic top. The 3.0 and 3.2 are similarly equipped but also have bigger wheels, leather seating with a power front-passenger seat and real wood interior trim. Audi offers a number of optional packages, including an S-line sport suspension package and a Cold Weather package. Whether through another package or as a standalone option, one can also get an A4 with a Bose sound system, satellite radio, HID headlights, auto-dimming mirrors and a navigation system.

Powertrains and Performance:
On the A4 convertible, you can choose either the 1.8T, which has a 170-hp turbocharged inline four, or the 3.0, which has a 220-hp V6. On the sedan and Avant, you have your choice of the 2.0T, a turbo four with 200 hp, or the 3.2, a 255-hp V6. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard on the wagon and available for the sedan and convertible. Sedans and wagons with quattro can be equipped with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. The 3.0 convertible quattro comes only with a five-speed automatic, and front-wheel-drive A4s are only available with the CVT.

Safety:
Safety features include a superb set of four-wheel antilock disc brakes, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, BrakeAssist and stability control. Additionally, the A4 is equipped with side airbags for the driver and front passenger. Sedans and wagons also come with side curtain airbags for the front and rear (seat-mounted rear airbags are optional), while convertibles get a rollover protection system. In government crash testing, the A4 sedan received four stars for front-occupant protection in frontal crashes. For side impacts, front occupants received five stars and rear occupants four stars.

Interior Design and Special Features:
High-quality materials, solid construction and a sleek, modern design make this a car you'll love every time you get in. The seats can be on the firm side and a few of the controls take some time to get used to, but the overall design is one of the best in the segment. Wagons offer 27.8 cubic feet of luggage capacity with the rear seats up and 60.6 when they're folded.

Driving Impressions:
The A4 is one of the most balanced cars in the entry-luxury segment in terms of ride and handling. It's comfortable in day-to-day driving as the suspension soaks up most bumps and potholes. A4s equipped with the S-line package provide expanded handling capabilities at the expense of some ride quality. While the A4 isn't as razor-sharp as the BMW 3 Series, the extra grip afforded by quattro could justify the trade-off for many drivers.

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