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2005 Audi A4 1.8T saloon review. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2005 Audi A4 1.8T saloon review
The fight for supremacy amongst the executive saloon car class intensifies. We tested BMW's new 3 Series not long ago, and its competitors won't have it easy.

   



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The fight for supremacy amongst the executive saloon car class intensifies. We tested BMW's new 3-series not long ago, and its competitors won't have it easy. The new Lexus IS hits showrooms this year, and has in our opinions the best chance of succeeding thanks to its driver-orientated rear-drive chassis. Not only does the class contain the cars already mentioned, along with the Mercedes-Benz C-class, but other brands want a piece of the action, with Honda's Accord and the new VW Passat worth a second glance. Here we test the VW's supposedly more executive cousin, the Audi A4.

Audi's premium mid-sized saloon has been a success story for the Ingolstadt company ever since the launch of the very first Audi 80 in 1972. Audi, like most of the VW Group companies, persists with front-wheel drive for most of its models, with the option of its renowned Quattro four-wheel drive system. Our test car made do with driving the front wheels only, though the 1.8T model is available as a Quattro too. Whatever about the A4 as an ownership experience, we wondered if this basic version of the car could stand comparison with the dynamically excellent 3-series.

Before getting behind the wheel of the A4, it is worth taking a look around. The latest model is a handsome car, with incredible attention to detail and perfect shut lines. It could not be described as daring and is more discreet than the cab-rear 3-series and Lexus IS, but it is cool in a restrained manner. Us men should aspire to be this stylish with our wardrobes. The Audi's jewellery comes in the form of the lights front and rear, with distinctive cutaway shapes now the family look, and two exhausts. Thankfully the front grille is not quite as imposing as on the latest A3 and A3 Sportback. The car photographed here wears a set of tasty 17-inch alloys (a 550 option), which certainly add some pizzazz to the looks, without going overboard.

You'll find the interior of the A4 equally restrained, but here Audi may have the edge over BMW. Certainly when compared to a 3-series without a satnav screen, the A4 dashboard is classier. We always find it difficult to fault modern Audi interiors. Nearly every switch and control is a delight to operate such is the built-in weighting and tactility. If I were asked how to improve it I would change the column stalks, as they feel a little cheap next to the rest of the instruments. My opinion of the test car's interior was marred a jot when I discovered that there are many optional extras fitted, such as the heated front seats (250), electric lumbar support (200), Bose sound system (480), and even the aluminium inlay is 100 extra. It would be worth taking a look at a standard car at a dealer before you dive in with your chequebook.

I'm not so sure that a 10-minute dealer test-drive will be enough to tell you the full driving story for the A4. Audi has been criticised in the media for a while now for shackling its cars with lifeless steering; the A4 seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to this criticism. Turn into a tight corner and you can feel what the tyres are doing, even with the low profile items fitted here. The weighting of the helm is good too, but you'll be in for a surprise in comparison to the previous generation A4; this one oversteers. Until you acquaint yourself with the incisive turn-in, you'll find yourself taking some lock back off to avoid literally hitting the apex. Ease off the throttle and the rear end slides progressively, further aiding turn-in. We found it quite difficult to make the A4 understeer in dry conditions. When leaning heavily on the outside tyres, it was possible to make the inside front wheel spin, but still it resisted pushing the nose on. These traits should make a good driver's car, but unfortunately Audi may have gone too far, as the A4 feels twitchy, which could easily turn off the average buyer.

Despite a kerb weight of 1390kg (on a par with the equivalent 3-series), the A4 feels lithe and athletic. Sadly, the downside of this is a lively ride; the A4 is not uncomfortable, but high frequency bumps soon have the occupants jiggling up and down. The low profile tyres would contribute to this problem, but are unlikely to be the sole reason.

Other driving controls are good, with a slick gearchange and good pedal positioning. As with the 3-series, modulation of the brake pedal takes a little getting used to, as it doesn't take a lot of movement to obtain full retardation (itself quite impressive). I personally would prefer a torquey naturally aspirated engine to the turbocharged unit found in this Audi. It doesn't suffer badly from turbo lag though, and has plenty of urge to shift the A4 along at a decent pace. We managed an acceptable average of 32mpg in a week of quite hard driving.

So how does the A4 stack up against the 3-series? Well, the BMW still has the edge for driver appeal, and it probably always will so long as Audi uses front-wheel drive. The Quattro versions of the A4, and in particular the forthcoming RS4 M3-basher may upset that apple cart. For the rest of the range, and let's face it, the majority of buyers, the A4 makes a compelling ownership case for itself, being well built and classy inside and out. For every buyer that longs for the superior dynamics of the BMW 3-series there should be another that would rather live with the Audi's image and looks. There is no clear-cut winner here, and a buyer of either car can't lose.

Shane O' Donoghue - 15 Jun 2005



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2005 Audi A4 specifications: (1.8T saloon)
Price: 20,915 on-the-road (test car also had 'Akoya Silver' paintwork, black leather interior, SE upgrade, 17-inch alloys, adaptive light, auto-dimming rear view mirror, BOSE stereo, electric lumbar support, heated front seats, aluminium inlay, Xenon lights).
0-62mph: 8.6 seconds
Top speed: 141mph
Combined economy: 34.0mpg
Emissions: 199g/km
Kerb weight: 1390kg

2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.



2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2005 Audi A4 1.8T. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 






 

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