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2005 Audi A4 Test Drive Review

With refined styling and an upscale cabin, the redesigned Audi A4 punches above its weight class.

8 /10
Overall Score

Through the late 1990s, and into the early part of the century, Audi has enjoyed something of a styling renascence. Cars like the A4 sedan and TT coupe have shown Audi’s ability to deliver world-class styling—and performance to back it up.

With the A4, Audi finally has a legitimate competitor to the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The A4 has been redesigned for 2005, and while the previous-generation model marched to the beat of its own drum, this redesign is clearly aimed at beating the 3 Series and C-Class at their own game.

Look and Feel

9/ 10

The first-generation Audi A4 was sold from 1995 to 2001. It was replaced with a second-generation model, but one that only provided a subtle styling evolution. This third-generation model is the most significant change in styling, adding details that break up the clean lines of the previous two generations of styling. The A4 is available in a sedan, a convertible (called “Cabriolet”), and a wagon (called “Avant”). The Cabriolet body style remains unchanged from the previous generation of the car, so many of 2005's updates do not apply to it.

The sedan and Avant's headlights are now slightly angled, providing a more aggressive look, while the taillights have a more conventional look than those of their predecessor. Up front, the grille design now extends through the bumper to the lower front grille area, making for one massive assembly. All these style choices are meant to move the A4 beyond its plucky, upbeat image, and morph into a more mature and distinctive vehicle.

This evolution continues in the cabin, where additional use of woodgrain and chrome collaborate to push the A4 upmarket. A notable change is the steering wheel, which moves from a three-prong design to a four-prong, and gains climate and cruise controls.


8/ 10

The A4 is available in a dizzying number of engine and drivetrain configurations, made slightly more complicated by the holdover Cabriolet. These options include 1.8-liter turbo and 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder engines, and 3.0-liter and 3.2-liter V6 engines. The 1.8T engine makes 170 horsepower, while the 2.0T puts out 200 horses. The 3.0-liter V6 engine option makes 220 horsepower, while the top-tier 3.2-liter V6 makes 255 horsepower.

Manual, Tiptronic automatic, and continuously variable automatic transmissions (CVT) are available. The sedan and Cabriolet route power to the front wheels (FWD) or available Quattro all-wheel drive (AWD). The Avant wagon is offered with only AWD.

Audi has clearly targeted the BMW 3 Series with its drivability. The manual is precise, though the Tiptronic automatic, with its tap-shift manual mode, is nearly as rewarding. Audi’s Quattro system is the benchmark among luxury AWD setups, and it improves traction for both inclement weather and performance driving.

There are also high-performance variants, dubbed the S4 and RS4, not covered in this review. Just know that the S4 brings a dash more speed and cornering, while the RS4 brings a whole helping of it. They are more expensive and available in fewer numbers.

Form and Function

5/ 10

The A4 sedan provides 13.4 cubic feet of trunk space, which can be expanded via a split-fold rear seat. A central rear-seat pass-through allows limited access to the trunk from the rear seat but also makes it possible to carry a pair of skis without the need for a roof rack.

If it’s space you need, look to the Avant wagon. It provides 27.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, and as much as 60.6 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. The Cabriolet has just 8.9 cubic feet of trunk space. While this is not a lot, a barrier with the convertible top components ensures this figure is a constant with the top up or down.

Backseat legroom in the sedan and Avant is limited but acceptable. For the Cabriolet, an adult can sit in the rear passenger-side seat if the front passenger slides their seat forward. Sitting behind the driver is a task best left for children.

Tech Level

8/ 10

Audi has set the standard for in-car navigation and entertainment systems with its available digital-display setup. It has a helpful control pad on the right side with a rotary dial and a quartet of buttons that control corresponding toggles at each corner of the screen. The screen itself folds out, providing access to the DC slot and memory card receiver.

The base stereo has AM/FM functionality and is available with satellite radio and CD player.


8/ 10

The A4 comes standard with an advanced theft-deterrent engine-immobilizer, antilock brakes, and front and rear seatbelt pre-tensioners. It also comes with a full array of front- and side-impact airbags with a front passenger-seat occupancy sensor.

Audi’s safety philosophy also hinges on the capability of Quattro AWD, which provides enhanced traction in many different types of weather and road conditions.


10/ 10

Base MSRP for the 2005 Audi A4 is $25,800. The Avant Wagon starts at $29,150, while the Cabriolet starts at $35,750. The sedan price significantly undercuts the 3 Series, which starts at $29,995.

The most efficient version of the 2005 Audi A4 is the sedan with the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission, and FWD. It returns 20 mpg city, 31 highway, 24 combined. With the CVT, fuel economy is 21 city, 30 highway, 24 combined.

The smaller 1.8-liter engine is actually less efficient, returning 20 mpg city, 29 highway, 23 combined. The least efficient version of the A4 is the V6 with Quattro AWD. Whether you choose the 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic, fuel economy is 16 mpg city, 24 highway, 19 combined.

Updated by George Kennedy

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