Its arrival is neatly timed: available to order since October for deliveries from January 5, 2005, it has beaten its main rival, the BMW 3-series, to market by several months.
That’s the edge Audi needs to maintain 27,000 annual A4 sales (the brand’s biggest UK seller), keep residuals healthy and, ultimately, overtake the 3 with momentum from an A4-based coupe and an SUV.
Audi is claiming the revised A4 is a ‘new generation’ – the only body panel carried over is the roof. Changes to the front include new headlamps, which can be fitted with adaptive headlights, while the rear light clusters are similar to those found on the A3 Sportback. The front end also has the new ‘single-frame’ grille and a slightly shorter overhang than the outgoing car.
Much of the interior remains the same – Audi is still the benchmark for interior fit and finish.
Luggage capacity is unchanged, with a useful 460 litres in the saloon and 1,184 litres maximum in the Avant.
More important are revisions to the chassis which result in a higher level of agility, more precise handling and improved ride quality.
The petrol line-up now has the 161bhp 1.8-litre turbo unit and new 197bhp turbo 2.0-litre FSI – technology also employed in the other V6 the 251bhp 3.2-litre, which effectively replaces the current 217bhp 3.0-litre V6.
The Euro IV compliant 113bhp 1.9 TDI engine is carried over and is joined by a138bhp 2.0-litre TDI. The 2.5-litre V6 remains in front-wheel drive form only, while the new top diesel is a 201bhp version of the 3.0 TDI, boasting 332lb-ft of torque and quattro drive as standard. Both the 2.0 TDI and 3.0 TDI will be offered with optional particulate filters.
Strengths: Range of engines, improved ride and handling, quality feel
Weaknesses: Conservative styling won’t win 3-series diehards
Opportunity: Early launch gives Audi a prestige edge
Threat: 3-series saloon arrives in April
The USP: Audi is becoming the ‘thinking exec’s’ brand
Bodystyles: Saloon, Avant
Engines: Petrol: 1.6, 1.8T, 2,0, 2.0T FSI, 3.2 FSI. Diesel: 1.9 TDI, 2.0 TDI, 2.5 TDI, 3.0 TDI
Transmissions: 5sp, 6sp man, 7spd multitronic,6spd tip; fwd and quattro
CAP RV (3yr/30k): 44-47%
Servicing: 9,000-30,000 miles
Rivals: BMW 3-series, Alfa 156, Merc C-class, Saab 9-3, Volvo S40