Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2004 Audi A4 Overview
Solid as Stone
The A4 1.8T is one of those rare gems that actually gives you more for your money than you might expect. It seems too good to be true, but with the A4, you pay only a modest price for a level of sophistication and detail absent on many cars costing twice as much.
When the A4 first appeared in 1996, it set a new benchmark for quality, performance and styling. Today's A4 has a slightly more modern look enhanced by the clever blending of geometric lines and a muscular rounded body. The ever-important Audi trademarks are still visible on the A4, but this version has a much more upscale look that mimics the sibling A6 and A8.
Don't let the A4's stunning new clothes put you off; you can still climb into one of these beauties for less than $26K. That puts the A4 squarely in the same territory as some family sedans, yet its content level easily rivals that of more expensive competitors such as the BMW 325 and Lexus IS 300. In fairness, we should point out that the BMW and Lexus both offer six cylinders to Audi's four and that both cars have more horsepower on tap. Then again, the A4's turbocharged 1.8-liter engine delivers better gas mileage and it is the darling of the aftermarket performance crowd.
The A4 also measures up well when it comes to interior accommodations. You'll find the A4 provides ample front seat head, hip and legroom, even with the optional power sunroof in place. Though still a bit on the tight side, rear-seat passengers will find they have about the best shot at what passes for legroom in this segment. That's because the A4's upright rear bench allows passenger's hips to slide back flush with the seat while their knees gain an extra inch from the sculpted front seatbacks. Luggage space is excellent in the A4 and its huge trunk is finished better than the interiors of some other cars in this class; folding 60/40 rear seats allow you to expand the A4's cargo carrying capacity to that of a small wagon or pickup.
The A4's front bucket seats are marvelously comfortable and feature a clever ratcheting arm that raises and lowers the seat bottom. Optional 12-way power seats offer lumbar support for both the driver and passenger and can be covered in sumptuous leather. Driving in the A4 imparts a feeling of solidity and safety, not just because of the interior's billet-like construction, but because you are surrounded by no less than six protective airbags: two up front, two in the front-seat side bolsters and two that run the length of the cabin.
Beyond its measurable attributes, the A4's interior also has the power to wow. Here you'll find a meticulously detailed and polished cabin, composed of materials that have the look and feel of real quality. No other car company can blend vinyl, aluminum and black plastic the way Audi can and the A4's interior is still the benchmark for the industrya fact openly admitted by more than one car company official. At night, the A4's dash and door panels glow with all the intensity of a Disney light parade. Glowing white indicator needles augment Audi's signature red lighting and you'll find every switch, knob and button to be backliteven the rotary ventilation knob.
What you'll like most about the A4 is its ability to constantly surprise and delight you long after the honeymoon is over. From the clever ceiling-mounted rotary knob that controls the movement of the power sunroof to the key-operated function that allows you to open and close the windows and sunroof while standing outside of the car, the A4 never ceases to amaze.
Though you'll find the A4's front-wheel-drive layout provides outstanding all-weather stability, Audi does offer its Quattro all-wheel-drive system for even better traction. This permanently engaged system uses a Torsen center differential to split the engine's torque between the front and rear wheels as needed. With Quattro, the A4's nimble handling goes from impressive to awesome. If you can shell out the extra two grand, we highly recommend getting the Quattro system, if for no other reason than for the peace of mind it will bring you when driving in foul weather.
Power for the A4 comes from Audi's award-winning 1.8-liter turbocharged engine that produces a respectable 170 horsepower. This is a marvelously smooth engine that exhibits none of the traditional drawbacks found on other turbocharged cars. Because Audi designed the 1.8T to apply its turbo boost evenly throughout the torque curve, the A4 exhibits V6-like acceleration with no noticeable turbo lag. This means that even from a standing start, the A4 can accelerate quickly in a linear fashion and pull strongly far past the legal speed limit.
You'll find that the A4's standard five-speed manual shifts easily, though it does feel a bit loose in between gates; we prefer the tighter six-speed manual that comes only with the Quattro option. Automatic lovers will find a revolutionary Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) on front drive models while Quattro owners will know the joy of the five-speed Tiptronic automatic that allows for manual gear changes without the use of a clutch pedal.