Time does funny things to perception. I had the opportunity to sit in an early Audi A4 last week and wondered what all the fuss was about. Was this the car we really raved about in terms of cabin quality? It was all just plastic. But then so were all of its rivals, only less expensively so. These days customers demand more than mere petrochemicals and the post-'05 A4 models feature splashes of chrome, soft leather and all sorts of 'surprise and delight' features in their cabins. It's become an Audi trademark to offer an interior that puts its rivals to the shame and this generation A4 is no different.
While the interior might not deviate from the Ingolstadt script, the exterior of this A4 certainly did. Before this car debuted, A4s were wholly low key things, Audi deciding that discretion was what buyers were after. Soaring sales figures and a few Le Mans wins under their belt changed all that. Audi was no longer a company that felt the need to offer an almost apologetically low-key image. New Audi was an outfit that wanted to make its presence felt a little more forcefully and the post-'05 A4 certainly did that, wearing the family front end, the so-called twin-frame grille, a more aggressive stance and more flamboyant detailing.
The range was introduced in early 2005 largely with carry-over engines from the pre-facelifted version A4. It wasn't long however, before new powerplants came on stream. Basically, the main news was the replacement of the old 163bhp 2.5 V6 TDI diesel unit (out-moded by a new 170bhp 2.0 TDI engine) with a 180bhp 2.7 TDI powerplant borrowed from the larger A6. Then there was the introduction of a range-topping 414bhp V8 for the flagship RS4 variants, with the saloon arriving in early 2006 and the Avant estate version six months later. Trim levels included the S line, which replaced the old Sport trim level and which was unveiled in April 2005. There was also a sporty limited edition 2.0T FSI DTM model with stiffer suspension and big alloy wheels.
With these tweaks in place, by 2006, A4 buyers chose between five diesel units: the older 1.9-litre 115bhp TDI, then two 2.0-litre TDI powerplants developing 140 and 170bhp respectively. At the top of the range, there were two V6 TDI units, that 2.7-litre 180bhp powerplant and a 233bhp 3.0-litre V6 TDI unit also borrowed from the larger A6. Petrol power started at around £20,000 with a 130bhp 2.0-litre unit, but most buyers thought it well worth finding an extra £1,300 and upgrading themselves to the 163bhp 1.8T variant. Or even better, scraping together around £23,000 or so to get themselves behind the wheel of one of the world's best engines, the 200bhp 2.0T FSI. This powerplant is so good that many questioned the need to spend any more on the 256bhp 3.2 FSI, the desirable 344bhp V8 S4 quattro or even the 414bhp RS4.
The Cabriolet models got the post-'05 twin-frame front grille and other tweaks in March 2005, with the racy RS4 cabriolet arriving in dealers in December 2006. In 2008 an all-new A4 replaced this model.