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Audi A4 1.8T SE review (2005-2008)
Model: Audi A4 1.8T SE
Bodystyle: 4dr saloon
Engine: 1.8-litre, turbcharged four cylinder petrol
Transmission: 5–speed manual, front-wheel-drive
Date of Test: April 2005
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What is it?
One of the classiest looking junior executive saloons around. Heavily revised late 2004 the A4 now features Audi’s more striking deep grille, while changes under the skin address the criticisms of the previous A4’s chassis. It’s now a better driving, better looking car (believe us, its new look is a grower). Add an interior that leads the class for style and functionality and the A4 is a highly appealing choice over its German rivals from BMW and Mercedes, while also offering a tantalising alternative to mainstream rivals cars in the same size category.
Where does it fit?
The A4, like the 3 Series and C-Class used to be seen as a cut-above the norm, but they’re rapidly becoming just that – the norm. As the car market has diversified ‘premium’ marques like Audi have put an enormous amount of pressure on the mainstream manufacturers. As a result such models now often outsell their lesser badged competition, ironically making them the new mainstream.
Is it for you?
Absolutely. The A4 is fairly unusual in this class in not having negative connotations associated with it - unlike BMWs whose drivers get a bad press. Audis are seen as the paragon of good taste, their smart, inoffensive style making them the choice for the driver wanting an junior executive without needing to shout about it. The BMW 3 Series betters it for outright driver appeal but the Audi does a convincing job considering it’s front-wheel-drive. Should you want it there’s always the availability of four-wheel-drive, if you opt for the quattro model.
What does it do well?
It rides beautifully – at least compared to its predecessor. With this revised A4 Audi seems to have finally managed to produce a compliant, yet still sporting drive. The interior remains an example for other manufacturers to follow, clear instrumentation, fine ergonomics and neat, classy design. The gearshift is precise, as are all the controls, though the steering would benefit from a tough more feel and the wheel is pretty ugly. There’s loads of room in the boot and consumption at around 34mpg combined isn’t too bad either – especially for a turbocharged unit.
What doesn’t it do well?
That engine might offer reasonable economy, but you need to drive it conservatively to do so and that means slow progress. For an engine producing 163bhp it doesn’t feel particularly lively, the gearing not helping. It really could do with a sixth cog for motorway cruising. Things like the brilliant Xenon lights, Bose stereo and leather interior are all cost options (and not cheap ones) so the circa £20,000 list price can jump dramatically if you’re not careful with the options list. The revised looks aren’t to everyone’s taste, but after initial reservations the changes look good.
What’s it like to live with?
Having the Audi parked on your drive is certain to give you a good deal more pleasure than a mainstream rival. To drive it’s refined and cosseting, however some drivers might expect a bit more oomph from the turbocharged engine, its performance not quite as sprightly as we’d have expected. A sixth gear would make motorway cruising more comfortable, and if you’re likely to have adult passengers in the rear then some more legroom would be advantageous. Otherwise, Audis have a respectable reliability record, and dealer service is also decent.
Would we buy it?
Yes. The A4 is one of our favourite cars in this class, but we’d be tempted to look at another engine choice – particularly the punchy and frugal 2.0-litre 140bhp diesel alternative that only costs around £500 more. The revised looks may initially put you off, especially compared to the very restrained style of the old car, but the more striking design works, and is backed up with increased dynamic ability. A great all-rounder, that’s good looking and enjoyable to drive, there’s a lot to like about the A4.
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