Cabin built quality easily outshines that of its rivals
Since its original launch the A4 has attracted a sizeable following. It may not have possessed the same driving talent of BMW's 3 Series, but Audi's compact executive cut a more modest dash on the road and its cabin was easily the better built. The range has always been blessed with great engines - especially diesels - but it's the 2005 model year car that unlocks their potential thanks to a thorough overhaul of its chassis.
In the past, to dismiss Audi's A4 as an also-ran in the face of the mighty BMW 3 Series steamroller was to miss the point. The Audi may not have been able to match the BMW on a twisty B-road, but neither did it sacrifice passenger refinement to entertain the driver.
Pitched more towards prospective owners who put style and image ahead of outright driver involvement, the A4 attracted a loyal - and sizeable - following. Its mix of impeccable build quality, understated design and range of capable engines proved a hit with people who didn't fancy Mercedes' more mature C-Class or the driver-focused 3 Series.
And yet, for all its efforts in producing something different, Audi - and all the other premium marques for that matter - couldn't quite overhaul the car with the blue and white propeller badge on its bonnet. Buyers, it appeared, really did want a car that promised to entertain, even if they barely scratched the surface themselves.
Which is where the 2005 model A4 comes in - proudly wearing Audi's new corporate grille, boasting a few extra millimetres in all the key areas, more equipment and (optional) toys and, crucially, a more sporting on-road demeanour. It's not the same firm and sometimes fidgety ride of a 3 Series, but a more composed display. As before, quattro four-wheel drive is an option, making the driving experience more secure and exciting in equal measure. All in all, this A4 is possibly the best all-rounder in the compact executive market.
Blessed with more extrovert looks and a chassis that should put a smile on any keen driver's face, the 2005 model A4 is a huge improvement over its predecessor. Although the changes may appear incremental given that the A4 looks - grille aside - largely unchanged, the overall result is something that survives comparison with BMW's 3 Series. In many key areas it even beats the Bavarian bruiser.