San Francisco: While
many of today's cars look like they were inspired in one way or another
by designers smoking a joint, the A4 actually has an elegant,
intelligent, sophisticated look, and it looks marvelous.
Audi has long been
known for making some of the best interiors money can buy, and the trend
continues in the A4. Every little piece feels like it was cut from stone
with a laser beam, then precisely fitted into place in the cabin and
secured with industrial-grade screws.
Driving down Interstate
880 the other day, I had the kind of insightful thought that
occasionally comes after miles and miles of concrete lull me into a
state of mind-numbing boredom. "Most car designers have got to be
Sure, you can discount
this as the creation of a brain turned to mush, as all brains seem to
become on the Interstate. But when you think about it, it's hard to
believe many of today's cars were influenced by anything other than a
whiff of marijuana and a blaring Pink Floyd album. They make absolutely
Take a look at the new,
boxy things like the Toyota Scion xB, and I dare you to find any design
inspiration that runs deeper than a Cheech and Chong script. The concept
simply can't come from a normal, healthy brain.
"Dude, wouldn't it be
cool to make a car that looks like a Kleenex box?" one designer must
"Yeah man, that'd be
... like ... so awesome," the other answered, right before taking
another hit in his mom's basement.
You see more examples
all over the automotive world, from minivans with rear spoilers to
pickup trucks with convertible tops and sports cars with front ends that
look like a cockroach mated with the Brave Little Toaster.
Even on more normal
cars, like an average family sedan, at some point in the creative
process a designer must have said, "You know what would look great on
this thing? Plastic strips tacked all over the sides. And maybe some
wavy stuff around the taillights. Yeah, that'd be cool."
Thankfully, there are a
few car companies whose designers apparently refrain from the wacky
weed. One of them is Audi.
Cars like the Audi A4
look fairly boring at first glance, with the same profile and basic
shape as virtually all four-door cars since the early '90s. There's
nothing outlandish about the execution, nothing ostentatious about the
design and certainly nothing to make you think an illegal substance was
involved in its creation.
Yet when you start to
walk away from this car, you're so entranced by its beauty that you turn
your head to look at it a second time, And a third, And a fourth. It's
just that gorgeous.
Despite having a huge
front grille that's shaped like Satan's goatee, this German car has a
certain air of sophistication that few others can match, especially at
its price. It starts under $28,000 but looks like a Million dollars.
And underneath the
skin, you'll find a car that drives as nice as it looks, with a very
solid, precise feel. The whole car feels like it was cut from a piece of
solid marble that was shaped by Michelangelo, then polished and
decorated by Bernini.
Handling is absolutely
breathtaking, especially with Audi's all-wheel-drive Quattro system and
upgraded sport suspension. Even on wet roads, the A4 Quattro feels like
it has limitless traction and extremely predictable, neutral handling in
corners. It has more performance potential than most drivers will ever
want or even need.
The base A4 comes with
a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower which,
despite such a big number, feels slightly sluggish in this obese car. It
doesn't quite match the rest of the car's excellence.
comes from a 3.2-liter V6 engine that makes a velvety 255 horsepower and
starts a hair under $34,000. It's an incredible engine that does its job
quietly and efficiently until you stomp your foot on the gas, when it
delivers a hearty howl and pushes your body into the back of the seat
with a sudden rush of torque. That's the kind of high I like to see in a
Why buy it? In
200 years, when car museums want good examples of early 21st century
automotive design, they'll clamor for this car. It's beautiful without
being ostentatious and showy, and it drives brilliantly.
Derek Price © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
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