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2006 Audi A4

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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 potheads."

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 no sense.

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 have asked.

"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.

Better performance 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 car.

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.  By Derek Price   AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name: 
 Audi's good looks creating a buzz
Topic: 
 The 2006 Audi A4 Quattro
Word Count:  
 803
Photo Caption: 
 The 2006 Audi A4 Quattro
Photo Credits:  
Audi Internet Media
Series #:   2006 - 16

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