With a redesigned replacement arriving for 2006, changes to Audi’s popular entry-level A4 line are minimal for 2005. The A4 is available in a sedan, cabriolet and Avant wagon, in a 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder or all-aluminum 3.0-litre V6.

Both engines are available in the sedan and Avant; the A4 is available in front-wheel-drive (FrontTrak) or Audi’s famous Quattro four-wheel-drive. With FrontTrak, the 1.8 uses either a five-speed manual transmission or continuously variable transmission (CVT); when Quattro is selected, transmission choices are a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual mode.

Standard features on the A4 1.8T FrontTrak sedan include four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, air conditioning, 16-inch “Classic Design” alloy wheels, tilt/telescopic wheel, projector-beam headlamps with washers, heated windshield washer nozzles, front and rear fog lamps, dual-zone climate control, automatic heated outside mirrors, 60/40 folding rear seat, leather interior, CD player with ten speakers and tool kit. The 1.8T Quattro adds cruise control and six-disc CD changer.

The 3.0 FrontTrak sedan adds 16-inch “Elegant Design” alloy wheels, larger rotors, brushed aluminum window trim, 12-way power driver’s seat, wood trim, and driver’s information centre. The Quattro sedan also adds a 12-way power passenger seat.

The 1.8T and 3.0 Avant wagons have the same features as their sedan cousins.

The A4 cabriolet comes with a 1.8-litre engine in FrontTrak only, or the 3.0 in FrontTrak or Quattro. The 1.8 includes air conditioning, 16-inch “Classic Design” alloy wheels, tilt/telescopic wheel, headlamp washers, heated washer nozzles, front and rear fog lamps, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, automatic heated exterior mirrors, three-spoke leather-wrapped wheel, six-CD stereo with nine speakers, and tool kit. The 3.0 adds “Cabriolet Design” wheels, larger rotors, 12-way power driver and passenger seats, and wood trim.

This outgoing Audi still sports a relatively narrow grille; the incoming model is dominated by the new, huge “corporate face” front opening. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if your eye isn’t beholding, this is your last chance for the understated design.

All of the A4 models feature Audi’s trademarks: superb fit and finish, rock-solid feel, smooth, responsive steering and four-wheel-drive that, along with Subaru’s symmetrical system, is considered the benchmark. On the down side, the Avant’s seats don’t fold quite flat, which seems odd for a station wagon, and a couple of options that are readily available on many less-expensive cars, such as power seats or wheel-mounted stereo controls, are part of pricey option packages on these already premium-priced cars.

The A4 is built in Ingolstadt, Germany.

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