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Discussion Starter #1
I am looking at the A4 3.0 2003,
i have seen 12 reviews and this what they say so please give me your feed back.

so please read this guys review and should i go for a A6 4.2 Sport 2001...




Author's Product Rating



Pros
Styling, luxury, quality of interior materials, chassis stability

Cons
Midrange power, not that fun to drive, ride quality with sport suspension

The Bottom Line
Recommended as a stylish luxury sedan, but not as a sport sedan for those who prioritize driving enjoyment. The Sport Package kills the ride more than it helps the handling.


Full Review
The things we do for our families. A year ago my sister was looking for a car. I took her to look at the Audi A4. Now, I was personally most interested in the A4 with the V6 and a manual transmission. But I put my sister’s needs ahead of my own. She didn’t have an unlimited budget, and was tired of having to shift gears. So we took an A4 equipped with the 1.8 liter turbo four and continuously variable transmission for a test drive. If you’re also more interested in that powertrain, that review can be found here.

This year I decided it was my turn. So when I had the time to test another A4, I chose one with the 3.0 six and six-speed manual. The manual is only available with Audi’s “quattro” system, so this also gave me a chance to examine the benefits of all-wheel-drive. The four with CVT didn’t do much for me. Is more power and a stick the answer?

Styling

For 2002 Audi redesigned the A4 to look much like the A6, just a foot shorter. (Click on the blue hyperlinks to read my reviews of related vehicles.) Strangely, this style works a bit better on the smaller package. For one thing, the A4 has a bit of a wedge to it that the A6 lacks. This lends the car a more dynamic stance, as if it’s raring to go. Beyond this, the proportions are better, with a very short rear deck and less front overhang. Flared wheel openings, found in the A6 only on the top-of-the-line 4.2, also keep the A4 from looking as chunky as the larger sedan does from some unflattering angles. Finally, the huge expanse of smoky plastic surrounding the rear plate on the A6 (and picked up by Cadillac for the CTS) is absent here.

Overall, the new style works. Some people will complain that different models should look different, but I personally favor a family look among a brand's cars. Also, the old A4, once the style leader among near-luxury cars, now looks bland in comparison, even economy.

The tires and wheels on the base A4 1.8T are 205/65R15s. Now, the base wheels are fairly clumsy looking to begin with, with a large number of thick, flat spokes. But the huge sidewalls of the base tires are even worse. Together, this tire and wheel combination on this car looks flat-out awful. The A6 styling of the new A4 looks pudgy without large wheels to trick the eye a bit. If you’re considering an Audi at all, it’s likely because of the style. And for this car to have style, it needs at least the 16” wheels. The 3.0 model comes standard with 16s, but their design leaves something to be desired aesthetically. For this car to look its best, it needs the five-spoke 17s optional on the sedan. The car I drove this time was so equipped, and especially in blue it looked gorgeous.

Inside we have the usual Audi interior, which is to say the best you’ll find in a German car. The style itself is quite conventional, but the execution is exquisite down to the last thoughtful detail. Unlike so many interiors these days, nothing seems trendy for the sake of being trendy or to have suffered from a lack of time, budget, or interest on the part of the development team. The materials all look and feel first rate.

The 3.0 comes with leather seating surfaces and a substantial amount of rich wood trim standard. Not the sportiest ambiance, but heaven for those seeking luxury. Even without the optional ($1,000) premium leather, a more luxurious interior cannot be had in this size car.

Accommodations

From the driver’s seat, the current A4 feels like a much more massive car than the previous A4. Credit the higher cowl and beltline (base of the windows) that came with the A6 styling. Visibility is more than adequate in all directions, but I’d personally like more glass, such as can be found in an Infiniti G35 or Acura TL-S. More glass would lend the interior any airier feel, which I find helps me connect with the road. But most premium car buyers seem to desire a more closed-in, cosseted, secluded feeling. At least that’s what nearly all premium cars provide.

The A4 may feel massive, but this is not to say it feels roomy. The small Audi remains quite compact inside, in both the front and rear seats. In the front seat this is a good thing, as it enhances the sporty feeling of the car. Even in the high horsepower versions of the A6 I have trouble thinking of that car as sporty because there is so much air between my shoulder and the door. No such problem here.

I’ve never been a big fan of Audi’s front seats, and these are no different. The 3.0’s standard seats include a large number of power adjustments, including lumbar support that can be adjusted up and down as well as in and out. I must grant that Audi’s seats do tend to be properly supportive, such that they should serve well for long drives down the interstate. The problem I have with them is that they are so firm you very much sit on them, rather than in them. As much as I know these seats approach perfection in technical terms, they prevent me from feeling one with the car.

One fault exists even on a technical level: side bolstering is minimal. In the A6 the Sport Package includes more heavily bolstered seats. In the A4, this package only includes a sport suspension and larger wheels shod with wide performance tires. No sport seats. Since the A4 is a sportier car than the A6, this difference is puzzling.

Finally, in this A4 the seat cushion lacked the length to provide sufficient thigh support even for my not long legs (30” inseam). I’ve noticed this shortcoming in a few cars lately. Are the car companies suddenly designing seats with shorter people in mind? If so, then they should think about making cushion length adjustable, as it is in BMW’s sport seats.

The compact interior can be a problem in the rear seat. A medium-sized man like myself fits adequately, but larger people will come into contact with the ceiling and front seatbacks. Even for me, the rear cushion is too low to the floor to provide decent thigh support—the norm for this class of car. A comfortable rear seat for adults—that’s what the A6 is for.

The trunk is decently sized and usefully shaped. For more cargo space, the standard rear seat folds down in two sections. BMW and Cadillac charge about $500 for this useful feature. Infiniti and Acura don’t offer it at all.

On the Road

A few years back I drove the high performance version of the A4, the S4, with has a 250 horsepower twin-turbocharged, V6. For those interested, that review can be found here.

With the last generation A4, the S4 was the only way to move fast. The non-turbo 2.8 liter V6 produced 190 horsepower, but these are heavy small cars and that just wasn’t enough. When the A4 was redesigned, the engine was also redone. The new 3.0 six produces 220 horsepower at a moderately high 6300 RPM. Until the upcoming V8-powered S4 is introduced, this 3.0 V6 is the most powerful engine available in the current A4. Since the S4 was extremely quick, I figured that an engine with thirty fewer horses might still be enough for a good time.

It’s not. Unless the pedal is floored and the tach is approaching the redline, the new six feels flat. I’m not really sure why. Compared to the torquier-feeling 3.0 liter sixes in the BMW 330 and Lexus IS 300, the Audi engine produces more torque at a lower peak RPM. I’ve long felt that the numbers don’t say everything, and this is one clear instance.

Part of the problem is weight. Audi talks a lot about all of the aluminum used in the suspension to keep weight down. Nevertheless, the new A4 is about 100 lbs. heavier than the old one. The A4 3.0 quattro tips the scales at nearly 3,600 lbs. This is a few hundred pounds heavier than the BMW 330i and Lexus IS 300, which are themselves considerably heavier than a mainstream compact. The higher mechanical drag of the all-wheel-drive system also contributes. Yet I think a good portion of the problem must be the tuning of the engine itself. Something should be done to make this engine feel more enthusiastic.

The shifter is better than some I’ve experienced in Audis, but still not great. The throws are on the long side, and second sometimes required a bit of extra effort to engage. Thankfully, the general level of effort is about right, avoiding the floppy feel of some Audi shifters I’ve sampled in the past. Then there was the armrest. The A4’s armrest is adjustable for height, but as the pivot is at the rear lowering it also angles it downward. With the armrest level, it is far too high to use with the manual shifter. Lower it, and the downward slope feels a bit strange.

With the pedal floored and shifts at the redline, the A4 3.0 moves fairly well. Audi claims it’ll get to sixty in a bit under seven seconds. Maybe, though it doesn’t feel quite that fast. Overall, if a good shove in the lower back is what you’re after then you’ll be much happier with a BMW 330 or Infiniti G35. If, like me, you care most about how the car feels at half the three-quarter throttle through the mid-range, you’ll be much happier in any number of competitors. Even with the six, performance doesn’t seem to be what this car is about.

This impression continues with the handling. The sport suspension certainly firms up the A4’s ride—no expansion joint escaped being both heard and felt—so I expected that once I threw it into some hard turns it would lend the car sharp reflexes and minimal lean. Not so. Even with the sport suspension the body leans quite a bit, if less than Audis with the standard suspension (which lean a great deal for a German car). What’s more, the car feels more stable than agile. It’s that massive thing I spoke of earlier.

The lack of agility is compounded by the steering. The steering has a substantial, luxurious feel to it. I imagine will please the key market for this pricey car. I myself liked the effort, which is higher than you'll find in today's BMW 330. Another plus: the steering is intuitive and accurate, such that placing the car in a turn quickly became second nature. However, weightiness is not the same as road feel, and accuracy is not the same as sharpness. The A4's steering provides little feedback, and generally feels fluid rather than sharp. More than anything, this steering lacks the "alive" quality I personally desire in a performance sedan. I want a car to do more than stick to the road—I want it to speak to me. As it is, the A4 takes orders through the wheel and pedals and coldly executes them, proficiently but without dialogue. Technically perfect, but detached.

In addition to the steering, the all-wheel-drive system keeps the car from feeling dynamic. I’ve noticed this with many all-wheel-drive systems in the past. They make the chassis so balanced that it becomes dull in normal to moderately aggressive driving. Getting on and off the gas affects the speed of the car, but has little effect on the attitude of the chassis. A touch of rearward bias in the all-wheel-drive system, as in the BMW and Jaguar all-wheel-drive systems, might help here.

I tend to evaluate performance-oriented cars on qualitative rather than quantitative dimensions. However, many people care only how quickly a car accelerates and how fast it can take this curve or that on-ramp. Between the all-wheel-drive and the wide performance tires the car felt very stable and balanced when thrown hard into curves. The tires stick, and the chassis keeps the cars' mass and dynamic forces well balanced among them. So on-ramp junkies will be happy.

I’ve already briefly mentioned the ride. The sport suspension seems to affect ride quality more than it does handling agility. Every bump and joint in the road is heard and felt. The weight and extreme stiffness of the A4’s body keep these impacts from becoming too uncomfortable, dampening them to a large degree, but the constant clomping can get tiresome. I wouldn’t mind so much if this suspension made the car a ball to drive, but it does not. Aside from this clomping, the A4 is very quite. The car has a very expensive, very luxurious feel to it overall, which makes the ride quality all the more disconcerting. On a smooth highway, this car is an excellent long-distance cruiser.

For those who want to 17” wheels without having to endure the sport suspension’s ride quality, the wheels with all-season tires is available. One aesthetic impact: The Sport Package lowers the car nearly an inch, giving it a more aggressive demeanor. Still, given the overall character of this car I suspect that the wheels without the stiffer suspension is the best way to go.

Beyond this, given the character of the engine and my experience with the continuously variable transmission, the front-wheel-drive 3.0 with the CVT is probably more fun to drive. The CVT will keep the engine in the RPM range where it works best. Audi states that this powertrain gets the A4 to sixty in the same amount of time as the manual quattro, so all-out acceleration should be similar. But at part throttle I suspect that the CVT car feels much more energetic. Since the A4 isn’t that sporty a handler, and the CVT works so well, the manual transmission doesn’t make a whole lot of sense here.

Pricing

Equipped with the Sport Package, Premium Package (sunroof place a few convenience items), Bose sound system, heated seats, and metallic paint, the A4 3.0 quattro stickers for $37,675. Edmunds suggests that dealer discounts are negligible, about a hundred dollars. I’d think there should be a bit more room to negotiate, but probably not much. Other options are available that push the price well over forty. Conversely, going with the CVT/front-wheel-drive powertrain, likely a better choice for many people, saves $700.

A similarly equipped BMW 330xi is considerably more expensive, listing for $43,320. Again, dealers charge near this price. (I have not driven the all-wheel-drive 330. My review of the rear-wheel-drive car is here.) If this seems a bit much, a rear-wheel-drive BMW 325i is more fun to drive than the A4, despite its less powerful engine. Going this route with fewer options can get the price down to about $34,000.

A similarly equipped Jaguar X-Type lists for about $43,500. However, Jaguar dealers are heavily discounting these cars, bringing the typical price down to about $39,500. I do not know if 2003s are discounted as heavily. Even at this price, the Audi is considerably less expensive. The Jaguar can be more fun to drive, but isn't nearly as polished, and the styling will not suit many people.

No one else offers a manual with all-wheel-drive. Looking at rear-wheel-drive alternatives, the Cadillac CTS similarly equipped lists for $37,865, and costs about $35,500 after the typical dealer discount. The Cadillac’s base price is attractive, but options bring it head-to-head with the more compact but also more polished Audi. I’m having a hard time recommending the Cadillac at such a high price until it gets a more powerful base engine some time next year. Currently, it can be fun to drive (for some reason more so with the automatic), and handles quite well, but the level of luxury is far below the Audi's.

For those more interested in performance than luxury, the Infiniti G35 seems to be the car to get currently. With sunroof, heated seats, and Bose sound system it lists for $32,725. A sport suspension is available, but even without it the Infiniti handles better than the Audi. Wood trim is available, but I’d skip it in this car.

For the sharpest, most dynamic handling the Lexus IS 300 is the way to go. My main issue with this car is the overly trendy, cheap-feeling interior. If you don’t mind it, then the $31,525 price when equipped like the Infiniti isn’t going to hold you back. Lexus is now saying this car is a placeholder until they can field a more competitive car, but as it stands the Lexus has the most entertaining chassis of the bunch. I just wish they’d clean up the interior, admit it’s really a Toyota, and price it at $25,000. Then it would be ideal.

Last words

The Audi is very stylish and luxurious. What is isn’t is great fun to drive. Those who care most about dynamic handling should look elsewhere. For those more interested in style and luxury, this is a great car. Just forget about the sport package, and perhaps all-wheel-drive as well. I suspect that, given the character of the car, the best way to go here is the front-wheel-drive 3.0 with CVT and 17” wheels with all-season tires.

Though I’ve given the car I drove three stars, I’d give the 3.0 CVT, with its less sporting mission, at least four stars and quite possibly five. I don’t recommend the A4 as a sports sedan, but in a slightly different form as a luxury sedan I definitely do.
 

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I bought an A4 3.0 in January and love it. I tried to find a manual transmission, but had to settle for the tiptronic. The car is a dream to drive, fairly fast, hugs the road and allows you to power into a corner, extremly well built and detailed.

Originally posted by andrew@Aug 8 2004, 01:10 PM
I am looking at the A4 3.0 2003,
i have seen 12 reviews and this what they say so please give me your feed back.

so please read this guys review and should i go for a A6 4.2 Sport 2001...
Author's Product Rating
Pros
Styling, luxury, quality of interior materials, chassis stability

Cons
Midrange power, not that fun to drive, ride quality with sport suspension

The Bottom Line
Recommended as a stylish luxury sedan, but not as a sport sedan for those who prioritize driving enjoyment. The Sport Package kills the ride more than it helps the handling.


Full Review
The things we do for our families. A year ago my sister was looking for a car. I took her to look at the Audi A4. Now, I was personally most interested in the A4 with the V6 and a manual transmission. But I put my sister’s needs ahead of my own. She didn’t have an unlimited budget, and was tired of having to shift gears. So we took an A4 equipped with the 1.8 liter turbo four and continuously variable transmission for a test drive. If you’re also more interested in that powertrain, that review can be found here.

This year I decided it was my turn. So when I had the time to test another A4, I chose one with the 3.0 six and six-speed manual. The manual is only available with Audi’s “quattro” system, so this also gave me a chance to examine the benefits of all-wheel-drive. The four with CVT didn’t do much for me. Is more power and a stick the answer?

Styling

For 2002 Audi redesigned the A4 to look much like the A6, just a foot shorter. (Click on the blue hyperlinks to read my reviews of related vehicles.) Strangely, this style works a bit better on the smaller package. For one thing, the A4 has a bit of a wedge to it that the A6 lacks. This lends the car a more dynamic stance, as if it’s raring to go. Beyond this, the proportions are better, with a very short rear deck and less front overhang. Flared wheel openings, found in the A6 only on the top-of-the-line 4.2, also keep the A4 from looking as chunky as the larger sedan does from some unflattering angles. Finally, the huge expanse of smoky plastic surrounding the rear plate on the A6 (and picked up by Cadillac for the CTS) is absent here.

Overall, the new style works. Some people will complain that different models should look different, but I personally favor a family look among a brand's cars. Also, the old A4, once the style leader among near-luxury cars, now looks bland in comparison, even economy.

The tires and wheels on the base A4 1.8T are 205/65R15s. Now, the base wheels are fairly clumsy looking to begin with, with a large number of thick, flat spokes. But the huge sidewalls of the base tires are even worse. Together, this tire and wheel combination on this car looks flat-out awful. The A6 styling of the new A4 looks pudgy without large wheels to trick the eye a bit. If you’re considering an Audi at all, it’s likely because of the style. And for this car to have style, it needs at least the 16” wheels. The 3.0 model comes standard with 16s, but their design leaves something to be desired aesthetically. For this car to look its best, it needs the five-spoke 17s optional on the sedan. The car I drove this time was so equipped, and especially in blue it looked gorgeous.

Inside we have the usual Audi interior, which is to say the best you’ll find in a German car. The style itself is quite conventional, but the execution is exquisite down to the last thoughtful detail. Unlike so many interiors these days, nothing seems trendy for the sake of being trendy or to have suffered from a lack of time, budget, or interest on the part of the development team. The materials all look and feel first rate.

The 3.0 comes with leather seating surfaces and a substantial amount of rich wood trim standard. Not the sportiest ambiance, but heaven for those seeking luxury. Even without the optional ($1,000) premium leather, a more luxurious interior cannot be had in this size car.

Accommodations

From the driver’s seat, the current A4 feels like a much more massive car than the previous A4. Credit the higher cowl and beltline (base of the windows) that came with the A6 styling. Visibility is more than adequate in all directions, but I’d personally like more glass, such as can be found in an Infiniti G35 or Acura TL-S. More glass would lend the interior any airier feel, which I find helps me connect with the road. But most premium car buyers seem to desire a more closed-in, cosseted, secluded feeling. At least that’s what nearly all premium cars provide.

The A4 may feel massive, but this is not to say it feels roomy. The small Audi remains quite compact inside, in both the front and rear seats. In the front seat this is a good thing, as it enhances the sporty feeling of the car. Even in the high horsepower versions of the A6 I have trouble thinking of that car as sporty because there is so much air between my shoulder and the door. No such problem here.

I’ve never been a big fan of Audi’s front seats, and these are no different. The 3.0’s standard seats include a large number of power adjustments, including lumbar support that can be adjusted up and down as well as in and out. I must grant that Audi’s seats do tend to be properly supportive, such that they should serve well for long drives down the interstate. The problem I have with them is that they are so firm you very much sit on them, rather than in them. As much as I know these seats approach perfection in technical terms, they prevent me from feeling one with the car.

One fault exists even on a technical level: side bolstering is minimal. In the A6 the Sport Package includes more heavily bolstered seats. In the A4, this package only includes a sport suspension and larger wheels shod with wide performance tires. No sport seats. Since the A4 is a sportier car than the A6, this difference is puzzling.

Finally, in this A4 the seat cushion lacked the length to provide sufficient thigh support even for my not long legs (30” inseam). I’ve noticed this shortcoming in a few cars lately. Are the car companies suddenly designing seats with shorter people in mind? If so, then they should think about making cushion length adjustable, as it is in BMW’s sport seats.

The compact interior can be a problem in the rear seat. A medium-sized man like myself fits adequately, but larger people will come into contact with the ceiling and front seatbacks. Even for me, the rear cushion is too low to the floor to provide decent thigh support—the norm for this class of car. A comfortable rear seat for adults—that’s what the A6 is for.

The trunk is decently sized and usefully shaped. For more cargo space, the standard rear seat folds down in two sections. BMW and Cadillac charge about $500 for this useful feature. Infiniti and Acura don’t offer it at all.

On the Road

A few years back I drove the high performance version of the A4, the S4, with has a 250 horsepower twin-turbocharged, V6. For those interested, that review can be found here.

With the last generation A4, the S4 was the only way to move fast. The non-turbo 2.8 liter V6 produced 190 horsepower, but these are heavy small cars and that just wasn’t enough. When the A4 was redesigned, the engine was also redone. The new 3.0 six produces 220 horsepower at a moderately high 6300 RPM. Until the upcoming V8-powered S4 is introduced, this 3.0 V6 is the most powerful engine available in the current A4. Since the S4 was extremely quick, I figured that an engine with thirty fewer horses might still be enough for a good time.

It’s not. Unless the pedal is floored and the tach is approaching the redline, the new six feels flat. I’m not really sure why. Compared to the torquier-feeling 3.0 liter sixes in the BMW 330 and Lexus IS 300, the Audi engine produces more torque at a lower peak RPM. I’ve long felt that the numbers don’t say everything, and this is one clear instance.

Part of the problem is weight. Audi talks a lot about all of the aluminum used in the suspension to keep weight down. Nevertheless, the new A4 is about 100 lbs. heavier than the old one. The A4 3.0 quattro tips the scales at nearly 3,600 lbs. This is a few hundred pounds heavier than the BMW 330i and Lexus IS 300, which are themselves considerably heavier than a mainstream compact. The higher mechanical drag of the all-wheel-drive system also contributes. Yet I think a good portion of the problem must be the tuning of the engine itself. Something should be done to make this engine feel more enthusiastic.

The shifter is better than some I’ve experienced in Audis, but still not great. The throws are on the long side, and second sometimes required a bit of extra effort to engage. Thankfully, the general level of effort is about right, avoiding the floppy feel of some Audi shifters I’ve sampled in the past. Then there was the armrest. The A4’s armrest is adjustable for height, but as the pivot is at the rear lowering it also angles it downward. With the armrest level, it is far too high to use with the manual shifter. Lower it, and the downward slope feels a bit strange.

With the pedal floored and shifts at the redline, the A4 3.0 moves fairly well. Audi claims it’ll get to sixty in a bit under seven seconds. Maybe, though it doesn’t feel quite that fast. Overall, if a good shove in the lower back is what you’re after then you’ll be much happier with a BMW 330 or Infiniti G35. If, like me, you care most about how the car feels at half the three-quarter throttle through the mid-range, you’ll be much happier in any number of competitors. Even with the six, performance doesn’t seem to be what this car is about.

This impression continues with the handling. The sport suspension certainly firms up the A4’s ride—no expansion joint escaped being both heard and felt—so I expected that once I threw it into some hard turns it would lend the car sharp reflexes and minimal lean. Not so. Even with the sport suspension the body leans quite a bit, if less than Audis with the standard suspension (which lean a great deal for a German car). What’s more, the car feels more stable than agile. It’s that massive thing I spoke of earlier.

The lack of agility is compounded by the steering. The steering has a substantial, luxurious feel to it. I imagine will please the key market for this pricey car. I myself liked the effort, which is higher than you'll find in today's BMW 330. Another plus: the steering is intuitive and accurate, such that placing the car in a turn quickly became second nature. However, weightiness is not the same as road feel, and accuracy is not the same as sharpness. The A4's steering provides little feedback, and generally feels fluid rather than sharp. More than anything, this steering lacks the "alive" quality I personally desire in a performance sedan. I want a car to do more than stick to the road—I want it to speak to me. As it is, the A4 takes orders through the wheel and pedals and coldly executes them, proficiently but without dialogue. Technically perfect, but detached.

In addition to the steering, the all-wheel-drive system keeps the car from feeling dynamic. I’ve noticed this with many all-wheel-drive systems in the past. They make the chassis so balanced that it becomes dull in normal to moderately aggressive driving. Getting on and off the gas affects the speed of the car, but has little effect on the attitude of the chassis. A touch of rearward bias in the all-wheel-drive system, as in the BMW and Jaguar all-wheel-drive systems, might help here.

I tend to evaluate performance-oriented cars on qualitative rather than quantitative dimensions. However, many people care only how quickly a car accelerates and how fast it can take this curve or that on-ramp. Between the all-wheel-drive and the wide performance tires the car felt very stable and balanced when thrown hard into curves. The tires stick, and the chassis keeps the cars' mass and dynamic forces well balanced among them. So on-ramp junkies will be happy.

I’ve already briefly mentioned the ride. The sport suspension seems to affect ride quality more than it does handling agility. Every bump and joint in the road is heard and felt. The weight and extreme stiffness of the A4’s body keep these impacts from becoming too uncomfortable, dampening them to a large degree, but the constant clomping can get tiresome. I wouldn’t mind so much if this suspension made the car a ball to drive, but it does not. Aside from this clomping, the A4 is very quite. The car has a very expensive, very luxurious feel to it overall, which makes the ride quality all the more disconcerting. On a smooth highway, this car is an excellent long-distance cruiser.

For those who want to 17” wheels without having to endure the sport suspension’s ride quality, the wheels with all-season tires is available. One aesthetic impact: The Sport Package lowers the car nearly an inch, giving it a more aggressive demeanor. Still, given the overall character of this car I suspect that the wheels without the stiffer suspension is the best way to go.

Beyond this, given the character of the engine and my experience with the continuously variable transmission, the front-wheel-drive 3.0 with the CVT is probably more fun to drive. The CVT will keep the engine in the RPM range where it works best. Audi states that this powertrain gets the A4 to sixty in the same amount of time as the manual quattro, so all-out acceleration should be similar. But at part throttle I suspect that the CVT car feels much more energetic. Since the A4 isn’t that sporty a handler, and the CVT works so well, the manual transmission doesn’t make a whole lot of sense here.

Pricing

Equipped with the Sport Package, Premium Package (sunroof place a few convenience items), Bose sound system, heated seats, and metallic paint, the A4 3.0 quattro stickers for $37,675. Edmunds suggests that dealer discounts are negligible, about a hundred dollars. I’d think there should be a bit more room to negotiate, but probably not much. Other options are available that push the price well over forty. Conversely, going with the CVT/front-wheel-drive powertrain, likely a better choice for many people, saves $700.

A similarly equipped BMW 330xi is considerably more expensive, listing for $43,320. Again, dealers charge near this price. (I have not driven the all-wheel-drive 330. My review of the rear-wheel-drive car is here.) If this seems a bit much, a rear-wheel-drive BMW 325i is more fun to drive than the A4, despite its less powerful engine. Going this route with fewer options can get the price down to about $34,000.

A similarly equipped Jaguar X-Type lists for about $43,500. However, Jaguar dealers are heavily discounting these cars, bringing the typical price down to about $39,500. I do not know if 2003s are discounted as heavily. Even at this price, the Audi is considerably less expensive. The Jaguar can be more fun to drive, but isn't nearly as polished, and the styling will not suit many people.

No one else offers a manual with all-wheel-drive. Looking at rear-wheel-drive alternatives, the Cadillac CTS similarly equipped lists for $37,865, and costs about $35,500 after the typical dealer discount. The Cadillac’s base price is attractive, but options bring it head-to-head with the more compact but also more polished Audi. I’m having a hard time recommending the Cadillac at such a high price until it gets a more powerful base engine some time next year. Currently, it can be fun to drive (for some reason more so with the automatic), and handles quite well, but the level of luxury is far below the Audi's.

For those more interested in performance than luxury, the Infiniti G35 seems to be the car to get currently. With sunroof, heated seats, and Bose sound system it lists for $32,725. A sport suspension is available, but even without it the Infiniti handles better than the Audi. Wood trim is available, but I’d skip it in this car.

For the sharpest, most dynamic handling the Lexus IS 300 is the way to go. My main issue with this car is the overly trendy, cheap-feeling interior. If you don’t mind it, then the $31,525 price when equipped like the Infiniti isn’t going to hold you back. Lexus is now saying this car is a placeholder until they can field a more competitive car, but as it stands the Lexus has the most entertaining chassis of the bunch. I just wish they’d clean up the interior, admit it’s really a Toyota, and price it at $25,000. Then it would be ideal.

Last words

The Audi is very stylish and luxurious. What is isn’t is great fun to drive. Those who care most about dynamic handling should look elsewhere. For those more interested in style and luxury, this is a great car. Just forget about the sport package, and perhaps all-wheel-drive as well. I suspect that, given the character of the car, the best way to go here is the front-wheel-drive 3.0 with CVT and 17” wheels with all-season tires.

Though I’ve given the car I drove three stars, I’d give the 3.0 CVT, with its less sporting mission, at least four stars and quite possibly five. I don’t recommend the A4 as a sports sedan, but in a slightly different form as a luxury sedan I definitely do.
 
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