Car and Grill
2005 Audi A4 Line
Review


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2005 Audi A4

Taste the Difference

By Marc J. Rauch, Executive Vice President & Co-Publisher

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Audi

Tucson, Arizona; Welcome to a new, and hopefully ongoing feature on The Auto Channel - CAR & GRILL, a delicious melding of two of the three finer pleasures of life, cars and food (the third is, of course, beautiful women). In fact, we hope that CAR & GRILL will not just live in a textual form on TACH.com, but that it will come to life as a weekly television series (provided that we don’t get ripped off again by Speedvision or some other TV entity).

The genesis of this concept derives from the activities that take place during the numerous press introductions staged by carmakers. As you may know, if you’ve read other reviews on The Auto Channel, a major perquisite of being an automotive journalist is that we get the opportunity to travel to interesting locations to kick tires and amass speeding tickets.

While on these press junkets we usually get treated to some great culinary experiences. Typically the press corps is spread out at several tables, each manned by one or two car company representatives. The conversations that take place are always stimulating; first, because they’re fueled by alcohol, and second, because they’re commonly no-holds barred. The discussion topic doesn’t stick to the vehicle(s) that is the focus of the event, but includes competitive products, industry scuttlebutt, political lambasting, sports and lots of general speculation. The intended television version of this concept will probably portray the wide ranging nature of CAR & GRILL, better than the text version, since it is far too difficult to transpose what goes on into written form. Videotape will capture the spontaneity, save for the editing required to bring the shows into acceptable length (and I guess acceptable FCC language). Therefore, the text versions you read here will be more targeted to specific reviews of the vehicles, the food, or both. And again, why the pairing of automobiles and cuisine? Because the two great lifestyle influences really do go hand-in-hand, like hot rods and hot dogs, or luxury cars and fine dining…or luxury cars and hot dogs, and hot rods and fine dining.

As to why I would have chosen to experiment with this concept, the answer goes back to my childhood experiences as a “latch-key kid.” Some time during the 4th grade (about 1961), my mother joined the away-from-home work force, which left my 3 sisters and I to fend for ourselves for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My dad, like my mom, left for Manhattan early in the morning and didn’t arrive home until well after mealtime. While I’m not quite sure how my sisters survived, I became very adept at making coffee (yes, a regular morning beverage for me since the age of 9), scrambled eggs, French toast, hamburgers, cube steak (just a really flat hamburger), Dagwood-like sandwiches, spaghetti, and matzo brei (a Jewish omelet that includes crushed matzos – that’s biblical-inspired unleavened bread, for you heathens). I was fearless with a hot skillet. These dishes weren’t confined to specific times of the day, of course. French toast for dinner was as likely as spaghetti for breakfast. Oh, I just remembered, one of my sisters subsisted for years entirely on Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.

As the years went by, my interest in diverse foods and cooking expanded along with my evolving taste buds. I came to love and then master (?) the cooking of Indian curries and tandoori specialties, paella, more adventuresome Italian dishes (than just spaghetti), Thai food, red meats other than hamburgers and cube steaks, and Ahi tuna (unfortunately, while I love Ahi, I’ve never, ever been able to duplicate the way Ahi tastes in Hawaii). Similarly, my appreciation for alcoholic beverages moved on from Pagan Pink Ripple (my favorite as a sophomore in high school) to full-bodied red wines and margaritas.

And so, today, we have the actualization of combining a vocational concentration in automobiles with an avocational interest in food. Fortunately, for you the reader, I won’t be alone in this endeavor; I expect that several of my TACH cohorts and our contributors will contribute to this exploration. Their refined sense of taste in both cars and cuisine usually out-strips mine. You won’t have to endlessly endure my petite bourgeoisie Brooklyn tastes.

Fortunately for me, the writer, my first attempt at this new feature takes place at the short-lead introduction of Audi’s new A4, which, as you will see, has given me plenty to work with.

The Menu

Cars:

A4 Sedans

  • 2.0 Turbo FSI FrontTrak multitronic CVT
  • 2.0 Turbo FSI Quattro 6-speed Automatic with Tiptronic
  • 2.0 Turbo FSI Quattro 6-speed Manual Transmission
  • 3.2 FSI Quattro 6-speed Automatic with Tiptronic

    A4 Avants

  • 2.0 Turbo FSI Quattro 6-speed Automatic with Tiptronic
  • 2.0 Turbo FSI Quattro 6-speed Manual Transmission
  • 3.2 FSI Quattro 6-speed Automatic with Tiptronic

    Food:

  • Asian Greens in a Radicchio Cup with Enoki Mushrooms & Crispy Hoisen Shrimp.
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  • Lettuce Wraps of Chicken & Beef sprinkled with spicy ginger soy sauce and Julienne vegetables.
  • Spicy Chicken & Noodles with cracked peanuts in a Thai Chili Coulis.
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  • Sushi Bar with variety of fresh Sushi and Sashimi
  • Satay Bar with marinated shrimp, beef, and chicken on bamboo skewers.
  • Tuscan Antipasto Salad – everything from smoked mozzarella and prosciutto ham to Kalamata olives and artichoke hearts
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  • Tapas Bar with Spanish Jamon, Stuffed Spanish Olives, and Lamb Bites with Apricot Sauce.
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  • Risotto Bar with Red Wine and Smoked Duck Risotto, and a Gorgonzola, Goat, Italian Parsley Asparagus Risotto Paella Valenciana – Saffron flavored rice dish with everything: chicken, shrimp, mussels, and chorizo.
  • Desserts – way too many, see accompanying photo.

    Wines:

  • The house wines were Clos du Bois 2003 Chardonnay and Argyle 2002 Pinot Noir. However, since I sat at the table with Johann de Nysschen, Audi’s new U.S. Executive Vice President, I shared a unique red from South African winemaker Warwick Estate, called Pinotage. This is a favorite of Johann’s from his days spent in that country, and was presented as a surprise to Johann by his team members. Johann quipped that he thought it was a way to get him to remember them when bonus time comes around.

    Our base for this event was the all new JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort in

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    Tucson, Arizona. The hotel is very reminiscent of the Ritz Carlton at Lake Las Vegas. The only thing missing was the manmade lake at the rear of the hotel. The Marriot was just 3-weeks old at the time of our arrival: so new that the hotel’s gift shops and main restaurants weren’t even stocked and open yet. Nonetheless, the facility is quite luxurious and complete (in terms of in-room and on-site amenities), and the staff was as friendly and helpful as any I’ve encountered.

    Normally, press introductions will showcase only one or two versions of a particular model: the versions being two different engine options, or a hardtop and convertible version. Since this was the introduction of an all-new body design for the A4, Audi filled the table with multiple examples of the A4’s seven different varieties. The diversity of this selection paired very nicely with the melange of culinary delights that awaited us later that day.

    I opened the road portion of the drive day with an Avant appetizer. As you would with wine tasting, I thought it best to start with the driest (and heaviest) of the group, and work towards the sweeter models. Joining me in a silver metallic Audi wagon was Chris Bokich, the A4’s Product

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    Planner. Chris took me through a quick tour of the A4’s new DVD navigation system that has some similarity to BMW’s I-Drive, although I’m certain everyone will find this much easier to operate. He also explained Audi’s adaptive Servotronic steering system to me, which automatically adjusts the amount of servo assist according to road speed. The amount of power assist is greatest at low speeds, for example when parking the car, making it easier to maneuver. At faster speeds, the system gradually reduces the level of power assist to give the driver more precise control than with conventional power steering. I was surprised to learn that this is not a new feature with Audi, just with me. I guess I’d been day-dreaming during previous Audi events.

    This Avant was equipped with a 255 hp 3.2 V6 engine that features FSI Direct Injection, 6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, and quattro all-wheel drive. It had the optional sports package with 17” tires. As I’ve been accustomed to when testing any Audi product (and VW for that matter), the pleasure began from the moment that my bottom touched the seat. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it now, there are four near-orgasmic stages in driving an Audi (or VW): when first sitting down, upon starting the vehicle, when shifting into gear, and when pressing down on the accelerator. Every step in the process feels good. And while driving the Avant would be the driest of the vehicles I was to test that day, there was nothing ponderous or mundane about its performance. In wine tasting terms, I would describe it as salubrious and very jocose.

    The Avant wears the new A4 exterior edging handsomely. The less-round design gives the entire A4 line-up a strong high class look. I always liked the rounded style of the recent past vehicles, but as with clothing, you’ve got to go from single-breasted to double-breasted suits and from long hemlines to short hemlines in order to keep sales moving. So it’s only natural for there to be a movement back towards angular shapes.

    For the second course I chose the 2.0 T FSI quattro sedan with a 6-speed manual transmission. Covered in a brilliant red sauce (really just

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    paint, but I’m trying to retain the food metaphor), this spicy treat also had the sport package with 17” performance tires. The main ingredient of the sport package is enhanced sport suspension, which proved its worth as the car glided over the undulating desert roads and charged effortlessly up and down its hills. The turbo boosted 200 hp engine really makes the vehicle dance. Playing with the silky smooth manual transmission made the experience all the more fun. This was one hot tamale.

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    It was now time for the entree, so I selected a top-of-the-line sedan with Audi’s robust 3.2 liter FSI engine. It also had all-wheel quattro and 6-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic capability. The strength of this model shone perfectly in its ocean blue (with pearl effect) covering. Since this was the main course, I took a longer route, through the Saguaro National Forrest.

    Recently, the whole west coast has been experiencing heavier than normal rainfall. The desert was at its lush-est, as was the driving experience. The new A4 does not ride or drive like a small car; it has the feel and comfort of something much larger. In much the same way that the new 2005 Audi A6 could be mistaken for an A8, the A4 could be favorably compared to the great feel and comfort of a previous A6. To think that this is Audi’s low end sedan is amazing, because it’s as far from low-end as you could get. During the morning’s pre-drive product presentation the sedan’s cargo carrying capacity was described as being able to carry two full sized bags of golf clubs. After examining the truck space, I’d say the car could carry a full sized golf bag for each of its 4 or 5 occupants, plus at least one caddy: it’s cavernous.

    Since I still had a little time and taste left for something sweet,

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    I took a quartz gray metallic 2.0 liter sedan out for a quick jaunt around the neighborhood. I wanted to see how the turbo assisted 2.0 automatic would stack up against the 3.2 liter automatic. You know how dessert is sometimes as good or better than the main course, well this was one of those times. I can’t say that the 2.0 T was better than the 3.2, but damn it was tasty.

    Unfortunately, comfort, power, performance, safety, and beauty come with a price. The A4 is not inexpensive. The sedan with the 2.0 T engine starts at a bit over $28,000. The sedan with the 3.2 engine starts at more than $36,000. The two respectively powered Avants start at a little more than $31,000 and $37,000.

    In general, practical terms the A4 (regardless of its price) is about as much passenger car as anyone could need. For complete pricing and specification information, as well as more Audi reviews, visit The Auto Channel’s New Car Buyers Guide at http://www.theautochannel.com/db/newcars.html.

    As indicated in the menu above, the culinary pairing with these vehicles was exhaustively impressive. There was something for every taste. Regrettably, my eyes were far too big for my stomach. Except for the duck risotto, I could have sampled everything (I used to have a pet duck, so I don’t eat duck out of deference to my little friend).

    The sushi and sashimi was provided by a local Tucson restaurant, so

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    it was professionally well prepared and delicious. The varieties were standard: Teka Maki and California-style Maki rolls, and individual tuna, hamachi and salmon sushi pieces. Nothing adventurous or restaurant-unique, as is common nowadays (at least here on the west coast) was presented. But, in any event, it was lip smacking good.

    All the other items were prepared in-house by the hotel catering department. The presentations and diversity were excellent. However, the flavors were too mundane. There was no “bam” to it. In

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    particular, the paella lacked punch. Paella, as the accompanying photo hopefully illustrates, is a wonderful combination of smells and textures. Paella should always taste as good as it looks. In automotive terms, it had a beautifully designed exterior without an appropriate engine. The satays were reminiscent only of what you would find in a good Thai restaurant, and the cheese and asparagus risotto that I did try did not have the creamy rice quality that exemplifies what a risotto is.

    Perhaps the problem lay in the newness of the resort’s banquet team or the complexity of trying to create so many different sensations to fit the various palates of the journalists that hailed from so many different places. If nothing else, based upon the graciousness and hospitality exhibited by the entire hotel staff, it would be worth it to try everything again once they’ve settled in to their new digs a bit more.

    Regarding the wine, I was really happy to be able to try the South African Pinotage. The night before I had tried the Clos du Bois Cabernet and the Argyle Pinot Noir, and I wasn’t looking forward to another ride around the track with either. The Pinotage at least offered a ride into the unknown. I found its taste too sharp; a bit too metallic. At one point, our host Johann asked what we thought of it, and I replied similarly. He did admit that Pinotage requires some getting used to. In later research I discovered some interesting information about Pinotage on the Warwick Estate and Pinotage Association website, which acknowledged the general public’s difficulty in acquiring a taste for this wine. I also discovered that there’s an online Pinotage Wine fan club that’s headquartered right in Napa Valley. These groups can be found at the following websites:

    http://www.warwickwine.co.za
    http://www.pinotage.co.za
    http://www.geocities.com/NapaValley/8383
    
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