Launched in the United States for the 1996 model year, the Audi A4, with its lively character and polished look, started the brand's metamorphosis into an icon of performance and design.
The third-generation A4 should be similarly transformative when it debuts in early 2008. Revised powertrain packaging will allow the A4's longitudinally mounted engines to move four inches rearward, thanks to a more compact clutch and differential. The engine lineup will remain the same (with a bit more power): a 210-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four; a 265-hp, 3.2-liter V-6; and, in the S4, a 4.2-liter V-8 making 350 hp. Each will come with a choice of a six-speed manual or a seven-speed version of Audi's DSG transmission. The next A4 also gets a new four-link front suspension, a revised rear setup, and a 60 percent rear-biased torque split for the all-wheel-drive system. These changes, together with more equally balanced weight distribution, should make for markedly sportier handling.
Another benefit is that the designers can trim the front overhang, vastly improving the proportions. Inside, the A4 will take many cues from the Roadjet concept seen at the Detroit show. Look for all manner of technogimmickry, including MMI, seats that self-adjust based on the occupant's height and weight, and an MP3 player integrated into the ignition key. The car will be built on a new platform that also will be used for the A5 coupe/convertible and the next A6 and A8.