Before you can grasp the amazing competence of the all-new A4, you have to decide about Audi AG's own newfound design expression: “The Grille.”

Decide whether Audi has “advanced” the styling of one of the most stylish cars on the road. Then forget about it and get to the driving. As soon as you snick a few gears or taste the delectable throttle response of the two available direct-injection gasoline (DIG) engines, questions about Audi aesthetics fade.

The new A4 has almost the same interior and exterior footprint of its predecessor, something of a relief in this day of endless dimensional enlargement. Nonetheless, the new A4 does feel roomier.

The problem arrives when the A4 meets the scales. A sedan with the 2L 4-cyl. and quattro all-wheel drive — the volume model — swings the needle to a portly 3,517 lbs. (1,595 kg), a full 100 lbs. (45 kg) more than a similarly configured car from the previous generation.

The A4's mass underscores the effectiveness of the new engine range. The base engine is a sparkling turbocharged 2L DOHC I-4 sporting Audi's excellent FSI (fuel straight injection) DIG system.

Even the mathematically challenged will see the 200 peak horsepower figure means Audi delivers a 100 hp/L base engine. More impressive is the 207 lb.-ft. (281 Nm) of torque spanning a remarkable 1,800-5,000 rpm range.

Thanks to the torque-fattening “tuning” of FSI, the 207 lb.-ft. is a figure more befitting a small V-6 than a small 4-cyl. BMW's new 3L inline 6-cyl., with scads of fancy valving, makes just 13 lb.-ft. (18 Nm) more torque than Audi's crackling turbocharged 2L FSI. The 2.0t quattro sedan, hooked to a crisp 6-speed manual transmission, gets itself from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in a handy 7.3 seconds.

The new A4's upgrade engine is the heady 3.2L FSI V-6 already seen in the A6. A Ward's 10 Best Engines winner for 2005, the normally aspirated 3.2L V-6 generates 255 hp and 243 lb.-ft. (329 Nm) of torque.

Even considering the FSI V-6 can be linked only with the heavier 6-speed automatic and quattro for a pavement-crushing 3,726-lb. (1,690-kg) curb weight, there is plenty of scoot for a car this size: 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds.

Either engine makes for great entertainment. The 3.2L V-6 makes up for lack of a manual transmission with grunt and scorching throttle response, while the turbocharged 2L literally snaps necks if the throttle is opened injudiciously in the lower gears.

The lighter weight with the 2L powerplant makes corners more enjoyable and mitigates to some degree Audi's deserved reputation for understeer. Additional aid comes from the unique 4-link front suspension, which provides crisp turn-in response while similarly staving off torque steer on front-drive A4s.

Inside, Audi guarantees spectacular interior accommodations. Material choice and textures are faultless, and everything is put together with apparently aerospace precision. Even the faux finishes are tasteful and convincing.

The base A4 sedan with the 2L FSI 4-cyl., 6-speed manual and quattro starts at $29,450. This is a highly desirable configuration. At the high end is the '05 A4 Avant with the 3.2L V-6, starting at $36,400, plus options.

Audi's packed considerable engineering into its new A4 platform, without sacrificing the driving experience. The new A4 emerges as an entertaining sport sedan that may be able to go tire-to-tire with this year's fully redesigned BMW 3-Series in the entry-premium class.

'05 Audi A4 2.0T (quattro)

Vehicle type: Front-engine, all-wheel drive, 5-passenger 4-door sedan

Engine: 2L (1,984 cc) turbocharged DOHC I-4, iron block/aluminum head

Power (SAE net): 200 hp @ 5,100-6,000 rpm

Torque: 207 lb.-ft. (281 Nm) @ 1,800-5,000 rpm

Compression ratio: 10.5:1

Bore × stroke (mm): 82.5 × 92.8

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 104.3 ins. (265 cm)

Overall length: 180.6 ins. (459 cm)

Overall width: 69.8 ins. (177 cm)

Overall height: 56.2 ins. (143 cm)

Curb weight: 3,517 lbs. (1,595 kg)

EPA fuel economy, city/highway (mpg): 22/31

Competition: Acura TSX; BMW 3-Series; Cadillac CTS; Jaguar X-Type; Lexus ES300; Mercedes-Benz C-Class; Volvo S40