2005 Acura TL vs. 2005 Audi A4, 2006 BMW 330i, and Five More Entry-Luxury Sedans

2005 Acura TL vs. 2005 Audi A4, 2006 BMW 330i, and Five More Entry-Luxury Sedans 2005 Acura TL vs. 2005 Audi A4, 2006 BMW 330i, and Five More Entry-Luxury Sedans
Comparison Tests

While the buffaloes in C/D's head office in Ann Arbor bumped heads over which vehicles to include in our annual "Just-Try-to-Beat-the-3-Series Test," eyes out in the West Coast bureau watched the burning skies of July with real trepidation. The searing sun seemed capable of removing the Nocturne Aubergine paint job from a VW Phaeton's skin. (Far as we can tell, that means "midnight eggplant.") Back in the Midwest, candidates were proposed, debated, explored, rejected, reconsidered, rejected again, suddenly adopted with no warning following a few particularly dry martinis, re-rejected because a test vehicle wasn't available with exactly the correct shade of felt ashtray liner, and finally readopted.

At one point, the count of competitors was 12. Then it was two. Then it was eight. Staffers threatened to quit, or worse, just take the rest of the day off.

When the list was finally set in concrete, our comparo destination — the high desert north of Los Angeles — was registering 100 shimmering Fs by 8 a.m. By noon the temperature was bursting the mercury right out the tops of our 89-cent Car and Driver — brand thermometers. Managing editor Steve Spence was in L.A. just one day before he managed to incinerate his face. It was like talking to a blood blister wearing spectacles.

"I fell asleep," he said moodily. "By the pool," he added, quite unnecessarily.

With air-conditioning performance now destined to be a major factor in the test, we called to order this annual festival of circa-$35,000 sports sedans, pleased by the attendance of so many new faces. The Audi A4 is an important one, packing a newly available 3.1-liter direct-injection V-6 behind its beaver-tail grille. So is the BMW 330i, which now hacks through traffic in a fully Bangle-ized body with larger dimensions and a new aluminum-and-magnesium engine, light of weight and vitalized to 255 horsepower with BMW's nifty Valvetronic variable valve-timing-and-lift system.

The 2006 Lexus IS350 is a headlight-to-tailpipe overhaul of the littlest Lexus. Sharing some bones with the GS430, the IS grows in size, performance, and attitude. It's itching to do some Bimmer stomping with a tightened suspension, upsized brakes, and an all-new dual-overhead-cam 24-valve 306-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. Irritatingly, the IS350 ships with a six-speed automatic only (the 204-hp IS250 offers a six-speed manual coupled to its midget V-6). Regarding prices, Lexus still kept its own counsel at writing time. We figure $40,000 for our particular blue wedge, fully loaded with a navigation system, 300-watt Mark Levinson stereo, sunroof, and 18-inch wheels with summer rubber.