Model years used to mean something. Come September of each year, fathers and sons, and some mothers and daughters, would make the annual pilgrimage to their local dealers to ogle next year's cars. The anticipation was such that we could almost convince ourselves we were sneaking a peak at the future. Then came emissions and safety regulations. Now government rules dictate that a car's official model year is the calendar year in which it's first built. Thus, the 2005 Audi A4 cannot be a 2006 because Audi started building it in 2004. But there will be no change to the car when, come summer of 2005, it magically transforms into the 2006 A4. Well, no change other than price, that is; although insiders won't say, that likely will go up a bit. So, for true car nuts, now's a chance to buy next year's car before it's next year's car and at this year's price. But make no mistake. The Audi A4 is all-new. And it's a car nut's car. It's fun to drive, with all the sporty bits and pieces. It has state of the art powertrains, with intercooled turbochargers, multi-stage intake manifolds, variable valve timing and the latest technological advance: direct injection, the cleanest and most efficient means yet devised of blending fuel and air in an engine's cylinders. Audi's progress hasn't stopped with the engines. A six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic returns as an option, but the A4's standard transmission is a new six-speed manual. And a new option is a continuously variable transmission, where a steel belt and a pair of infinitely adjustable pulleys replace gears and hydraulic pumps to deliver a truly seamless shifting experience. Four-wheel independent suspension with geometry that keeps tires on the true track throughout the compression range is augmented with standard electronic stability assistance that keeps the car going where the driver wants it to when the driver can't. And, of course, there's Audi's quattro all-wheel drive. On top of that, the new Audi A4 line offers function in the form of the A4 Avant, a wagon that doesn't feel or drive like wagons of yesteryear yet delivers all the storage and flexibility of those earlier multi-purpose transporters. State-of-the-art safety is included, for the most part at no added charge. Besides the electronic stability program, there are antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution. Airbags abound, with the only extra-cost set a pair protecting rear seat occupants against side impacts. Fresh styling distinguishes the new A4 from the previous-generation model. Bottom line: This a satisfying package.