It was near-as-dammit 15 years ago - April 29th 2005, to be precise - that Audi launched the B7 A4 DTM Edition Saloon. Conceived as a celebration of the manufacturer's 2004 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters success, the occasion was actually more significant than it seemed to a casual fan. That's because, for the 20 years up to that point that the DTM had run in its various forms, Audi had never won both the drivers' and manufacturers' titles in one year. A certain H.J. Stuck stands out for his 1990 success, followed by Frank Biela in 1991 and then Laurent Aiello in 2002, but it wasn't until Mattias Ekstrom's title year that there was a clean sweep.
So a celebration was in order for Audi, albeit - of course - a modest one. For £29,980 in 2005, the 250 UK DTM Edition buyers received a 20hp boost to the EA113 2.0-litre turbo, along with an extra 15lb ft to boot. That meant headline figures of 220hp and 221lb ft, which translated into a seven-second sprint to 60mph, and a heady 153mph top speed. Quattro was standard, as was a six-speed manual, and all DTMs received a 20mm suspension drop on revised spring and damper settings. Those splendid 15-spoke, 18-inch wheels covered cross-drilled rotors unique to the DTM, saving a bit of unsprung weight. So more changed than you might think.
Cosmetically, an A4 DTM appealed to the keen eye with its carbon front lip and rear spoiler, rear diffuser with red tow hook and larger, 100mm exhaust tips. The interior was treated to some carbon trim and imitation Alcantara, because they're mandatory in a competition derived special. To most, however, this was just another 2.0-litre A4 saloon charging along the M40 trying to move you aside.
Well, an A4 still makes great transport for charging along the M40. Sure, the interior lacks some modern amenities and there's more road noise than something newer, though it's far from intolerable. There's ample overtaking performance, adequate refinement for hours on the road and great visibility from less intrusive A pillars.
In fact, odd though it might sound when discussing a reasonably humdrum Audi A4, it's a really pleasant reminder of everything manufacturers and drivers used to have. And why progress doesn't always feel like a likeable step forward. The dimensions and the visibility make the DTM feel compact and wieldy, where so often now even compact executive saloons can feel large in a lane. The EA113 engine has a bit of lag but also a spritely top end and pleasing (if muted) growl, certainly preferable to the EA888's synthesised nonsense and spookily linear behaviour. The manual gearbox has that slightly hollow feel that characterises the era and the manufacturer - a lot like both S4 and RS4 of this era, basically - but what a joy it is to have one.
Dynamically, it's alright. Once more the highlight might just be a passive set up, with nothing to configure or adjust (or worry about), even if that feels a churlish criticism nowadays. The suspension revisions mean a certain firmness, even allowing for the past 15 years of all cars getting stiffer, though it also makes for a surprising willingness to change direction and decent body control. This isn't some unsung fast car hero of the early 21st century (because it can still feel a little blunt) rather a reminder of how enjoyable just interacting with a car can be. The hydraulic steering is slow by 2020 standards, so it needs a bit of effort; obviously there are gears that need to be changed, the pedals have some resistance to them; and there's not the limitless grip of modern tyres. Sounds stupid, but nowadays the A4 just feels 'appropriate' in terms of size, space, technology and modernity - probably why the RS4 of this era is so (deservedly) revered.
Yes, actually. The B7 era of A4 still looks good, the driving experience is enjoyable enough and the DTM has rarity on its side. It'll lack the rawness of something like an E90 320si, and not be that far removed from a regular A4 2.0T - although how many notable special editions have been closely related to a base car?
The trouble may well be finding one; this particular one looks so good because it's only covered 9,000 miles, and is lovingly cared for by Audi, whereas those typically for sale... aren't quite that. On PH at the moment there's just the one DTM, a 136,000-mile car with a rebuilt engine and "some minor scuffs", or there are the Special Edition A4s of the era, with the same power but less extensive additional tweaks. Still, to have any for sale from just 250 originally sold here isn't bad, especially given there are only 180 currently registered in the UK.
While the DTM is never going to be a cult classic, apart from to the most dedicated Audiphiles, it remains a genuinely nice car - as much for what it doesn't have, as for what it does. Once upon a time 220hp, a six-speed manual, slightly sportier suspension and some nice seats served us just fine; driving the DTM is a nice reminder that much more than that is often a little unnecessary.
SPECIFICATION - AUDI A4 DTM EDITION
Engine: 1,984cc, four-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, Quattro four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 220@5,900-6,100rpm
Torque (lb ft): 221@2,200-4,000rpm
0-62mph: 7.1 secs
Top speed: 153mph
MPG: c. 30
Price new: £29,980
Price now: from £5,000