Just last year, Audi sold the last generation of A4 with a manual transmission in America. They named it the “Ultrasport“. The reason for doing so was to honor a previous generation of Audi A4, one that was very popular among Audi enthusiasts — the B6 A4 Ultrasport (aka USP). The reasons for that car’s popularity is, simply put, it’s the best A4 ever.
When I say the B6 Audi A4 USP is the best A4 ever, I’m excluding any S4 or RS4, as those are quite different cars. However, when it comes down to just the regular ole A4, the B6 USP was, and still is, the best of them
So what makes the B6 Audi A4 USP the best A4 ever? Well, a few things, if I’m being honest.
Firstly, its looks. Not only is the B6 the most handsome A4 of them all, thanks to its clean, sophisticated design, but the Ultrasport looks even better. It sports a new lower front fascia, with sportier front air intakes, a lip spoiler for its trunk lid, S4-style door blades, black window trim and a different rear bumper. All of which combine to make it sportier looking and more exciting than the standard car. Held up to newer A4s and the B6 USP is still such a handsome car.
The USP also had some mechanical tweaks to go along with its looks. It sits lower than the standard car, giving it better handling and a sportier look. It also features stiffer shocks to go along with the lowered ride height. Most importantly, though, it came with a six-speed manual with the 1.8 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
It’s also the last generation of Audi A4 to get hydraulic power steering and you can feel it. In the B6, the steering is surprisingly heavy and, compared to modern sports cars, sports a relatively slow steering rack. So it actually requires a bit of steering lock to make it turn. Though, for proper driving enthusiasts, it’s lovely. There’s actual steering feel and its heavy weighting makes it more fun to muscle around. The B7-gen that followed it replaced the hydraulic steering with electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) and it also featured a variable steering ratio. It was almost universally unloved, with some owners actually pulling the fuse on the variable system to turn it off.
It’s not just the steering, either. The B6-gen Audi A4 Ultrasport’s chassis and suspension just feel better than any other A4’s. The new B9-generation is quite good and is probably second-best compared to the B6 USP but it’s still only second-best. Even today, the car feels nimble and fun to drive, despite having its entire engine slung out ahead of the front wheels, giving it an inherently poor weight balance.
Are there any drawbacks? Sure, as there are with any car. If you opt for the 1.8T engine, it’s pretty gutless under 3,000 rpm. And even when on boost, it’s not that quick. In fact, it’s quite slow by modern standards. However, that little turbo four-pot has immense tuning potential and just a few simple mods can bring its 170 hp stock output up to around 250 hp. If you go for the 3.0 liter naturally-aspirated V6, you get much more power as-standard, around 230 hp, but it’s heavier and a bit less exciting. While it’s a brilliant engine, the V6, with silky smooth delivery and a good noise, it’s more tuned for luxury than sportiness.
Also, there are some reliability issues. Nothing crazy but a lot of interior bits like to break, such as the glove box door, arm rest lid and pop-out cupholder from the dash. Also, the two cupholders in the arm rest are the most idiotically-placed cupholders in the world. They either get in the way of shifting gears or they spill when you lift the arm rest up to shift easier. They make no sense. Audi fixed that on the B7, by putting them in the center console, so many B6 owners swap out their consoles for B7 ones, considering they’re almost identical aside from that.
Overall, though, the B6 Audi A4 Ultrasport is the best-generation of A4 for all of the reasons above. It’s still among the best looking, it’s the sweetest to drive, has incredible tuning potential for relatively little money and it’s from that sweet-spot era of cars where they’re modern enough to still use everyday but also simple enough to be easy to work on and also provide that old-school driving feel.
That’s also why we bought one, the one seen in these photos. For our latest project/daily driver, we bought a 2005 Audi A4 Ultrasport, which was actually the last year it was made. It’s black over black interior with a six-speed manual, Quattro all-wheel drive and a 1.8T engine. Mechanically, it’s in pretty good shape but, cosmetically, it’s a bit rough around the engines, due to neglect and sloppy ownership. So we plan on bringing her back to life and making a great little project out of it.
We have some fun stuff planned for it so stay tuned and we’ll have a follow-up story/video to show you our new car and what we’re going to do.