Is this also the case for you? The car in the photo above was never 30 years old. We still see it on the roads all too often, but time is irreversible, as the Roman poet Virgil once observed. And it's a fact: the first generation Audi A4 was launched in 1994.

The author of these lines is wondering what he did in 1994. Well, he's more or less heading for his bachelor's degree. The German team was also in a bad way at the 1994 Football World Cup: it was eliminated in the quarter-finals by the shamefully underestimated Bulgarians. Helmut Kohl was re-elected Federal Chancellor. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi won with his Forza Italia party.

Gallery: Audi A4 (1994) driving report

Rwanda becomes a slaughterhouse, war rages in Bosnia, Nelson Mandela becomes President of South Africa, Schindler's List wins the Oscars. On the radio, Eurodance and Ace of Base dominated. And a certain Michael Schumacher became the first German to win the Formula 1 World Championship. In 1994, a litre of supermarket petrol cost around DM 1.56 in Germany, a juicy 17 pfennigs more than the previous year.

Luxury optics

Let's return to the new Audi A4 at the time. It was up against fresh competition from the Citroën Xantia, Ford MondeoAlfa Romeo 155 and Mercedes C-Class. Some journalists, and not the least, felt strongly reminded of the Audi A8. The brand's flagship was also launched in 1994.

Both the front end and the window line resemble those of its big sister. The A4 is 4.48 metres long, 1.73 metres wide and 1.41 metres high. That makes it half a metre shorter than the A8. Although the A4's body is not made of aluminium, it is fully galvanised. Audi offers a ten-year guarantee against rust perforation.

Audi A4 (1994) driving report
Audi A4 (1994) driving report
Audi A4 (1994) driving report

The German ADAC testers are quick to recognise that the A4 is targeting BMW and Mercedes with the same virtues as the A8: "When it comes to solidity, the competition should in the future follow Ingolstadt's example and not the other way round. Our car has only 1,900 kilometres on the clock, so it's almost a new car. So it's hardly surprising that we'll soon be wondering what could possibly be 30 years old here.

The exterior of the first Audi A4 is as modern as ever. There's a reason why the B5, as it's known internally, hasn't had a major facelift in the seven years it's been built. In 1996, the yellow indicators disappeared from the rear lights, followed in 1999 by a model update. Inside, the finish is solid and the controls almost intuitive. The absence of large screens and tinkling warning systems is particularly refreshing. Climb in, fasten your seatbelt and drive off.

Audi A4 (1994) driving report

Colleagues in the group

The A4 of 1994 was based on the new B5 platform (PL45). This would later become the basis for the VW Passat B5 (type 3B), the Audi A6 C5 and the Skoda Superb I. The Passat and especially the Superb offer much more space in the rear than the Audi A4, due to a different structure. However, the engines, gearboxes and rear-wheel drive of the Passat and Superb are the same as those of the A4 B5. The engine of the Passat and Superb is also longitudinally mounted - like that of the A4. Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system has been adopted in the Passat.

Returning to the Audi we drive as a saloon, the estate called Avant appeared at the beginning of 1996. You immediately notice the excellent outward visibility provided by the large windows. At the rear, space is only average, something that the press was already criticising in the 1990s. Under the bonnet is turbo technology, and our car is a 150 PS 1.8-litre turbo quattro, priced at the time at DM 50,400 new, excluding options.

A timeless turbo

TDI diesel engines, which are economical but not very quiet, are much more popular. The 1.8 T is aimed at sporty customers, with a 0-62 mph time of 8.3 seconds and a top speed of 138 mph. Only the A4's 2.8-litre six-cylinder engine can compete with this; its 2.6-litre little brother is slower.

Audi A4 (1994) driving report

What's striking about driving? The five-speed gearbox is easy to manoeuvre. The A4's suspension may be firm, but it still offers enough residual comfort. On the whole, it moves quickly. The sound is obviously not up to the standard of Audi's legendary five-cylinder engines, but it conveys a note not devoid of charm.

The Audi A4 B5 is a perfect car for the long term, a car you can imagine driving for another 30 years. Right now, the opportunity is right, in the truest sense of the word because of its still-fresh shape, hardly anyone has considered the first A4 as a collector's car. The brave 1.6 (101 PS) and 1.8 (125 PS) naturally-aspirated petrol engines in saloon version are particularly good bargains for the retirees who maintain them.