The A4 automatic transmission (and all other Audi automatics for 1996) has a
range of shift strategies - over 200 in fact. It always starts out from a
start-up in the most conservative/economical program and then adapts as it
"learns" from your driving style. If you are driving in boy-racer mode, the
transmission ratchets up through the range of programs, using an ever more
sporting shift strategy. If you are just cruising along, steady state, then
it ratchets down to the econo-program. It is always interactive, sensing
throttle position, throttle movement, speed of movement, as well as a number
of engine and ambient parameters (even including up hill/down hill
conditions). To the driver, this is all transparent. After some experience,
you will be able to easily detect the progression, but on a test drive it is
too subtle and if the dealer is along, it's hard to really thrash the car to
get the quickest change from Dr. Jeckyl to Mr. Hyde.
This is roughly like the Sport, Economy, and Manual switch that the V8
quattro and the very early fourth generation 100 automatics had. The key
differences are that there are now over 200 programs, the range from
sportiest to most conservative is much broader, and you cannot manually over
ride its selection (apart from really stepping into it).
So what is the secret to getting a little more enjoyment out of the automatic
A5? Wring its neck when you drive it. The software is interactive, so you
have to play along. It also takes a minute or two to "learn" your style
after each start up. Granted, it may seem less than natural at first, but it
becomes seamless after a while. As you drive the car and gain experience,
you will find that there is a very wide range of behavior available.
However, a cautious test drive will usually be a disappointment.