No matter how many times I drive an Audi A4 2.0T, I still wind up double-checking to confirm that I am, in fact, sitting behind a four-cylinder engine and not some excellent six-cylinder. Indeed, the words and numbers on the spec sheet — 211 horsepower, four-wheel-drive, 31-mpg on the highway, and 3600 pounds — simply do not jive with how spirited and fun the A4 is to drive. Mash the throttle, and the 2.0-liter responds instantly, emitting a throaty howl and propelling this heavy, leather-lined sedan more briskly than it has any business doing. It’s not merely a smoke screen of low-end torque and short gearing, either. Snap the precise stick shift into second, and it keeps on pulling.
Although I remain surprised by the four-cylinder power, my repeat encounters with the A4 have changed my perspective on the interior. For first-time users, Audi’s climate and radio controls seem needlessly complex, but by the second or third go, they become second nature, which isn’t the case with all such interfaces. I’ve also come to appreciate the thoughtful details, such as the seat heaters that remember their previous setting so you don’t have to turn them on every time you start the car. Only shame is that seat heaters, along with many other interior features, are costly options. Can anyone explain to me why a $15,500 Kia Forte has standard Bluetooth but a $33,725 Audi A4 does not? It’s sort of like those five-star hotels that charge for the wireless connection that Hampton Inn provides for free. Regardless of trim and options, though, the A4 offers best-in-class interior design and quality.
In fact, the A4 may be best in class, period. Purists and weekend racers will rightfully stand behind the better-balanced BMW 3-Series, but for the majority of buyers looking for German driving dynamics, great design, and good fuel economy, this may be the best bet.
– David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Audi has done a great job with the A4. It’s a few years old at this point, yet it remains my favorite vehicle in the class. The 2.0T engine provides power and fuel economy, and Quattro four-wheel drive doesn’t kill fuel mileage. Yes, a 3-series is dynamically superior and has higher handling limits, but that matters only if you actually plan to take your car to track days. Audi gives customers a much better street car at a great price with a better interior, so it makes more sense for most shoppers.
Now that Audi arguably has the best styling in the luxury segment, very robust powertrains, beautiful interiors, and very respectable driving dynamics combined with reasonable (for the segments) pricing, it’s no wonder Audi surged past the 100,000-unit sales mark for 2010. The R8 does a wonderful job as a halo car for the brand, and there’s enough success from the Le Mans program to fill a book. With a revised A6 coming any day now, Audi will have a complete product portfolio and some very happy dealers.
– Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
David Zenlea and Phil Floraday took the words out of my mouth. We tended to dismiss the A4 as too expensive and “not a 3-series” when it debuted two or three years ago, but when I got in our test car, my immediate thought was that, for most people, this is the absolute perfect combination of Germanic driving, style, luxury, features, and prestige. Hey, if you want a BMW 3-series, have at it; I love them, too. But don’t assume that a 3-series is superior to the A4 for all people, because it’s not. The A4 is far better looking inside and out.
– Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Our magazine has frequently professed its affection for the BMW 3-series, but the Audi A4 is certainly a very worthy competitor. Most enthusiast drivers, including myself, would be quite content driving a basic A4 such as our test vehicle. I like its palatable $39,180 as-tested price, too, which includes all the features I’d want in my own A4 (heated seats, sunroof, manual transmission, Bluetooth, satellite radio) and none that I’d skip (automatic transmission, navigation). It’s also nice that a basic Quattro-equipped A4 costs some $2000 less than a basic BMW 328 with all-wheel drive.
I had several opportunities to test the A4’s abilities in snow, and, with the help of its Continental winter tires, the Audi passed with flying colors — and allowed me to pass slower traffic easily, safely, and quickly. When there was no traffic around, the A4 even showed off its rearward torque bias as I gleefully slid through slow corners with the tail hanging out. The Volkswagen Group’s venerable turbo 2.0 liter offers excellent performance, too, and it’s really cool to have a six-speed stick in a fancy-pants Audi. I was also fairly happy with the indicated 25.5 mpg achieved over 400 cold-weather miles, which included a fair amount of warm-the-car-for-the-new-baby idling.
I wasn’t as pleased, however, with this car’s sport package, which made the ride quality fairly harsh at times. The rear door openings also turned me off, as their relatively short height made it a bit tricky to load the kids into the back seats. If I were buying a new Audi, a taller Q5 would probably be my best choice, as much as I, a car lover, hate to admit. Also, the A4’s low-beam headlights seemed really weak, although their alignment is likely just as much to blame as the lamps themselves.
The entire Audi brand just barely outsold the 3-series in the U.S. in 2010, with each boasting about 101,000 sales; about one-third of those Audi sales were A4s. So in addition to its other charms, the A4 should appeal to those who don’t want to follow the crowd.
– Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Base price (with destination): $33,725
Price as tested: $39,180
2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Quattro all-wheel drive
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Electronic stability program
17-inch alloy wheels
Automatic climate control
Electric cruise control
Heated outside mirrors
Power front seats
AM/FM radio with in-dash CD player
Sirius satellite radio
Leather seating surfaces
Options on this vehicle:
Premium plus model – $3400
Xenon plus headlights
LED daytime running lights
Three zone climate control
Heated front seats
Split folding rear seats
Audi music interface
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
18-inch Sport package — $1450
18-inch sport-design wheels
3-spoke sport steering wheel
Sport front seats with lumbar
Quartz gray metallic — $475
Exhaust tips — $130
Key options not on vehicle:
19-inch Titanium sport package — $2000
MMI navigation plus package — $2250
Bang & Olufsen sound system — $850
Fuel economy: 21/31/25 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 2.0L turbocharged I-4
Horsepower: 211 hp @ 4300-6000 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1500-4200 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Curb weight: 3626 lb
Wheels/tires: 18-inch aluminum wheels; 245/40R18 Continental Conti Winter Contact tires