Perhaps it's merely a product of the cold, slick roads around here, which prevent much spirited driving, but I might prefer this base A4 over a BMW 328i. Just approaching the car in the parking garage after a long day's work, I gained an appreciation for the sense of drama and excitement Audi has baked into its mainstream, lower-priced model. Indeed, it really doesn't look or feel any less special than a $45,000 S4 or even a $60,000 A6. And though it lacks the dynamic capabilities of its rear-wheel-drive BMW rival, it won't put you to sleep behind the wheel, either. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder's 258 lb-ft of torque quickly quells any six-cylinder envy, and the handsome, three-spoke steering wheel firms up nicely at speed, though I'd prefer a more natural, progressive build-up of effort.
The $1450 sport package on this model is definitely a worthwhile option, as it exhibited much better body control and provided more steering feedback than the base-suspension-equipped A4 Avant we drove a few months ago. And though there's nothing wrong with Audi's six-speed Tiptronic transmission, I'd certainly opt for this precise manual gearbox.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor