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