New A4 is Bigger and Better
The new Audi A4 and I got off to a shaky start. I tried to play the radio the first time I drove it, and couldn’t find the controls. On most cars, they are right there above the air conditioning knobs on the dash, but not on the A4. Audi operates the radio through its Multi-Media Interface (MMI), a mouse-like device on the console. At first, I found this system annoying, but after a while, I got use to it. The MMI also controls the navigation system and telephone.
After making peace with the MMI, I discovered that the new A4 is better in just about every way than the car it replaces. The first thing that I noticed was that it looked heftier, and indeed, the A4 is larger this year. It has grown in length by over four inches, and in width by two. The wheelbase is now a whopping six inches longer. Audi reconfigured the engine/transmission layout, allowing the front wheels to be moved forward. The result is less front overhang, and a more bulldog-like nose.
Surprisingly, for all of the added wheelbase, there is only 1.4 inches of extra legroom, but it does go to the backseat, where it is sorely needed. The amount of space for your knees is still not great, but it’s better than before. On the other hand, the trunk is very roomy at 16.9 cu.-ft. Like its predecessor, the ’09 A4 sports a well-finished, but business-like interior. The seats are firm, and clad in leather. The trim is tasteful, but not overdone.
Under the hood, Audi offers a choice of two engines, a 3.2-liter V-6 with 265 hp, and the trusty 2.0-liter turbo that cranks out 211. They are hooked up to either six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. Front-wheel drive, or Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive are available. My test car came with the turbo, automatic gearbox and Quattro. This combo provided a sporty and satisfying driving experience.
The turbo motor is a little jewel. It delivers excellent power, and is very refined. The Tiptronic automatic shifts quickly and smoothly, although I wish mine had paddle shifters for the manual mode. The revised Quattro system insures that the A4 a has leach-like grip of the road. It delivers 60-percent of the power to the rear wheels in normal driving, but a self-locking center differential transfers the majority of torque to the axle with the most grip, when needed.
Optional this year is an innovative system called Audi Direct Select, and my test car had it. At the push of a button, the driver can choose between Comfort, Auto and Dynamic settings that alter the throttle and transmission response, suspension firmness and steering ratio. The normal setting is Auto. When I switched to Comfort, I noticed that the ride got a tad softer. When I changed it to Dynamic, the shifts were crisper, the suspension stiffened noticeably, and the A4 felt more on its toes. However, I didn’t feel much change in the steering, but it was very quick already.
Like its predecessor, the 2009 Audi A4 is a delight to drive. It pleases with its road-holding capability on twisty roads, yet it also satisfies on the daily commute. Pricing starts at $30,700.
Larger for 2009