Popular A4 Soldiers On
Audi’s best-selling model, the A4, carries over this year with few changes. And while this car can be pricey, its popularity continues to grow. The 2011 A4 is on track to find a home in over 37,000 households this year. That’s an expected increase of 10-percent over 2010.
The A4’s look remains clean and understated. Its most notable features are the trademark Audi “single-frame” grille and the distinctive running lights that are incorporated in the headlamps. However, there are also subtle creases in the sheet metal that enhance its character. The A4’s styling is tasteful, and wears well over the long haul. My test car had Brilliant Black paint and silver five-spoke alloy wheels that provided a pleasing contrast.
The interior is equally attractive. The gauges and the center control panel are integrated into one unit and slightly canted toward the driver. The screen for the Multi-Media Interface (MMI) is well illuminated, and does not wash out in sunlight. Soft-touch vinyl on the dash speaks of quality. Fit and finish throughout is excellent.
The A4 comes in three levels of trim. Leather is standard on the “Premium” model, as is a sunroof and a 10-speaker sound system. If you opt for the “Premium Plus” version, your A4 will also have bi-xenon headlights, automatic windshield wipers and three-zone climate control. The A4 “Prestige” adds 18-inch wheels, navigation, keyless entry and start and a Bang and Olufsen sound system.
Audi offers the A4 as both a sedan and a wagon, with seating for five. Those up front have plenty of room and eight-way power adjusters—it’s surprising how many other luxury cars have only a basic control for front passenger. The rear seat is fine for average size people, but tall folks might feel cramped. The wagon, called the Avant, has 17.3 cu.-ft of cargo space behind the backseat. The sedan has 12-cu.-ft. of storage, which is about average for this class.
There’s just one engine choice for the A4 these days, the venerable 2.0-liter turbo. The larger V-6 of recent years is no longer available. The turbo is peppy, but the power is not quite linear—it comes on in surges. New this year is an optional eight-speed automatic that is available on the all-wheel-drive Quattro models. The eight-speed shifts smoothly, and provides a slight increase in gas mileage—now 21-29 mpg.
The A4 feels very solid on the road. It gives you the feeling that it’s all of one piece. Furthermore, it displays a pleasing balance of good handling and a comfortable ride. My test car did not have the “Sport” suspension, yet it gobbled up twists and turns on the road with ease. The Quattro all-wheel-drive system does a terrific job of distributing engine torque to the wheels that have grip. Meanwhile, the ride is very well controlled, with the A4 displaying very little body lean in the corners.
My test car was a “Premium Plus” Quattro model with the eight-speed automatic. It was optioned with 18-inch wheels, a navigation unit with backup camera, and the Bang and Olufsen premium sound system. This is the kind of packaging that a typical Audi buyer might select. The base price was only $35,015. However, the Premium Plus package and other options added another $7,730, making the bottom line a pricey $42,745. A fully optioned car with the sport suspension, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning and the Direct Select system would approach 50 grand. There’s no question that the A4 is an excellent car, but it’s a little pricey for an entry-luxury model.
Excellent Fit and Finish
Solid Feel on the Road
Nice Balance of Handling and Ride