Sporty A4 Carries On
Audi sales continue to go through the roof with each month seemingly better than the last. One of the reasons for their success is their compact A4 model. Last year the A4 lead all other Audis with over 35,000 sales. Audi redesigned the A4 for 2009, and the 2012 edition is much the same, except for a minor realignment of standard equipment and options.
The A4 projects a solid, forceful look. Its most notable features are its broad “single-frame” grille and its distinctive running lights that are incorporated in the headlamps. However, there are also subtle creases in the sheet metal that enhance its character. My test car was painted white, with “S line” black trim that provided a striking contrast, especially around the grille.
The interior is attractive in a understated Teutonic way. 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. However, some controls, like the radio knob on the console, are not conveniently placed.
The A4 comes in three levels of trim, Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. 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 18-inch wheels, heated seats, and three-zone climate control. The A4 Prestige adds adaptive headlights, blind-spot warning, navigation, keyless entry/start and a Bang and Olufsen sound system. Buyers can also order the optional “Sport” package with a firmer suspension.
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 just how many other luxury cars have only basic controls 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, 211-hp, turbo. The larger V-6 of recent years is no longer available. The turbo delivers silky smooth power and does it in a quiet, refined manner. Front-wheel-drive version of the A4 gets a CVT transmission, and Quattro AWD models come with a stand six-speed manual, or an optional eight-speed automatic. My test car had the six-speed, and it shifted easily from gear to gear while delivering 21-31 mpg.
The A4 feels very solid on the road. It gives you the feeling that it’s all of one piece. My test car with the “Sport” suspension gobbled up twist and turns with ease. The Quattro all-wheel-drive system does a terrific job of distributing engine torque to the wheels that have the most grip. The A4 leans very little in corners, however the ride is stiffer with the sport suspension, and not quite as comfortable as models without it.
The Audi A4 starts at a reasonable $33,375. That’s for a Premium model with front-wheel drive. But as you move further up the A4 lineup, prices rise sharply. My test car was a top-of-the-line Prestige, with the Sport and S-Line-Plus packages. It had a suggested sale price of $45,675. Furthermore, if it had all the options available for it, the price would have been over fifty grand—quit a bit for a compact sedan.
Refined Drive Train
Excellent Fit and Finish
Can Be Pricey