2010 Audi A4
Base price: $33,550
As tested: $41,380
MPG: 21 city/27 highway
- More than just another pretty face
- Crash-test results
- Excellent driving characteristics
- Rear seat space still tight
- Frustrating operating controls
- BMW is more fun to drive
By Jim Prueter
The A4 — the best selling Audi in the alphanumeric lineup — was redesigned for 2009 with a growth spurt that has it encroaching on the A6. Stretched almost five inches overall, its girth grew by two inches and its wheelbase six inches (just one inch shy of its larger sibling). Its prodigious size renders it the largest in its class, which includes the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Cadillac CTS and even the BMW 3 Series sedan.
It shares its underpinnings with the excellent A5/S5 coupe, which has been a AAA Top Pick each year since it was introduced in early 2008. The new A4’s styling thematically resembles the more expensive A5 and A6 siblings, including the distinctive LED strip that serves as daytime running lights, the trapezoidal grille, sculpted lines with shortened front overhang, and staccato-like LED tail lamps. So much so, the car looks like a four-door version of the A5 coupe.
The redesign continues in the interior. The larger exterior dimensions result in more cabin space, which shows up in larger foot wells, increased shoulder room, a roomier rear cabin and a best-in-class 17-cubic-foot trunk. As with the previous generation A4, the rear seat folds in two parts to add even more cargo space, if needed. Combined, these changes lend an almost midsize feel to the new A4.
Front seats are firm yet comfortable, but the bottom cushions could have been longer, affording more thigh support for this tall driver. I did appreciate the numerous power adjustments on the front seat along with the tilt and telescoping steering wheel. The center console is too wide, limiting horizontal leg movement.
The steering wheel is leather wrapped but, surprisingly, the door pulls are hard plastic, making it feel less luxurious than the competition. This is unusual for the industry’s leader in quality automotive interiors. We also noted that, while most materials are of excellent quality, nicely padded and trimmed, fit and finish aren’t up to par with previousAudi products we’ve tested.
As with other Audis, the multi-media interface (MMI) knob-based multifunction controller on the center console operates most vehicle tasks, including the audio system and heated seats. It makes otherwise simple operations maddening and a two or more step process. We noticed it often took our eyes off the road when making adjustments.
For 2010, the A4 product line is available as a four-door sedan, wagon (Avant) and S4 performance-oriented sedan. The 3.2-liter V-6 engine has been discontinued. A4 models are now equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 211-horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with TiiptronicÒ dynamic shift programming.
The S4 is powered by a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 with 333 horsepower, with the option of a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed S tronicÒ automatic transmission.
I tested the 2.0-liter Quattro (all-wheel-drive) sedan with the six-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration is surprisingly quick and we realized a bit over 22 mpg overall. However, premium fuel is required. The transmission shifts are smooth and quick. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are standard but we find them, at best, novel and unnecessary.
Handling is composed and agile with quick steering and quiet operation. Some engine noise is evident but otherwise suppressed. Brakes are excellent and the all-wheel drive works transparently. Visibility is good, with large outside heated rearview mirrors.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, glass sunroof, front and rear power windows with one-touch power up and down operation, power driver and passenger seats, AM/FM radio with in-dash CD player, SiriusÒ satellite radio, SD card slot and auxiliary audio input, cruise control and leather seating surfaces.
Our test A4 included the optional Premium plus package ($3500) with Xenon headlamps, BluetoothÒ hands-free phone interface, three-zone climate control, heated front seats, Audi music interface, rain sensing wipers, and HomelinkÒ universal garage door opener. Other options included the navigation package with rearview camera and park sensors ($2500), dark walnut wood interior trim ($400), premium pear effect paint ($475) and chrome exhaust tips ($130).
Safety gear includes six standard airbags and LATCH child seat anchors for all three rear seats. The A4 earned the highest possible 5-star crash test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the highest “Good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Final thoughts: Most entry-level sport luxury car sedans (i.e., Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Cadillac CTS, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G37 and others) are excellent choices. Sport sedans are meant to blur the line between athletic and comfortable. The newly redesigned fourth-generation A4 tested here continues the trend we have seen from Bavarian-built Audi: excellent vehicles from top to bottom, front to rear, inside and out. But Audis are different when compared to others in their class. The BMW 3 Series still handles and drives better; G37s offer more bang for the buck; the CTS feels more luxurious; and the C-Class is more of a boulevard cruiser.
But it is, perhaps, the new A4 that best combines a bit of them all in a now larger package.