2009 Audi A4 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 22, 2008

The 2009 Audi A4 has grown into a more useful luxury sedan, though it goes overboard with optional, programmable handling.

The import-car experts from TheCarConnection.com researched a wide range of road tests from around the Web to compile this authoritative review of the 2009 Audi A4. TheCarConnection.com’s editors were also among the first to drive the new A4 and have included driving impressions and details where they help you make a more informed decision. This review also compares the 2009 Audi A4 with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

The 2009 Audi A4 returns in a newly styled body that’s longer and wider than before. In many ways, the new shape resembles the larger Audi A6 sedan, but LED lighting and a unique nose plant the Audi sedan and wagon firmly in the new Audi family that also includes the A5 and S5 coupes. Inside, the A4 has a taller, darker dash that’s not as classically handsome as previous efforts, but it’s still an efficient place to work.

A wide range of engine and transmission choices comes with the new A4. The base engine is a 211-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder, offered with a manual transmission or a six-speed automatic or, in front-drive versions, a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A V-6 version comes only with the sweet-shifting six-speed automatic. Quattro all-wheel drive is offered on the four-cylinder sedan and is standard on the six-cylinder car. The A4 Avant wagon comes only as a turbocharged four, with quattro and the six-speed automatic. The new A4 also offers an optional system that allows drivers to select the feel of its ride, steering, and transmission shifts, but the basic car’s nonadjustable settings seem preferable.

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The A4 remains a handsomely built vehicle, but this time, Audi’s graced it with much more interior backseat room. Wagon room is particularly generous, and though legroom in the backseat is good, the seat itself could use more bolstering and increased height for better comfort. The trunk is very large on sedans. Quality materials are incorporated throughout, though some details and actions could use work.

Because the 2009 Audi A4 is new on the market, there is no crash-test data available from either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Safety equipment includes standard airbags all around, as well as traction and stability control.

Apart from its variety of body styles, drivetrains, and safety systems, the 2009 Audi A4 offers a host of standard and optional features that are among the best in its class. Leather is standard; Bluetooth, a navigation system, radar-assisted cruise control, and a blind-spot alert system are offered, as is a Bang & Olufsen audio system.

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2009 Audi A4

Styling

Some details are jarring, but the 2009 Audi A4’s handsome genetics are on full display.

The 2009 Audi A4 sports a larger body with a sense of style like that of the bigger Audi A6, according to reviews from across the Web and the firsthand experience of TheCarConnection.com’s editors.

For the new model year, the 2009 Audi A4 has grown substantially larger in both sedan and wagon form. It’s “4.6 inches longer and two inches wider than before,” Car and Driver says, and it “grows from one of the smallest cars in its class to one of the largest, versus competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the BMW 3 Series,” according to AutoWeek. That increased size gives it “infinitely more presence,” Car and Driver adds. “Imagery doesn’t do justice to the new A4.”

Cars.com notes the similarities with Audi’s larger four-door and wagon. The new 2009 Audi A4 “isn't a radical departure from the outgoing model, but it now bears a greater family resemblance to the larger A6,” they report. Motor Trend likes the new “sculpted lines” and the “more aggressive front end,” noting that the changes give the A4 “a planted, sportier stance” that “holds the road with a new sense of confidence and enthusiasm.” Car and Driver approves of the new lighting applied to the nose, calling it “LED eyeliner”; Cars.com says these lights are “an uncommon feature, but they are very good at grabbing the attention of oncoming motorists thanks to the bright, white light they emit.” Popular Mechanics calls the new design “crisp and attractive, with a face resembling the A5 coupe.”

AutoWeek also reviewed the new 2009 Audi A4 Avant wagon and said it’s “good-looking to boot,” with “muscular proportions, short overhangs and gracefully arcing roof.” They argue that “the wagon is arguably more dynamic-looking” than the sedan.

The 2009 Audi A4’s cabin is entirely new, and it’s “a huge step forward,” in Car and Driver’s opinion. “Even without the sunroof, the space feels open and airy.” Motor Trend gives their approval to the “high-quality materials and clean, attractive design [that] continue to live up to Audi's stellar reputation as the industry benchmark.”

In TheCarConnection.com’s stint behind the wheel of the 2009 Audi A4, editors noticed the strong resemblance to the Audi A6—particularly in the “tornado line” that borders the passenger cabin from the front fender to the rear fender. The deeply cut-in grille isn’t a favorite detail, as it leaves a large opening in front framed by headlamps and air intakes that draw a squint on the car’s nose. The LED running lights are an interesting, forward-looking filigree. In general, the exterior shape is more balanced on the wagon.

Inside, the cabin has good materials, but to the staff at TheCarConnection.com, Audi’s stepped away from the styling that put it far above other brands. The new interior has more black plastic facing the front passengers; it’s angled more like a cockpit—or a battleship. It does have some wonderful details, however, like a thick steering wheel, a choice of brushed-aluminum or wood trim, and a more substantial look than either the rival BMW 3-Series or the Mercedes-Benz C-Class—as well as the ubiquitous starter button.

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2009 Audi A4

Performance

The 2009 Audi A4 has ample V-6 power and the secure handling of front- or all-wheel drive, but Drive Select needs more refinement.

The 2009 Audi A4 has a wider range of engines and a narrower offering of transmissions from last year’s version. It also gets a new driver-adjustable set of handling features that meet with mixed reviews from TheCarConnection.com’s editors and other auto writers around the Web.

For this model year, the 2009 Audi A4 comes to the U.S. with a 3.2-liter V-6 engine. It’s “capable of an impressive 265 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque,” Car and Driver reports. Though it’s “capable of a 0-to-62-mph time of 6.2 seconds” with an available manual transmission, that’s “nowhere near the 4.8 seconds we achieved in a BMW 335i sedan we tested,” though it’s “on par with the segment for the most part,” they also note. Edmunds is more succinct: “a BMW 335i can blow its doors off,” they report, clocking their own 0-60 mph run of “6.9 seconds,” which is “a full second quicker in both tests than the last V6 automatic Audi A4 we tested way back in 2005”—performance that’s strong, but still a “bit lethargic considering our test car's lofty sticker price.”

The only engine available on the 2009 Audi A4 Avant wagon—and a future offering in the sedan—is a “zippy gas-powered four-banger,” Car and Driver says. Automobile reports the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is a “211-hp TFSI unit [that] has nothing in common with the outgoing car's heavier and thirstier 200-hp edition.” AutoWeek says this powerplant in the A4 Avant is “smooth, strong and sweeter than ever and, in a sense, not turbolike at all. Throttle response is immediate.”

Two more engine options will surface in the coming model year. The first is a turbodiesel 3.0-liter six-cylinder with “240 horsepower and a kickin' 369 pound-feet of torque,” Car and Driver says, predicting a “6.1-second 0-to-62-mph sprint.” At the other end of the range, a new Audi S4 will “abandon V-8 power in favor of a more frugal and lighter twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 rated at 333 hp and matched with Audi's dual-clutch automatic transmission,” Automobile promises.

In the 2009 Audi A4 sedan, four-cylinder versions are “paired with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic in Quattro models,” Automobile reports, while “front-wheel-drive cars will be available with the continuously variable Multitronic transmission.” In the V-6 sedan, “no manual transmission is available,” Edmunds notes, “only Audi's excellent six-speed automatic.” For the A4 Avant wagon, there’s a single configuration: a “six-speed ZF automatic transmission, quattro all-wheel drive and the latest evolution of Audi's 2.0-liter turbo with gasoline direct injection,” AutoWeek says.

Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system is also standard on the V-6 sedan, and “this is good,” Edmunds adds. “Quattro has been around since the earth cooled, and we're fans. In its present form, the purely mechanical system sends 60 percent of the engine's power to the rear wheels under normal driving conditions. In abnormal conditions, the A4's self-locking center differential redirects that power to the axle with the best traction.” Automobile adds, “Quattro all-wheel drive splits the torque between the axles unevenly at 40/60 percent front to rear, but if need be, up to 90 percent can be directed to the front wheels.”

When it comes to handling, the 2009 Audi A4 has a wide range of choices for drivers. There’s a fully independent suspension across the board, as well as electric power steering and four-wheel disc brakes. There’s also an available Drive Select option that allows the driver to choose settings for steering feel, ride comfort, throttle input, and transmission shifting, and it’s the source of some controversy among reviewers. “Drive Select is a kind of personal onboard tuning service,” AutoWeek says.

In steering feel, Car and Driver liked the adjustable steering feel, calling it “less conspicuous” than similar systems offered on BMWs. Automobile felt the steering was “light and direct” in town, “meatier” on back roads, and “relaxed, thanks to a languid four turns lock-to-lock,” on the highway. AutoWeek took the minority view: “The new variable-ratio steering does require some familiarity to enjoy. It's very light at low speeds, and while it firms up at high speeds, it wants to wander off center a bit, with a hint of twitch.”

Ride comfort is a better proposition with Drive Select. Popular Mechanics says the settings enable the 2009 Audi A4 to amble down the road in “tranquil fashion,” and Car and Driver felt its handling was “innately clean enough.” This time Automobile pointed out, “On predominantly washboard tarmac, the difference in ride between the comfort and the dynamic settings was as stark as the difference in visibility between a lunar eclipse and a power failure in a coal mine.” Edmunds complains that it “defaults to the Auto settings every time you start the car. It shouldn't.” Motor Trend thinks “the system isn't perfect—dynamic's ride is a bit too harsh for everyday driving, and comfort's steering is too uncommunicative in turns. However, auto mode makes the best of both settings.”

Drive Select is an option, however, and cars without it “have precise, nicely weighted steering and firm, tidy ride qualities that are perfectly agreeable,” Car and Driver points out. Automobile observes that “thanks to Quattro and those wide eighteen-inch tires, traction and grip are phenomenal,” and that “handling balance feels a lot more neutral than in the outgoing model.” Edmunds calls it “a very sharp, communicative sedan and it's fun to throw around,” also noting that the brakes are “fantastic.”

TheCarConnection.com sits with the minority on the handling of the 2009 Audi A4. The V-6 engine is a meaty performer, with plenty of power—until you acknowledge the BMW 3-Series in the next lane. It’s the Drive Select feature, like a similar setup in BMW’s 3-Series, that strips some of the basic goodness from the A4. Though it rides well in most modes, the Dynamic mode turns the steering overly tight and makes turn-in too aggressive, while it gives the transmission full license to upshift and downshift a little too frequently. In Comfort mode, the steering’s downright lazy, barely keeping up on highway maneuvers. All of this can be corrected by leaving the car in Auto mode—or not opting for the system at all. However, the biggest omission is in leaving Audi’s fantastic S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox off the options list for now.

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2009 Audi A4

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Audi A4 has a roomy interior with high-quality materials, though some seat and trim details need more attention.

The 2009 Audi A4 has a handsomely built, far roomier interior than the last version did. Wagon room is particularly generous, and though legroom in the backseat is good, the seat itself could use more bolstering.

Automobile reminds readers that the new 2009 Audi A4 is now “significantly longer and wider than the [BMW] 3-series and the [Mercedes] C-class.” This improves interior space greatly, giving the A4 “a roomy interior, to which Audi adds a generous trunk.” Edmunds says the added length “does more than improve the 2009 A4's ride and handling”—it also gives the A4 “some useful rear-seat legroom at last.” Automobile agrees, noting that there’s “more space for long legs, broad shoulders, and tall heads than before,” and that “the overall layout…is much more practical.”

Cargo carrying is easier in the 2009 Audi A4, thanks to that “truly huge (i.e. flat, tall, and deep) trunk,” Car and Driver reports. The A4 Avant wagon is even more useful; with 17.3 cubic feet behind the rear seat, it “approaches the trunk space in full-size sedans such as the BMW 7 Series,” AutoWeek observes. And “with the rear seat folded, the Avant's 50.5 cubic feet approaches the space in small SUVs or crossovers such as the Ford Escape and the Nissan Murano.” Though “the vast majority of Americans don't seem to care for wagon variants,” Popular Mechanics thinks “the convenience offered by the A4 Avant's fold-down rear seats, its hatch and its comprehensive array of rear load-support bars, hooks and nets is worth a close look.”

Audi’s interiors have received high acclaim in the past decade, and this time around, the 2009 Audi A4 scores more positive reviews. “The design of the A4's interior sets a new standard for small premium sedans,” Edmunds says. “Not only is it fantastically comfortable, but also it looks beautifully modern and wonderfully constructed — nothing feels cheap.” Car and Driver feels that “clear attention was paid to the haptic quality of the A4's various buttons, switches, and other ditties that one must twist, poke, or pull.”

Here TheCarConnection.com’s editors differ. Though the 2009 Audi A4 has great front seats and plenty of headroom for all, the rear seats aren’t that comfortable. The bottom cushion is short, the seatback angle is more upright than you might expect, and the seating position is low—though there’s plenty of knee room, at last. The interior still looks quite handsome, but TheCarConnection.com’s team prefers the last-generation A4’s cabin by far; its combination of wide swaths of wood trim and tightly grained plastic are superior to the new car’s flat-painted trim on the door handles, for instance, or the dash’s more prominent black plastic. Audi does a better job than most companies in matching plastic textures and colors, though, so the A4’s interior still ranks above those from BMW and Mercedes in this class.

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2009 Audi A4

Safety

The 2009 Audi A4 has extensive safety features, but hasn’t been tested yet.

Because the 2009 Audi A4 is new on the market, there is no crash-test data available from either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). TheCarConnection.com will update this review when data becomes available.

The 2009 Audi A4 does have an exhaustive list of standard safety equipment. Cars.com says that list includes “six standard airbags,” as does Motor Trend, which notes that side airbags for the rear seats are “optional.”

Other standard safety features on the 2009 Audi A4 include anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control, and LATCH child-seat hooks.

Safety options include the quattro all-wheel-drive system and, Cars.com reports, “Audi Side Assist, which informs the driver when another vehicle is next to the A4, and a backup camera.” TheCarConnection.com notes that the Audi A4’s rear seat also has headrests for all three passengers.

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2009 Audi A4

Features

The 2009 Audi A4 offers a high level of standard equipment, and some high-tech options that ratchet its price tag up above $40,000.

Apart from its variety of body styles, drivetrains, and safety systems, the 2009 Audi A4 offers a host of standard and optional features that are among the best in its class.

Standard features on the A4 include the usual power accessories, an AM/FM/CD player, and air conditioning. Motor Trend adds that “leather will be standard.”

Moving smartly up the pricing scale, the options available on the Audi A4 can quickly run up its sticker. Among the audio options, Motor Trend adds, is “a choice of Bang & Olufsen stereo systems, including the excellent 14-speaker setup we sampled, plus a six-disc CD changer and iPod connectivity.” Of the upmarket sound systems, Edmunds says, “We have no complaints.” Bluetooth connectivity is also available, as is Sirius Satellite Radio.

A cutting-edge feature in the A4 that shares some traits with other German sedans is Audi’s MMI (Multi Media Interface), which commands available audio, navigation, and climate control systems. “It makes [BMW’s] iDrive seem like a cruel joke,” Edmunds reports. “In the A4 and other Audis, a knob and buttons on the center console are used to navigate menus and make selections that appear on a dashboard screen,” Cars.com explains, adding that “MMI can be tedious to use at times, but Audi does provide secondary controls for the air conditioning system.”

A keyless entry system is offered on the new 2009 Audi A4. “It can—like most cars in this segment—recall radio presets, exterior mirror positions, and interior-and-exterior lighting preferences on approach and egress,” Cars.com reports. “But programmability now extends to many more ancillaries, such as deactivating the auto-up feature on the rear windows or turning down the intensity of the steering-wheel warning vibes when the new lane-monitoring option thinks you're veering.”

Popular Mechanics also mentions the Audi’s more exotic options, like “active cruise control, lane monitoring and collision warning—not to mention Audi side assist, a radar-based system that warns against vehicles approaching from the rear three-quarter view—often a potential blind spot for drivers.”

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Styling 8.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
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Features 9.0
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