- Styling is taut and clean
- Available quattro all-wheel drive
- Avant wagon's utility
- Improved interior and backseat room
- Artificial steering feel with Drive Select
- Audi dual-clutch gearbox not offered
- Backseat sits too low
- Dark, hooded dash a styling step backward
The 2010 Audi A4 satisfies a wide spectrum of luxury-car shoppers; the optional Drive Select system's an expensive, unnecessary distraction.
Carried over intact after a complete reinvention in 2009, the 2010 Audi A4 continues to wear its newly styled body well. The sedan and wagon are longer and wider than the 2002-2008 A4 lineup, and in many ways, they closely resemble the mid-size Audi A6 sedan and wagon. Slightly stubbier, the A4 sedan and wagon have the now-customary deep Audi grille, LED daytime running lights, and canted headlamps that rest more attractively on the Audi A5/S5 coupes and cabriolets. With the new A4 lineup comes a deeper, darker binnacled dash that leaves out some of the more expensive wood trim of the past, and in the process omits some of the impression of quiet luxury that used to pervade all Audis. It's still handsome and well finished, but there's more black and metallic plastic and LCD readouts than ever.
The Audi A4 offers a single turbocharged four-cylinder engine, with one of three transmissions and front- or all-wheel drive. The base sedan has a 211-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, coupled to a six-speed manual, a six-speed automatic, or in front-drive versions, a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Audi's best transmission, a paddle-shifted, dual-clutch gearbox, isn't yet offered. All-wheel drive is available on the four-cylinder sedan and comes standard on the six-cylinder car. The A4 Avant wagon comes only as a turbocharged four, with quattro and the six-speed automatic. There's not much reason to opt for the CVT version other than price. Fuel economy reaches a high of 23/30 mpg with the four-cylinder CVT.
Steering and handling are a bit lighter than in a BMW 3-Series, and all A4s have electronic power steering that responds quickly but with artificial feel and feedback. The new A4 also offers an optional system that allows drivers to select the ride quality, steering heft and quickness, and speed of transmission shifts, but the basic car's fixed settings probably offer the best compromise for most drivers.
With its expanded interior space, the Audi A4 relieves some of the cramped feeling in the backseat. The front chairs are supportive if a bit flat across the bottom cushion, with power adjustment and leather upholstery. Most controls are easily reached, and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes to provide even tall drivers with the chance at an optimal driving position. There is much more backseat room, but the seat itself could use more bolstering and a taller bottom cushion height for better comfort. The backseats fold down for trunk access and for carrying long objects, and a pass-through for skis hides behind a fold-down armrest. The trunk is very large on sedans, and the wagon has enough room to carry four roller suitcases plus a couple of soft-sided bags. The A4's built with tight seams and a uniformly high level of fit and finish inside and out, but there's plenty of black plastic on the dash and a few buttons and controls with less than perfect feel-though Audi's steering-wheel mounted rollers should be the new standard for audio controls.
Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have crash-tested the 2010 Audi A4. Both agencies give the 2010 Audi A4 the highest safety ratings possible. Safety equipment includes standard airbags all around, as well as traction and stability control. Safety options include a rearview camera, blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems, and adaptive cruise control. Visibility in both the wagon and sedan is quite good, even with the backseat's three headrests in the upright position.
Apart from its variety of body styles, drivetrains, and safety systems, the 2010 Audi A4 offers a host of standard and optional features that are among the best in its class. Leather upholstery is standard, along with Sirius Satellite Radio; a CD player; cruise control; a sunroof; and Audi's MMI system, which uses a rotary controller to aid the driver in setting climate, audio, and phone functions on the go. It's a menu-based system like BMW's iDrive, but the software's a little more user-friendly and logical. Bluetooth, a navigation system, Sirius real-time traffic and an iPod connectivity kit are options on the 2010 A4, as is a high-quality Bang & Olufsen audio system. Audi gives buyers a choice of wood and leather colors, and the lighter palette introduced in the current generation is quite handsome and makes the cabin feel as airy as a Honda. Prices start at $32,275 and base stickers rise to $45,375.