Shopping for a new Audi A4?
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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
A BMW 335i can blow its doors off
Turbo four is "smooth, strong and sweeter
Light and direct" steering
The 2010 Audi A4 spans a wide performance spectrum with its available engines and transmissions. 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). All-wheel drive is available on the four-cylinder sedan and comes standard on the six-cylinder sedan. The A4 Avant wagon comes only as a turbocharged four, with quattro and the six-speed automatic.Though it's slower with either engine than the latest turbo BMWs, the Audi A4's performance is quick. Edmunds puts it bluntly: "a BMW 335i can blow its doors off," they contend, and the Audi is a "bit lethargic considering our test car's lofty sticker price." Edmunds was testing a V-6 A4, however; for 2010 Audi does offer an S4 with a supercharged V-6 engine to compete with the BMW turbo. Car and Driver finds the turbocharged four-cylinder "zippy," while Automobile clarifies that the new "211-hp TFSI unit has nothing in common with the outgoing car's heavier and thirstier 200-hp edition." AutoWeek asserts 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."
The 2010 Audi A4 sedan's four-cylinder engine is "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." 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" is the sole wagon configuration, AutoWeek says. Audi's become synonymous with all-wheel drive; "Quattro has been around since the earth cooled," Edmunds comments, "and we're fans." With a power bias of 40:60 to the rear wheels, "the A4's self-locking center differential redirects that power to the axle with the best traction" when traction suffers. Automobile points out "if need be, up to 90 percent can be directed to the front wheels."
All A4s have electronic power steering that responds quickly but with artificial feel and feedback. The new A4 also offers an optional Drive Select system that allows drivers to choose settings for ride quality, steering heft and quickness, and speed of transmission shifts. "Drive Select is a kind of personal onboard tuning service," AutoWeek says. Car and Driver is fine with the variable steering feel, calling it "less conspicuous" than similar systems offered on BMWs. Automobile feels the steering is "light and direct" in town, "meatier" on back roads, and "relaxed, thanks to a languid four turns lock-to-lock," on the highway. AutoWeek agrees with TheCarConnection.com; the Audi's steering in most situations is "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 it enables driving in "tranquil fashion," while Car and Driver contends Drive Select's programmed feel is "innately clean enough." This time Automobile points 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 comments.
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 virtues of Drive Select. It strips some of the basic goodness from the A4-steering feels too slow or too heavy, depending on the mode chosen, and ride quality can turn brittle in Sport mode. All of this can be corrected by leaving the car in Auto mode-or not opting for Drive Select at all. The worst offense with the A4, though, isn't Drive Select; it's the absence of Audi's fantastic dual-clutch transmission.
With plenty of shifting choices, it's easy to select an A4 that fits your needs-but Drive Select is better left off.