- Very handsome styling
- Front seating comfort
- Avant wagon's utility
- Quattro all-wheel drive (available)
- Impressive gas mileage
- Artificial steering feel (Drive Select)
- Low, tight backseat
- No S tronic gearbox
- Unremarkable materials/trim
- Bluetooth is an option
The 2012 Audi A4 provides an engaging driving experience, impressive in-cabin technology, and surprisingly great fuel efficiency—making it a good everyday driver among premium sedans.
As small families move up to more fuel-efficient premium cars, and even as longtime luxury shoppers and sport-sedan drivers want something a little more manageable (and less ostentatious), the 2012 Audi A4 lands right in the thick of things, with an economical base engine, all-wheel drive, performance-oriented options, and a top S4 performance version.
The A4 has become as much a smart sport sedan as a luxury compact. Whether it delivers on the former depends on how you equip it, but across the lineup the latest 2012 Audi A4 has the lines of a performance car. With its last redesign in 2009, the A4 got a more rakish, cabin-back look, with a more aggressive stance, and it continues to wear that look well. We appreciate the A4's aggressive look and true presence, and how the whole design fits together. Inside, the A4 has a deeper, darker binnacled dash that leaves out the large swaths of wood trim of former models.
The A4 shows plenty of signs of being a true sport sedan in the way it accelerates, steers, and hunkers down at high speeds-and in its stable, planted feel, no matter if you're on the Interstate or just elbowing your way into traffic. The base 2.0-liter inline-4 in the A4 makes 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of max torque; it doesn't quite churn out the torque just above idle like the 200-hp previous-generation version, and it seems a little more vocal, but this engine is quite a bit more fuel-efficient in our real-world observation-21 or 22 mpg in the city, 31 highway. The A4's steering is reassuring and firm, with a touch of road feel. It's not the tactile marvel that is the Infiniti G37x, but it's more satisfying at high speeds.
The cabin of the 2012 Audi A4, while nicely appointed and comfortable for front-seat occupants, is a little snug for those in back-especially with respect to legroom. The new model neither has the breakthrough materials that catapulted Audi so far ahead of the competition a decade ago, nor the stunning interior design of the newer A6 and A7, but it's still well above par in its niche. Audi offers a choice in leather and wood trim; the lighter choices give the cabin an airy feel. Ride comfort can be a little too firm for some kinds of roads-especially if you shoose the Sport Package, which brings 18-inch sport wheels, high-performance tires, and a sport suspension.
If you want Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, or iPod connectivity, make sure you check the right option box. A navigation system, HD Radio, and Sirius real-time traffic are also available, as is a high-quality Bang & Olufsen audio system.For 2012, Audi has added a new Style Package for the A4 Premium, made the former S line exterior package standard on Premium Plus and Prestige models, and added a newly available 18-inch, ten-spoke wheel design.
For more performance, and even richer appointments, the way to go is the high-output 333-hp S4. The S4 comes only as a sedan, and in addition to a sport suspension and a host of upgrades, it includes sport seats with alcantara inserts, a three-zone climate control system, and heated washers.
2012 Audi A4
The Audi A4's design fits right in with purebred sport sedans, although its luxurious interior no longer stands ahead by leaps and bounds.
In 2009 Audi redesigned the A4. It got a more rakish, cabin-back look, with a more aggressive stance, and it still wears that look well. A longer hood and more swept-back styling help the latest A4 fit right in with rear-wheel-drive sport sedans (even though it remains front- or all-wheel drive), and it's longer and wider overall than the previous version. Up close, the deep Audi corporate grille tends to fit in a bit better, with its LED daytime running lights and canted headlamps, on Audi A5/S5 cabriolets and coupes, but it's also an attractive look from all angles for sedans and A4 Avant wagons.
Across all of these models, we appreciate the A4's tightly composed look and true presence, and its cohesion. The A4 has serious street presence; with the available sport package, the LED lighting and deep front air dam give it a tougher look yet.
The cabin of the A4 is fitted with a binnacle-style dash that omits the big pieces of wood that decorated the A4 in the past. Well-finished, still handsome, the A4 now has a more plasticky cabin with more digital readouts, which seems a shame. The choices between wood and aluminum trim on top models give it a substantial look, better than in its C-Class and 3-Series rivals.
2012 Audi A4
The 2012 Audi A4 drives like a true sport sedan on the road--although those who push the limits on the track might not find BMW or Infiniti dynamics.
The 2012 A4 shows plenty of signs of being a true sport sedan in the way it steers, accelerates, and stays tied down at high speeds; even though it might not be a dynamic rival to the likes of the Infiniti G37 or BMW 3-Series, its stable, planted feel is confidence-inspiring whether you're out on the open road or in urban congestion.
With 211 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder churns out 11 more hp and an additional 51 lb-ft of torque over the previous 2.0T engine. Peak torque comes on quickly, and it's easy to flat-spot the front tires as a result. Manual transmission cars can scoot to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds (it's 6.6 seconds with the automatic); those figures put it in BMW's 328i territory.
Audi's 6-speed manual has less of the usual rubbery VW feel, more of the BMW precision. It has tall gear ratios that can lead to more frequent downshifts, all in the name of gas mileages. On all-wheel-drive models, Audi fits a crisp-shifting 8-speed automatic.
The A4 steers with reassuring firmness and more feedback than most of the other compact luxury sedans. It doesn't have the low-speed brilliance of, say, the Infiniti G37, but it does have better high-speed tracking. Brakes are still a place to pick nits; they can feel grabby and overboosted at low speeds, though they're well-sorted for high-speed duty.
Base A4 cars get front-wheel drive and a CVT, a combination we haven't loved in other applications. We haven't spent much time in this model, which omits all-wheel drive and doesn't offer great improvements in fuel economy.
2012 Audi A4
Comfort & Quality
The 2012 Audi A4 has a comfortable, well-made interior, although its tight back seat and overly firm ride can limit its appeal.
The cabin of the 2012 Audi A4, while nicely appointed and comfortable for front-seat occupants, is a little snug for those in back-especially with respect to legroom.
That said, if you expect to use the back seat for adults and hope to make a good impression, the A4 simply isn't a good pick. With the A4's last redesign, for 2009, the back seat became usable for adults, but they're barely that; most will find legroom very limited, and taller passengers will have headroom issues.
Audi fits some of the best bucket seats in the A4. A bit flat across the bottom, the A4's front seats have the right kind of side bolstering, firm but with some give. Even better are the upgraded sport seats with leather covering and power adjustment. Most of the A4's controls are organized for easy access, and most drivers will find a great driving position.
Cargo space is excellent; the trunk is very large on sedans, and the wagon (Avant) has enough room-17.3 cubic feet behind the rear seat-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. And for more cargo space, rear seatbacks fold forward, with a pass-though behind the fold-down armrest for skiis.
A few years ago, the A4's interior was a revelation compared to the rest of this class. But the latest A4 has neither the breakthrough materials that catapulted Audi so far ahead of the competition a decade ago nor the stunning interior design of the newer A6 and A7.
But the new model still leads the pack when it comes to design, and while the materials are about par, the build quality is still astounding-our editors couldn't get a single creak or rattle from the interior, despite a short stint on a gravel road.
Ride comfort can be a little too firm for some kinds of roads-especially if you shoose the Sport Package, which brings 18-inch sport wheels, high-performance tires, and a sport suspension. Engine noise can also be a little too present for a luxury sedan.
2012 Audi A4
The 2012 Audi A4 is one of the safer picks in its class, as verified with some impressive crash-test scores.
The occupant safety of the 2012 Audi A4 has been shown by a wide range of crash tests to be among the better vehicles in this class--and active and passive safety features are well represented. The current A4 has been crash-tested by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the news is good. In IIHS tests it earned the highest ratings possible in all tests, and it's a Top Safety Pick. And in the new, revised federal tests introduced last year, the A4 gets four stars overall but five stars for side impact and an even more impressive five-star score in the new Side Pole test.
Safety options include a rearview camera, blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems, and adaptive cruise control. Its available rear thorax bags are noteworthy as well.
Even though the backseat has three headrests that could potentially get in the way of rearward vision, we've found visibility to be quite good.
2012 Audi A4
The 2012 Audi A4 and S4 are very well-equipped sport sedans--if you're willing to check some option boxes.
Across its wide range of body styles, the 2012 Audi A4 and S4 (as well as the A5 and S5) offer a feature set that stands as one of the better ones in this class--if you're willing to dip into the options list. Our one complaint is that some items, like Bluetooth, that are assumed as standard on more affordable vehicles are optional here. Leather upholstery is standard, though, 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.
The Premium Plus Package-which our editors found to be a decent value-includes tri-zone climate control, Bluetooth, heated seats, a garage-door opener, trip computer, and rain/light sensors, and an auto-dimming mirror, among other features.
Otherwise, Bluetooth (hands-free and audio streaming), a navigation system, Sirius real-time traffic, and an iPod connectivity kit are options, as is a high-quality Bang & Olufsen audio system. The sound system lacks a USB input, but turn it up with SD or CD inputs and the sound is rich and satisfying. Last year HD Radio was wrapped into the package, with navigation.
Standard equipment is richer in the S4. In addition to the sport suspension and host of other upgrades, the 2012 Audi S4 includes heated washers, sport seats with alcantara inserts, aluminum door inserts, and the three-zone climate control system. But you can get some of that look in the mainstream A4 lineup; for 2012, Audi has added a new Style Package for the A4 Premium, made the former S line exterior package standard on Premium Plus and Prestige models, and added a newly available 18-inch, ten-spoke wheel design.
2012 Audi A4
In rear-world driving conditions, the 2012 Audi A4 might be the greenest pick among all-wheel-drive compact sport sedans.
With Audi A4 models only offered in four-cylinder form, they're now quite green and fuel-efficient. EPA highway ratings range up to 31 mpg in quattro all-wheel drive versions, and all models rate either 21 or 22 mpg in the city.
Surprisingly, the base front-wheel-drive, CVT model doesn't hold any gas-mileage advantage; so you might as well go with one of the quattro versions, which are a bit more fun to drive.
During our last longer test of an A4-a 2010 model-we averaged 31 mpg overall in mostly highway driving, including some suburban stop-and-go and spirited back-road two-laner stints. That's better than what we've seen from any rival model except the rear-wheel-drive-only BMW 335d.