- Handsome, still
- Excellent front sport seats
- All-wheel-drive handling
- Excellent automatic, dual-clutch transmissions
- Goggle-eyed over Google mapping
- Tight back seat
- Drive Select is pricey, unnecessary
- Optional Bluetooth and rearview camera
- CVT version's a skipper
- Not as quick as ATS, 3-Series
Magnificent design and technology sets the Audi A4 apart, but it's not quite as sporty as its BMW and Cadillac competition.
It's the best-selling car in the German automaker's lineup. Every other Audi sold today is an A4, and this year, the bread-and-butter sedan brings a new face to buyers, as well as new features and better fuel economy.
The A4 competes with the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C Class, as well as the new Cadillac ATS. It lands right in the thick of that pack, with an economical base engine, available quattro all-wheel drive, performance-oriented options, and a top S4 performance version.
To some, it's the best looking four-door in that group. The rakish, sleek shape is mostly carried over this year, but new details give it a fresh look. The headlamps are trimmer. The big grille has been toned down, and angled at its corners for a crisper look, and wider fog lamps give it a more muscular stance. The S4 gets a distinctive set of body add-ons; otherwise it's pretty similar to the stock four-door.
Inside, the A4 now has wood or aluminum trim that warms up the cockpit, whether you choose metal, ash, or walnut. The controls have been rearranged a bit, and that makes the optional tech features function a bit easier. In the S4, a new piano-black and steel trim option coordinates in a hot way with red-stitched sport seats.
The A4 comes with a single engine for the 2013 model year. It's a 211-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, with a responsive feel and some turbo lag. Audi couples it to one of three gearboxes. A continuously variable transmission comes with front-wheel drive, and good gas mileage, but CVTs aren't known for quick responses. All-wheel drive is an option.
All-wheel-drive cars also can be ordered with a 6-speed manual or an excellent 8-speed automatic. The automatic doesn't have paddle shifters but it does have a sport mode. These versions offer strong acceleration and fuel economy of up to 31 mpg highway.
The S4 comes only with all-wheel drive, and a V-6 with supercharging that's rated at 333 hp. It posts a 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds and can reach a top speed of 155 mph. It has a smooth demeanor, but its V-6 emits a ripe snarl as it works its way up the rev range. It's paired with either a 6-speed manual ro a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. It's quick, though not quite as fasts as a Benz C63 or a BMW M3. Gas mileage is an unexpected strength, at up to 28 highway.
In basic trim the A4 has good road manners, a firm ride and good electric power steering. The sport package's 18-inch summer tires and stiffer shocks are a worthwhile buy, but dynamic steering and adjustable everything under the Drive Select banner causes more confusion than it gains in handling. The S4 gets sport suspension tuning, bigger wheels and tires, all of which grant it awesome road-holding and grip.
The A4 has good front seats in base versions. We'd opt for the excellent, optional sport seats (they're standard on the S4). It also has good room for passengers. The rear bench sits low to the ground, though, and space is snug in back, particularly in knee room for taller passengers. The trunk's on the small side compared to the likes of the 3-Series.
Neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has crash-tested the new A4. Bluetooth and a rearview camera still are options, along with blind-spot monitors, and adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a full stop if it senses obstacles at up to 19 mph. This year the A4 offers some exotic features make it a complex, high tech piece. The usual power features, leather seats, and satellite radio are standard on the A4, while the S4 gets sport content standard, as well as Bluetooth and the rearview camera. MMI, the Multi Media Interface that takes charge of available navigation systems, is standard on both, and it also controls the beautiful Google Earth and Google Street View mapping. That setup requires a monthly subscription to Audi Connect, which also adds 3G wireless Internet service--turning the A4 into a rolling wireless hotspot. MMI can also control an optional Bang & Olufsen audio system, an expensive option, but one of the cleanest-sounding systems we've heard.
The A4 and S4 are the design-heavy, tech-happy alternative to traditional German luxury sedans--and now to a stunningly good domestic one. Prices range from $32,500 to $44,350 for the A4, and $47,600 to $55,250 for the S4, not including $895 destination.
2013 Audi A4
Richer interior trim and a more refined front end grace the Audi A4 this year; it's still one of the best-looking luxury compacts.
New in the 2009 model year, the 2013 Audi A4 and S4 wear slightly revised outfits for the new model year.
In its most recent redesign, the sedan got a more rakish, relaxed profile, one with a more aggressive stance, and it still looks fresh enough--and quite similar to the bigger A8 that made its debut in 2011. The A4's deep Audi corporate grille has been softened somewhat: its edges have been tamed, and chamfered corners add some interest between the headlamps, which have LED daytime running lights like most of the Audi lineup. The headlamps themselves have been trimmed down, while the fog lamps have been stretched across the chin spoiler for a more muscular look in front. It's an attractive look from all angles.
Inside, the A4 has a deeper, darker binnacled dash that adds back in some warm swaths of wood or metal trim that had been deleted when the current design emerged in 2009. It's still a handsome and well-finished cabin, but there's more black and metallic plastic than in prior Audis. The best details? A thick steering wheel, a choice of brushed-aluminum or wood trim, and the ubiquitous starter button, along with a more substantial look than either the rival BMW 3-Series or the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
New this year is a larger LCD screen that displays information for the MMI system, as well as the optional navigation system. With colorful renderings and quick processors, it's one of the sharpest screens in any luxury compact. MMI also gets some more soft-key controls that don't add much clutter to the center console, and make some features easier to operate.
On the S4, a new three-spoke, flat-bottom steering wheel is an option, as is a piano-black trim package paired with stainless-steel mesh and oak. S4 sedans can also be spotted by their unique wheel designs, the metallic mirror housings, grille, and their air intakes and diffusers.
2013 Audi A4
The S4 is the hot ticket for sport-sedan enthusiasts; the base A4, especially with the CVT, is less eager than its competition.
The Audi A4 has a stable, planted feel that's confidence-inspiring whether you're out on the open road or in urban congestion. It's not quite the dynamic rival of the Infiniti G37, Cadillac ATS or the BMW 3-Series, but it draws much closer to those handling heights when it's transformed into an S4.
The A4 sedan sports a single powertrain. With 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of max torque, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine has a bit of lag under 2000 rpm before it hits the interesting stretch of its torque curve. Then it runs smack into a rush of boost and that torque comes on, all the way up to redline. The automatic eight-speed version can get to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds; a manual version sits in the same range, while the version with the continuously variable transmission's pegged at 6.7 seconds. All are rated at a top speed of 130 mph. The numbers fall behind the latest from BMW and Cadillac by a half-second or more, but are in line with the likes of the Mercedes C Class.
The six-speed manual gearbox that comes standard on the A4 shifts with more BMW-like precision and less of that loose, notchy VW feeling than those in previous models. Audi's handy electronic parking brake engages with a quick lift-on or release-down motion, and automatically releases as soon as you lift the clutch to its friction point. Its taller ratios can affect drivability a little bit, requiring downshifting two or even three gears for passing, but they sure do help fuel economy. Available on quattro models is an eight-speed automatic that's smooth and never misses a beat.
There's also the CVT-equipped model, which we don't recommend in either front- or all-wheel-drive form unless you're shopping purely on cost. CVTs don't respond as quickly as a great automatic, and the A4 now has one of those with its updated gearbox.
The A4's steering system has been exchanged this year for an electric one that's an improvement in some ways. It helps fuel economy across the board, and allows a wide range of tuning for light-touch feel in base A4s and meaty feedback in versions with adaptive steering. On the A4 with the base suspension and 17-inch wheels, there's plenty of body roll and the steering requires lots of angle off-center to generate actual movement; in contrast it doesn't feel twitch or wandery like some EPS systems. All-wheel drive is now available, and for some climates, it may be an option you'll want, though it cuts fuel economy and adds even more weight to the hefty A4. That's an A4 really only meant for label fans and lease-deal shoppers.
Above and beyond the CVT-equipped models, the A4 earns more sport-sedan stripes. Quattro is standard with either the automatic or the manual, and on these versions there's a more assured feel that comes with stronger acceleration and an available Sport package. The Sport setup's ride comfort can be a little firm for some kinds of roads; the taut tuning of the sport suspension transmits lots of road surface through its 18-inch wheels and high-performance summer tires.
On its most expensive versions, the A4 can be fitted with variable-ratio Dynamic Steering and Drive Select, which tailors its electric power steering, transmission, throttle and shock settings for sporty or soft driving in Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, or Individual modes. Our past experiences with Drive Select have steered us away from it--it's difficult to find mutually agreeable settings between all systems, and it's an expensive option that's easy to pass up. Brakes remain one of our few nitpicks with the A4. Over a couple of manual-transmission test cars they've felt overboosted and grabby at low speeds, though strong and confident for higher-speed use.
The S4 ups all the dynamics of the A4, mostly to excellent effect. The four-cylinder turbo gives way to Audi's 3.0-liter, direct-injected and supercharged V-6, good for 333 horsepower. Audi pegs its 0-60 mph times at 4.9 seconds, and top speed rises to 155 mph; engine noise isn't as sweet as the former V-8s, but sharp throttle response is. The S4 offers the manual transmission, but Audi's magnificent dual-clutch seven-speed transmission is available. It's our pick--shifts are exceptionally quick and the ratios are tightly chosen. Some city driving will feel less smooth because of the dual-clutch's inherent shortcomings in that scenario, but the S4 gets into a groove in sweeping curves and tight corners, where paddle shifters and the millisecond-swift shifts encourage dancing around the gears.
Like the A4, the S4 adopts electric steering, cutting weight on the front end and boosting the dynamic range of the steering even before variable-ratio Dynamic Steering and Drive Select control are added. The S4 also offers an active sport differential to go with its standard all-wheel drive; the combination of the rear-biased (40:60) quattro system and the differential's power-splitting between the rear wheels gives it a more planted feel, awesome road-holding potential and great, grippy feel. It's entertaining to press to its tire limits, but on previous tests, we've found the Drive Select system dials in lots of artificial heft to the electronic power steering. There's some usable flexibility built into the system, in terms of ride comfort and transmission response, but for the most part, Audi's base configuration works well enough to avoid the expensive option.
2013 Audi A4
Comfort & Quality
The A4's cabin is well-trimmed; headroom is a little tight in back, and the rear seat sits very low.
The cabin of the Audi A4 and S4, while beautifully appointed and comfortable for front-seat passengers, is a little snug for those in backâ€”especially with respect to legroom.
By the numbers, the A4/S4 sedans measure up at 185.1 inches in overall length, and ride on a 110.6-inch-long wheelbase. The EPA specifications list front-seat leg room at 41.3 inches, and back-seat leg room at 35.2 inches. Compared to the top-rated sedans in the segment, the Cadillac ATS and BMW 3-Series, the A4 slips right in the middle: the ATS is shorter in both dimensions at 182.2 inches long, with a 109.3-inch wheelbase, delivering 42.5 inches of front leg room, and 33.5 inches of rear leg room. The 3-Series has nearly the same exterior dimensions as the ATS, but with a 110.6-inch wheelbase, 42 inches of front leg room, and 36.1 inches of rear leg room, it's extracted more usable space inside.
The A4's front seats are still among the better ones in this class. The base front chairs are supportive if a bit flat across the bottom cushion, with power adjustment and leather upholstery, but the upgraded seats included with the Sport Package and those on the S4 are excellent. 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. That said, if you expect to use the back seat for adults and hope to make a good impression, the A4/S4 simply isn't a great pick. With the last redesign, for 2009, the back seat became more usable for adults, but barely that. Most adults will find legroom is limited, and taller passengers will have headroom issues.
With the wagon Avant gone from the lineup, the A4 is just okay on cargo space. The trunk checks in at 12.4 cubic feet, compared to the ATS' teensy 10.2 cubic feet--and the BMW's big 17 cubic feet of room. For more cargo space, the Audi's rear seatbacks fold forward, with a pass-though behind the fold-down armrest for skis.
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. New wood and leather choices and some additional metal trims are as handsome as any Audi's ever offered. Unfortunately, Audi's swapped out the steering-wheel-mounted roller controllers for volume and audio controls for switches. For the most part, the A4 and S4 have good sound damping, though the S4's supercharged V-6 generates more of a less distinctive engine note than its old V-8 ever did.
2013 Audi A4
Great crash-test scores and new safety technology put the A4 near the top of its class.
Since it's updated for the 2013 model year, most of the Audi A4's crash-test scores haven't carried over for the new model year.
The current A4 has been fully crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and it's been given a five-star overall rating. Formerly a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the A4 also hasn't been retested by the insurance industry-funded group.
Standard safety equipment on the A4 includes the mandatory airbags (dual front, side, and curtain) and stability control. Traction control is also standard, and so are active headrests. The back seat has three headrests, in fact, and visibility is quite good in the A4 and in the S4.
Optional or available on higher trim levels in the A4 are a rearview camera; blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems; and adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a complete stop, provided it's traveling at speeds of less than 20 mph when an obstacle is detected. Its available rear thorax bags are noteworthy as well.
We've given the A4 a preliminary safety rating of 8, as much for the past safety record as for the lack of standard rearview camera and Bluetooth at its price point. Bluetooth is standard on the S4, however.
We'll update this review when more information becomes available.
2013 Audi A4
Google Earth mapping and wireless Internet connectivity are just the coolest of Audi's newest high-tech features.
Audi's A4 and S4 sedans offers features not available in any other cars in its class, but you'll have to dip into the options list to get them.
On the 2013 A4, leather upholstery is standard, as are satellite radio; power windows, locks, and mirrors; 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. An iPod connectivity kit, Bluetooth, garage door opener are an option package; xenon lighting are in another.
The Premium Plus Package-our pick for the best value in the A4 lineup-includes three-zone climate control, Bluetooth, heated seats, a garage-door opener, trip computer, and rain/light sensors, and an auto-dimming mirror, among other features. Navigation is optional in a package with a rearview camera, Audi Connect (see below), and HD radio. A Sport package adds bolstered sport seats with lumbar adjustments, a sport suspension, and a three-spoke steering wheel with shift paddles.
That Sport package is also an option on the Prestige edition, which gets standard adaptive lighting, MMI with navigation, and a Bang & Olufsen audio system, as well as blind-spot monitors. This version also offers an optional S-line package with a sport suspension, 19-inch wheels, a body kit, and Alcantara seats. It's also the only model that offers a Driver Assist package, which includes adaptive cruise control, variable-ratio "dynamic" steering, and Drive Select.
Stand-alone options include heated front seats; 18-inch wheels; wood trim; the Bang & Olufsen sound system; and rear side airbags.
Standard equipment is richer in the S4. In addition to the sport suspension and host of other upgrades, the S4 includes Bluetooth; sport steering and shift paddles; heated washers, sport seats with Alcantara inserts, aluminum door inserts, and the three-zone climate control system.The only option package bundles adaptive lighting, passive unlocking and pushbutton start, navigation, blind-spot monitors, and Bang & Olufsen sound. Stand-alone options include adaptive cruise, drive select and dynamic steering; the sports differential; adaptive damping suspension; nappa leather; 19-inch wheels with summer tires; rear side airbags; and cabon-fiber-look or stainless-steel look trim.
The A4/S4's navigation system deserves its own mention. Its MMI interface is slightly easier to use, with more soft keys for quicker access to submenus. But it's the exceptionally crisp LCD screen that renders its Google Earth and Street View maps so lovingly that makes it one of the rare knockout factory navigation systems, one worth spending up for. It's bundled with a 40GB hard drive, a DVD player, and a pair of SD card readers for audio files.
The navigation system requires the category-killing Audi Connect suite of telematics. With a monthly subscription, Audi Connect customers can tap into a built-in 3G connection that turns their vehicle into a rolling wireless hotspot for up to 8 devices, and to enable Google local searches via MMI. The connection also feeds input to the navigation system to render those maps from Google Earth and Google Street View in stunning, crisp detail. Other links to satellite data bring in real-time traffic and weather information. It's another $25 to $30 a month from yet another service provider--but it's one with eye-popping utility.
2013 Audi A4
The four-cylinder A4s get very good fuel economy; the V-6 S4 accounts for very few sales, and doesn't skew the numbers too much.
With A4 sedans toting four-cylinders and the S4 sporting a six, gas mileage numbers are understandably varied across the lineup. The differences aren't as broad as they could be, though, since the more powerful models have opted into smaller engines with supercharging, instead of the V-8s that used to power them.
The A4 sedan is offered with a choice of three transmissions, and either front- or all-wheel drive. In base form, the front-drive, CVT-equipped A4 is rated at 24 miles per gallon city, 31 miles per gallon highway, for a 26-mpg combined rating. Adding quattro all-wheel drive to that version drops gas mileage to 20/30 mpg, or 24 mpg combined.
The manual-transmission A4 is offered only with quattro; it's rated at 22/32 mpg, or 26 mpg combined. And our preferred version, the A4 with the eight-speed automatic, gets an EPA-rated 24/31 mpg, or 26 mpg combined. That means the CVT's only advantage is in price; if you can afford it, by all means, go with the pricier, nicer automatic versions.
As for the S4, it's been powered by a 333-hp supercharged V-6 since the 2010 model year. With a choice of either a dual-clutch seven-speed or a six-speed manual, both versions come with all-wheel drive. With the dual-clutch, the S4 earns an EPA-rated 18/28 mpg, or 21 mpg combined; with the manual, it's the lowest of the range, at 17/26 mpg, or 20 combined.
While the related Q5 crossover gets a Hybrid version in the 2013 model year, none is planned for the A4 sedan. An A4 diesel has been rumored for years, but as of yet, it hasn't materialized for U.S. customers.