- Still an attractive design
- Supportive front seats
- Handling is sharp on sport models
- Shift quality (except CVT)
- Luscious Google Earth maps
- Back seat isn't especially comfortable
- Drive Select can be skipped
- Rearview camera option on some models
- CVT is the weakest link
- ATS, 3-Series are quicker, more nimble
The 2014 Audi A4 and S4 are trim, tech-savvy alternatives to the usual German luxury sedans, and to one stunningly good American one.
The 2014 Audi A4 blends tech-smart equipment and trim, sleek styling into a luxurious and sophisticated package that stands out from the crowd of luxury sedans. Minor updates for the new model year carry forward Audi’s process of incremental refinements to keep the A4 abreast of its highly competitive class.
As one of Audi's most essential bread-winning models, the A4 family nevertheless avoids the pitfall of becoming too commonplace for its premium status and price.
This year's differences lie mainly in the A4's front-drive fundamentals (though all-wheel drive is an option) and its pared-down, underplayed look. Side by side, it shares the lead in styling with the ATS, sleek and rakish and embossed with new details last year for a fresh take on its spare lines. Trimmer headlamps and a toned-down grille are subtle enough, but the grille's angled corners are an expert touch; wider fog lamps build more muscle at ground level, where the car could use it. The cockpit's trimmed in aluminum or a warmer-looking wood, and leather is standard. The controls are more easily understood since they were rearranged a bit last year, too.
The S4 wears its own body kit and metallic trim, but it's largely a lookalike to the standard four-door. The cabin of the S4 gets a new piano-black and steel trim option that coordinates in a hot way with red-stitched sport seats.
No matter which one you choose, Audi's entry-level sedan has good front seats, excellent sport seats available as an option (they're standard on the S4) and good room for those 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.
The A4 comes with a single engine these days, and it's uprated slightly for 2014. The 220-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder responds with zest once it cuts through some initial turbo lag. It's teamed with one of three transmissions. Front-drive cars get a continuously variable transmission, and good gas mileage, but CVTs aren't known for quick responses. All-wheel drive is an option.
Those with quattro all-wheel drive can also have either a six-speed manual shifter, or an excellent eight-speed automatic with a sport shift mode, which only lacks paddle-shift controls. On either of these versions, the ones we recommend, acceleration is strong, and fuel economy on the highway is best, with the automatic rated at 31 mpg highway.
The S4 is quattro-only. The powerplant is a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, with 333 horsepower and a 0-60 mph time of about 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph. It delivers loads of torque almost evenly up the rev band, with a somewhat snarling soundtrack to match an otherwise smooth personality, and it's hooked up to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters. It's nearly, but not quite, as fast as a BMW M3 or a Benz C63. And surprisingly, gas mileage is rather good for such a high-performance car—up to 18 mpg city, 28 highway.
The A4 handles well with its basic suspension and steering, with a slightly firm ride and decent electric power steering feel. A sport package stiffens things up considerably, with summer tires, 18-inch wheels, and sport shocks. Buyers can also choose dynamic steering and Drive Select, which adds variable settings for the suspension, steering, throttle and transmission. In our experience, the stock setup is more pleasant and more predictable, even on the S4, which gets a sport suspension and bigger wheels and tires standard, for awesome road-holding and grip.
In the past, the A4 has scored well in safety tests, but neither agency has fully tested it since the latest revamp. Audi still doesn't make a rearview camera standard, but one is available, as are 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.
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; Bluetooth and a music interface are standard for 2014. The S4 gets sport content standard, as well as a 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.
2014 Audi A4
The 2014 Audi A4 remains one of the most beautiful compact luxury sedans inside and out, though some materials could be of higher quality.
Slight updates to the Audi A4's exterior last year gave the sedan a fresh look despite its core design having been introduced in the 2009 model year.
Up front, the A4's deep corporate grille is nestled in chamfered corners, flanked by headlamps with LED daytime running lights. The headlamps themselves are sleeker than in early models, and fog lamps mounted low across the spoiler give a solid, muscular feel. It's a sharp car with an aggressive stance yet relaxed profile, attractive from any angle.
The 2014 Audi A4's interior is dominated by a deep, dark dash brightened and warmed somewhat by wood or metal trim. There's more plastic than in previous Audis, but the overall effect is still a handsome, well-finished cabin. Our favorite details include the thick steering wheel, brushed aluminum or wood trims, and the starter button, which looks and feels more substantial than that found in rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Last year, a larger LCD screen in the dash-mounted MMI system brought more colorful renderings and quicker processors, giving the Audi A4 one of the sharpest screens in any luxury compact sedan.
Sporty S4 models can opt for a unique three-spoke flat-bottom steering wheel, and a piano-black trim package accented with stainless steel mesh and oak wood trim. S4 models also feature unique wheel designs, metallic mirror housings, unique grille styling, and larger air intakes and diffusers.
The new Black Optic package includes a special black-colored grille with high-gloss "Singleframe" surround, gloss black around the windows, body-colored side mirrors, and 19-inch Titanium Rotor-design wheels.
The S line exterior package is now standard on A4 Premium plus and Prestige trims, bringing with it S line front and rear bumpers, side skirts, door sills, and S line fender badges, plus 18-inch 10-spoke RS-design wheels. The S line Style package, available on all models, includes 18-inch 10-spoke wheels, Xenon plus head lights, dynamic headlight range adjustment, LED taillights, high-gloss aluminum window trim, S line fender badges, S line bumpers, side sill blades, and stainless steel door sills.
2014 Audi A4
While the A4 with the CVT transmission isn't inspiring, the hot S4 is a willing and able companion for the sport-driving enthusiast.
The A4 sedan offers just one engine: the 2.0-liter, 220-horsepower TFSI turbocharged in-line four-cylinder. This engine can be mated to an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic, a continuously variable transmission (CVT), or a six-speed manual transmission.
With nine more horsepower than last year's A4, the new car promises to be slightly quicker, though Audi hasn't released updated performance statistics. Last year's A4 accelerated to 60 mph in as little as 6.3 seconds with the automatic or manual transmissions; CVT versions required 6.7 seconds. All A4 sedans offer a top speed of 130 mph. These figures are off the pace of BMW and Cadillac by a noticeable margin, but close to the base Mercedes-Benz C250.
Handling is taut and stable, though base models are front-wheel drive, limiting the ultimate dynamic potential. All-wheel drive is also available, improving poor weather traction, but not greatly affecting the A4's dynamic traits. Electric steering, new to the A5 last year, boosts fuel economy and allows for a wide range in variable effort (when fitted with adaptive steering), but doesn't translate to the intuitive, natural feel you might expect of a sport sedan.
If there's one powertrain option to avoid, it's the CVT, which is slow to respond and offers no advantages except cost savings. Manual and automatic versions of the A4 also come standard with quattro all-wheel drive, and can be upgraded with the Sport package, which enhances the suspension tuning and upgrades to 18-inch alloy wheels with high-performance summer tires.
The most expensive versions of the A4 offer optional Dynamic Steering and Drive Select, which allows the user to tailor electric power steering, transmission, throttle, and damper settings to suit their taste, across a range of comfort- and sport-oriented modes. Drive Select hasn't been our favorite add-on in the past, as it's difficult to find mutually agreeable settings that across all systems. It's an expensive add-on, and easy to live without.
The brakes on the Audi A4 sedan are also a bit of a trouble point, with grabby engagement at low speeds, though high-speed feel and function is generally very good.
For the sport enthusiast, the Audi S4 is the choice pick. The S4's engine is upgraded to a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with direct injection, rated at 333 horsepower. The extra oomph gets the S4 to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds and on to an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. Throttle response is crisp and quick, particularly when paired with the quick-shifting available seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. A manual transmission is also available. The S4's exhaust note isn't as sweet as the previous-generation's V-8 engine, but it's a marked upgrade from the four-cylinder in the base version.
The S4's handling is upgraded as well, making for a smooth and satisfying spirited driving. The S4 also uses an electric steering system, including some variable-effort functions based on vehicle speed in base form. Dynamic Steering and Drive Select are also available, but our previous objections apply to the S4 as well. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard, with a rear-biased 40:60 power split at default providing a much more dynamic character.
2014 Audi A4
Comfort & Quality
Well-built and comfortable, the 2014 Audi A4's cabin is a nice place to be--except for the somewhat cramped back seat.
At 185.1 inches long, on a 110.6-inch wheel base, the 2014 Audi A4 sits between the BMW 3-Series (which is slightly larger) and the Cadillac ATS (which is slightly smaller). Leg room in the A4 is likewise in the middle, with the A4's front-seat leg room of 41.3 inches shorter than either the ATS or 3-Series, but its 35.2-inch rear-seat measurement coming in above the ATS's 33.5-inch space and just below the 3-Series' 36.1 inches of rear leg room.
In terms of comfort, the A4's front seats are among the best in class. Supportive, with leather upholstery and power adjustment, the only quibble with the A4's front-row seating is a somewhat flat bottom cushion. Upgrading to the sport seats included with the Sport Package (as well as the front seats in the S4) yields excellent seating. Controls are easily in reach, and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes to fit a wide range of driver sizes.
The back seats, however, aren't the best place for full-sized adults. They're usable, but they won't make a good impression on most, as leg room is limited, and taller adults will find a lack of head room as well.
Trunk space is fair, at 12.4 cubic feet, again, larger than that of the Cadillac ATS (10.2 cubic feet) and smaller than the BMW 3-Series' trunk (17 cubic feet). The Audi A4's seatbacks do fold down for larger cargo, while a pass-through for longer objects allows the rear seats to remain upright.
Tight seams and a uniformly high level of fit and finish mark the A4's build in all respects. Despite the high-quality construction, there's more black plastic on the dash, buttons, and controls than you might expect, and not all of it feels as good as the rest of the cabin. Available wood and metal trim and leather upholstery upgrades offer handsome, quality-feeling additions to the cabin.
Noise is generally low in both the A4 and S4, with well-controlled road, wind, and engine noise.
2014 Audi A4
An IIHS Top Safety Pick and five stars in NHTSA testing, plus ample available safety extras make the A4 a solid safety performer.
In addition to its strong safety scores, the 2014 A4 and S4 also include ample standard safety equipment, including: dual front, side, and curtain airbags; stability and traction control; and active headrests (including three across the back).
Optional safety equipment can further enhance the safe-driving experience, with a rearview camera, blind-spot and lane-departure warning system, adaptive cruise control, and adaptive rear thorax air bags all available for purchase.
We've upgraded the 2014 Audi A4 to a 9 on our 10-point safety scale, a rise of one point from last year's nine, on the strength of its across-the-board five-star ratings from the NHTSA and its IIHS Top Safety Pick designation.
2014 Audi A4
With Google Earth mapping and on-the-go wireless Internet, the 2014 Audi A4 offers many cool high-tech features.
New for the 2014 Audi A4, the Exclusive Line interior and split-folding rear seats are available with the Cold Weather package, a welcome change for snow belt states.
Leather upholstery is standard on the A4, as are power windows/locks/mirrors; a CD player; cruise control; a sunroof; Audi's MMI infotainment system; and satellite radio.
The MMI system uses a rotary controller to access audio, climate, and phone functions. Being a menu-driven system, there are many nested layers to delve through, but it has grown into a fairly user-friendly and logical system over the years--even more so than BMW's iDrive. iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, and garage door opener features are available as part of a package, while Xenon lighting can be added in another.
For best value in the A4 range, the Premium plus package adds three-zone climate control, Bluetooth, heated seats, a trip computer, garage door opener, rain/light sensors, and an auto-dimming mirror among other extras. Navigation is optional, bundled in a package with the rearview camera, HD Radio, and Audi Connect (more on that below). An available Sport package brings bolstered sport seats with lumbar adjustment, a three-spoke steering wheel with sport paddles, and a sport suspension.
The Prestige package upgrades the A4 further, including the MMI with navigation system, a Bang & Olufsen audio system, and blind-spot monitors. The Sport package is also available on Prestige models, as is the S line package, which includes a sport suspension, 19-inch wheels, upgraded exterior body elements, and Alcantara seats. The Prestige trim is the only A4 to offer the Driver Assist package and its adaptive cruise control system, with variable-ratio dynamic steering and Drive Select.
For the sportier S4 sedan, the equipment level is also upgraded from the outset: all S4 models get Bluetooth, a sport steering wheel with shift paddles, sport seats with Alcantara inserts, three-zone climate control, and a range of aesthetic upgrades inside and out. Only one options package is available, bundling the Bang & Olufsen sound system, blind-spot monitors, navigation, pushbutton start with passive unlocking, and adaptive lighting. Several standalone options are also available for the S4, including adaptive cruise, Drive Select, dynamic steering, a sport differential, adaptive damping suspension, Nappa leather, 19-inch wheels with summer tires, rear side airbags, and a choice of carbon fiber-look or stainless steel-look trim.
Of special note on the 2014 Audi A4 and S4's feature sheet is the navigation system. In addition to the upgraded MMI interface, the display itself is impressive. Exceptionally crisp images on a large screen offer access to Google Earth and Street View functions, easily making it a must-have add-on. The MMI with navigation also includes a 40 GB hard drive, a DVD player, and two SD card readers.
Audi Connect, the company's telematics solution, requires a monthly subscription, giving access to a built-in 3G connection that can create a mobile WiFi hotspot for up to eight users simultaneously. The Audi Connect system also enables Google local searches via the MMI console, real-time traffic and weather information, and more.
2014 Audi A4
The 2014 Audi A4 scores solid marks for gas mileage in the compact luxury segment, and even the low-volume S4 doens't perform too poorly.
The A4 sedan's single four-cylinder turbocharged 2.0-liter engine can be paired with three different transmissions. The best gas mileage comes with the CVT-equipped, front-wheel-drive base model, at 24 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined.
Upgrading to quattro all-wheel drive and the eight-speed automatic transmission, the A4 rates 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined. With the manual, the A4 quattro scores gas mileage of 22/32/26 mpg per the EPA.
The 333-horsepower, 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 quattro Audi S4 gets, predictably, poorer gas mileage due to its higher power output, but is still fair at 18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 21 mpg combined when equipped with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission; the manual S4 rates 17/26/20 mpg.