- Clean interior
- Comfortable ride
- A4 Allroad is capable off road…
- …S4 is capable on a track
- Great safety equipment
- Conservative looks
- Cramped trunk
- Touchscreen looks like an afterthought
- 7-speed hesitates at low speeds
features & specs
The 2021 Audi A4 blends a conservative luxury compact car with spicy performance and robust wagon flavors.
The Audi A4 sedan is historically the most familiar car in the automaker’s lineup and somehow the most overlooked. Say what? Next to manic coupe crossovers and all-electric wagons, it takes more than just a good value to stand out, apparently.
We give the A4 a 6.7 TCC Rating thanks to its stellar safety scorecard and good performance. Style isn’t the A4’s forte, but it’s the A5 Sportback’s—they’re kissing cousins. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Not much has changed for the A4 this year. Audi massaged its 2.0-liter turbo-4 in the A4 and A4 Allroad to make just 13 horsepower more compared to last year, which isn’t much on paper although we haven’t yet driven those cars. All-wheel drive is standard on all A4s, which is new this year.
Starting from about $40,000, Audi offers the A4, S4, and A4 Allroad in Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim levels. Aside from the power bump, Audi added wireless Apple CarPlay compatibility to the A4 lineup, and active safety features to Premium Plus models. S4 sport sedans start north of $50,000, and the little A4 Allroad wagon that could starts at more than $45,000.
The A4’s familiar shape hasn’t changed in a while, even though some of the details were redone last year. It’s conservative among rivals but finished in high-quality materials, if that’s what you’re into.
Every A4 relies on one of two turbo-4s for power, rated at 201 horsepower or 261 horsepower. Those engines are paired to a 7-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
The A4 Allroad pairs the higher-output engine to the same 7-speed, all-wheel drive, and a taller ride height for better capability on dusty trails.
S4s steer toward a different kind of capability. The 3.0-liter turbo V-6 spins out 349 hp and drubs 0-60 sprints in less than five seconds. It rides lower on stiffer springs that can be swapped out for sporty adaptive dampers and can complement rear-wheel steering and a rear differential to transmute tires to black smoke around corners.
Even at high speed, every A4 is comfortable thanks to a four-wheel independent suspension that’s calm and collected on any surface.
Four adults will fit well inside the A4, and rear-seat riders get more than 35 inches of leg room. The A4 and S4’s trunk skimps on space at just 13 cubic feet, but the A4 Allroad can pick up the remainder with gobs of practicality between its back seat and rear hatch—up to 60 cubic feet are available.
Federal and independent safety officials give the A4 great crash-test scores, and its standard automatic emergency braking system was rated “Superior” by the IIHS at avoiding forward crashes.
Base A4 Premium models get most of the good stuff: leather upholstery, 17-inch wheels, heated power-adjustable front seats, LED headlights, three-zone climate control, a sunroof, and a 10.1-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility (only Apple CarPlay runs without a wire).
Our pick is the A4 Premium Plus that adds a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, active lane control and adaptive cruise control, bigger wheels, and parking sensors.
2021 Audi A4
The 2021 A4 doesn’t stray from the beaten path–even the Allroad wagon.
Audi doesn’t stray far from convention with its A4 sedan. For more adventurous shapes, the A5 Sportback is related to the A4 but takes more risks inside and out.
Starting from an average score, the A4 is just average compared to rivals. It doesn’t take a wrong step; it doesn’t take any at all.
After a small update last year the 2021 A4 stays the same this year. Last year’s updates made the A4 sharper and more creased, with a bigger grille that’s borrowed from Audi’s larger vehicles. The wheel arches are a little more flared this time around, but the A4’s shape won’t be new to many shoppers.
The S4 amps up and puffs its chest out compared to the lineup, and the A4 Allroad looks like an uptown Outback.
The A4’s interior is clean and understated, without much fuss and with touchscreens replacing buttons. Leather is standard on all models, and it mixes well with wood options and aluminum accents in the classy cabin. Our only gripe is a touchscreen perched on the dash above the vents. Other Audi models integrate the touchscreen into the dash, and it blends seamlessly when the car is off.
2021 Audi A4
A small power bump and standard all-wheel drive are big news for the 2021 A4.
This year, Audi massaged 13 more horsepower from its base engine in the A4 and added all-wheel drive as standard equipment on all sedans. (It was standard on all A4 Allroads already.)
We haven’t yet driven those models but will report back once we do.
Our rating of 7 comes down to good power and good handling. The A4 Allroad and S4, if rated separately, would score higher thanks to their capability and speed, respectively.
The A4 is equipped with one of two turbo-4s that make 201 hp or 261 hp, denoted by 40 or 45 on the badges. (Eds note: We don’t get it either.) Those are paired to a 7-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, regardless of output.
Even the lower-priced A4 40 hits 60 mph in about seven seconds, while the A4 45 needs just five-and-a-half seconds for the sprint. It’s possible to catch the 7-speed napping, especially at slower speeds, but we don’t have many complaints with the A4.
The S4’s 3.0-liter turbo V-6 climbs the performance ladder up to 349 hp and 4.4-second 0-60 mph sprints. It pairs with a slick 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive, and a lower ride height.
The A4 Allroad wagon is taller than all three by more than 2 inches, and it's powered by a 261-hp turbo-4.
All A4s and S4s ride on a four-wheel independent suspension, and most use a steel setup that steers toward comfort with soft springs. An optional sport suspension for A4s (standard on S4) lowers the ride height by about an inch, and firms up the ride for better handling.
All A4 Allroads ride on adaptive dampers that raise the ground clearance in the Allroad by more than an inch, which is better for handling tricky terrain.
Adaptive dampers, rear-wheel steering, and a sport-tuned rear differential are optional equipment on the S4 and further hone its handling.
2021 Audi A4
Comfort & Quality
Spacious and comfortable, the only thing compact about the A4 is its relative price.
With enough space for four adults, especially up front, and good materials all the way around, the 2021 Audi A4 earns a 7 for comfort.
Every A4 gets leather upholstery and luxury-level interior materials. The front seats are power-adjustable and heated, while the S4 wraps the front seats in sportier and grippier materials.
In back, passengers get more than 35 inches of leg room, but riding “hump” isn’t recommended; the A4’s tall transmission tunnel forces legs this way or that.
The A4’s trunk is fairly small, just 13 cubic feet, although the rear seats fold forward for more room. The A4 Allroad wagon is tops for practicality thanks to its 24.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row that expands to nearly 60 cubes with seats folded flat.
2021 Audi A4
Safety experts agree that the A4 is safe in a crash.
The A4 flirts with perfection on our safety scale, even though we advise against “hitting on” anything. (See what we did there?)
Starting from an average score, the A4 earns points for its five-star overall rating from federal testers, standard automatic emergency braking, good safety extras, and above average outward vision. It’s a 9.
The IIHS has good things to say about the A4 as well. The insurance industry-funded group gave it top “Good” ratings on all its crash tests and rated its automatic emergency braking systems as “Superior” at avoiding forward crashes. The agency hasn’t rated the A4’s headlights, however.
Federal testers gave it a five-star overall score, but only four stars for its front crash protection.
This year active lane control and adaptive cruise control are standard on A4 Premium Plus models and higher, which is just the tops. Audi’s system keeps the A4 centered in its lane without pinballing from side to side, and it can help reduce fatigue in stop-and-go traffic. If only it could get rid of the traffic altogether.
2021 Audi A4
Standard leather upholstery and a big touchscreen highlight the A4’s features.
Even with its smaller size, the 2021 Audi A4 hits most of the luxury-car high notes.
This year, wireless Apple CarPlay compatibility and an integrated toll transponder are included in the A4’s standard fare. Road trips don’t stand a chance anymore.
Starting from an average score, the A4 gets points above average for good base equipment and a good standard touchscreen. It’s a 7.
Like last year, the A4, S4, and A4 Allroad are available in Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trims that start at $40,095, including destination. What’s the most you can pay? More than $60,000 for a fully loaded S4. Everything else is in the middle.
Base Premium versions are equipped with leather upholstery, 17-inch wheels, heated power-adjustable front seats, LED headlights, three-zone climate control, a sunroof, and that 10.1-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility (only Apple CarPlay runs without a wire).
Premium Plus versions are equipped with 18-inch wheels, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, parking sensors, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and a surround-view camera system for about $4,200 more than the Premium models (prices vary between A4, S4, and A4 Allroad models). It’s where we’d spend our money thanks to the added tech and safety features.
Prestige models are likely rare outside of some S4s, but heap on features such as premium audio, heated rear seats, navigation, uprated LED headlights, and a head-up display.
A4 Allroad and S4 sedans are equipped similarly to their A4 counterparts, but offer different suspension options, interior materials, and exterior accents.
2021 Audi A4
Even with all-wheel drive, the 2021 A4 is relatively fuel-efficient.
An increase in power for the 2021 Audi A4 and standard all-wheel drive shouldn’t dent fuel economy for the small sedan. Our rating of 5 applies to the more powerful A4 45, although the A4 40 shouldn’t be far behind when it’s rated by the feds.
The EPA rates it at 24 mpg city, 32 highway, 27 combined.
Allroad wagons scrub 1 mpg from each of those figures. The S4 scrubs just a few more: 20/27/23 mpg.
Compared to rivals from Mercedes-Benz and BMW, the A4 keeps pace. The all-wheel-drive BMW 330i is rated up to 28 mpg combined, and the Mercedes-Benz C300 with all-wheel drive is rated up to 26 mpg combined.