TheCarConnection.com has updated this road test of the current Audi A4 for the 2010 model year. Editors at TheCarConnection.com have driven the A4 lineup and compared it with luxury sedans and wagons here to offer you more choices in the car-shopping process. The companion full review provides a summary of opinions from other respected auto Web sites to provide you with the best information possible.
Carried over intact after a complete reinvention in 2009, the 2010 Audi A4 continues to wear its look well. The sedan and wagon are longer and wider than the 2002-2008 A4 lineup, and in many ways, they closely resemble the mid-size Audi A6 sedan and wagon. Slightly stubbier, the A4 sedan and wagon have the now-customary deep Audi grille, LED daytime running lights, and canted headlamps that rest more attractively on the Audi A5/S5 coupes and cabriolets. With the new A4 lineup comes a deeper, darker binnacled dash that leaves out some of the more expensive wood trim of the past, and in the process omits some of the impression of quiet luxury that used to pervade all Audis. It's still handsome and well finished, but there's more black and metallic plastic and LCD readouts than ever.
The Audi A4 offers a single turbocharged four-cylinder engine, with one of three transmissions and a choice between all- and front-wheel drive. 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). Audi's best transmission, a paddle-shifted, dual-clutch gearbox, isn't yet offered. All-wheel drive is available on the four-cylinder sedan and comes standard with V-6 models. The A4 wagon comes with the turbo-4, all-wheel drive, and the 6-speed automatic. There's not much reason to opt for the CVT version other than price. Fuel economy reaches a high of 23/30 mpg with the four-cylinder CVT.
Steering and handling are a bit lighter than in a BMW 3-Series, and all A4s have electronic power steering that responds quickly but with artificial feel and feedback. The A4 can be fitted with a system with driver-selectable ride quality, steering weight, and shift speed, but the A4's settings probably offer the best compromise for most drivers.
With its expanded interior space, the Audi A4 relieves some of the cramped feeling in the backseat. The front seats are supportive if a bit flat across the bottom cushion, with power adjustment and leather upholstery. 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. There is much more backseat room, but the seat needs better bolsters and a taller cushion for better comfort. The backseats fold down for trunk access and for carrying long objects, and a pass-through for skis hides behind a fold-down armrest. Sedans have a large trunk, and the wagon has enough room 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.
Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have crash-tested the 2010 Audi A4. Both agencies give the 2010 Audi A4 the highest safety ratings possible. Safety features include a rearview camera, lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitors, and adaptive cruise control. Visibility in both the wagon and sedan is quite good, even with the backseat's three headrests in the upright position.
Apart from its variety of body styles, drivetrains, and safety systems, the 2010 Audi A4 can be equipped very well. Leather upholstery comes standard; so do satellite radio; 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. Bluetooth, navigation, and an iPod connectivity kit are options on the 2010 A4, as is a lovely Bang & Olufsen sound system. Audi gives buyers a choice of wood and leather colors, and the lighter palette introduced in the current generation is quite handsome and makes the cabin feel as airy as a Honda. Prices start at $32,275 and base stickers rise to $45,375.
Reviews from around the Web agree with TheCarConnection.com: The current Audi A4 has a sharp sense of style outside and a neatly arranged cabin with maybe a little less panache than in the past.
The resemblance to Audi's own A6 is strong, particularly in the "tornado line" that splits the body down the side. The A4 has grown substantially larger, "from one of the smallest cars in its class to one of the largest," according to AutoWeek. The size boost gives it "infinitely more presence," Car and Driver adds. Motor Trend approves of the new "sculpted lines," noting the changes provide the A4 "a planted, sportier stance" that "holds the road with a new sense of confidence and enthusiasm." Cars.com deems the A4's LED lights "an uncommon feature." The wagon looks better to AutoWeek, with its "muscular proportions, short overhangs and gracefully arcing roof."
Inside, the A4 has a binnacled dash that omits some of the more expensive wood trim of the past, and in the process leaves off some of the impression of quiet luxury that used to pervade all Audis. It's still handsome and well finished, but there's more black and metallic plastic and LCD readouts than ever. It's "a huge step forward," in Car and Driver's opinion. Motor Trend likes the "clean, attractive design" and thinks it's a "more substantial look " than its rivals.
The 2010 Audi A4 spans a wide performance spectrum with its available engines and transmissions. The base sedan has a 211-hp turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, coupled to a six-speed manual, a six-speed automatic, or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in front-drive versions. All-wheel drive is available on the 4-cylinder sedan and comes standard on the 6-cylinder sedan. The A4 wagon gets the turbo four, all-wheel drive and the 6-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." 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." AutoWeek asserts this powerplant in the A4 Avant is "smooth, strong and sweeter than ever."
The 2010 Audi A4 turbo-4 comes with a 6-speed transmission as a sedan, or with a CVT. Wagons get an automatic and the turbo-4 and Audi's hallmark all-wheel drive. "Quattro has been around since the earth cooled," Edmunds comments. 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. 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. Car and Driver says Drive Select feels "innately clean enough." Motor Trend thinks "the ride is a bit too harsh for everyday driving." Cars that don't have it have "precise, nicely weighted steering," Car and Driver says.
Automobile finds "traction and grip are phenomenal," and that "handling balance feels a lot more neutral." Edmunds calls it "a very sharp, communicative sedan and it's fun to throw around."
We say Drive Select strips out basic goodness. Steering feels too slow or too heavy, depending on the mode chosen, and ride quality can turn brittle in Sport mode. The worst offense with the A4, though, isn't Drive Select; it's the absence of Audi's fantastic dual-clutch transmission.
With its latest reinvention, the Audi A4 finally gets the interior space it's been lacking for a car in its price range. Wagons are even more generous with cargo space, though both sedan and wagon could use a higher rear seat for better comfort.
Automobile cites the A4's measurements and proclaims it "significantly longer and wider than the [BMW] 3-series and the [Mercedes] C-class." Edmunds finds the increase in wheelbase and cabin room hands the A4 "some useful rear-seat legroom at last." Few reviews cite the comfort of the Audi A4's seats, but TheCarConnection.com's editors feel the A4 has great front seats and plenty of headroom for all, but the rear seats aren't that comfortable. Our complaint? The bottom cushion is short, the seatback angle is quite upright, and its seating position is low.
Passengers aren't the only ones to benefit from the added space. There's more room for stuff in the A4's "truly huge (i.e. flat, tall, and deep) trunk," says Car and Driver. The A4 Avant wagon tops the sedan with 17.3 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat, a hold that AutoWeek says "approaches the trunk space in full-size sedans such as the BMW 7 Series." AutoWeek also adds "with the rear seat folded, the Avant's 50.5 cubic feet approaches the space in...the Ford Escape and the Nissan Murano."
The A4's interior still looks better than most from Mercedes and BMW, though it's lost some of its rich wood trim and conservative style. Edmunds says it's "fantastically comfortable," and adds it "looks beautifully modern and wonderfully constructed." Car and Driver feels that "clear attention was paid to the haptic quality of the A4's various buttons, switches, and other ditties that one must twist, poke, or pull."
Both the NHTSA and the IIHS have crash-tested the 2010 Audi A4. Both agencies give the 2010 Audi A4 the highest safety ratings possible.
Popular Mechanics lists the A4's safety options, which include "active cruise control, lane monitoring and collision warning-not to mention Audi side assist, a radar-based system that warns against vehicles approaching from the rear three-quarter view-often a potential blind spot for drivers." There's also a backup camera, Cars.com reports.
TheCarConnection.com points out that the Audi A4's rear seat also has headrests for all three passengers. Visibility in both the wagon and sedan is quite good, even with those headrests in the upright position.
The A4 has a class-leading set of features.
Standard on all models are power features, an AM/FM/CD system, and air conditioning. Motor Trend reports leather upholstery is standard. Also on the equipment list for all A4 wagons and sedans are satellite radio; cruise control; and a sunroof.
Bluetooth and navigation are options on the 2010 A4, as is premium audio. Motor Trend notes "a choice of Bang & Olufsen stereo systems, including the excellent 14-speaker setup we sampled, plus a six-disc CD changer and iPod connectivity." Of the upmarket sound options, "We have no complaints," Edmunds reports.
Audi's MMI (Multi Media Interface) system, which uses a rotary controller to aid the driver in setting climate, audio, and phone functions on the go, is a standard feature, and a somewhat hit-or-miss one. It's a menu-based system like BMW's iDrive, but the software's a little more user-friendly and logical. The MMI "makes [BMW's] iDrive seem like a cruel joke," Edmunds observes. Cars.com believes "MMI can be tedious to use at times, but Audi does provide secondary controls for the air conditioning system."
A keyless entry system is offered on the new 2010 Audi A4. "It can-like most cars in this segment-recall radio presets, exterior mirror positions, and interior-and-exterior lighting preferences on approach and egress," Cars.com reports. "But programmability now extends to many more ancillaries, such as deactivating the auto-up feature on the rear windows or turning down the intensity of the steering-wheel warning vibes when the new lane-monitoring option thinks you're veering."
- 2008 BMW 3-Series
- 2009 Cadillac CTS
- 2008 Mercedes-Benz C Class
The 2010 Audi A4's chief rivals are the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The BMW 3-Series is perhaps the most popular, though in its current edition, it's become heavier and quite expensive, yet its turbocharged inline-six offers brilliant power. The Mercedes C-Class has more capable handling than before, but rear-seat room is still cramped and its interior styling a little complex. The Infiniti G37 sports BMW-like handling with a distinctly Japanese flair, while the Cadillac CTS is perhaps GM's best effort yet, with remarkable rear- or all-wheel-drive handling, ample V-6 power, and a world-class entertainment system.