Audi A4 Review
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Facelifted for the mid 2005 model year, the Audi A4 is poised to compete seriously in the semi-luxury sedan class with BMW and Mercedes. The A4 is known for its superior make and performance, able to provide a luxury to an incredible driving experience. It is packed with the latest in engine technology and safety features including Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system. The A4 also comes in a variety of different trims and models from their convertible cabriolet to the avant wagon.
See also the main fact sheets for the Audi A4.
- High-quality construction
- High-quality materials for the interior
- Stable at high speeds
- Excellent handling
- Tiptronic automatic very responsive
- Quattro all-wheel drive
- Respectable gas mileage
- Audi's MMI is still less complicated than BMW's iDrive system.
- Accelerating with the CVT disappointing (Cars.com)
- Limited rear leg room (New Car Test Drive)
- Accessing cup holders from the driver's seat is difficult
- Carrying two cups forfeits the ability to use the fold-down center console armrest (AutoSite)
- Door handles are a hard to grab
Performance and Handling
The Audi engines employ the latest technology in engine management, phased intake runners and variable valve timing, to boost horsepower and flatten the torque curve, making the power more usable over a wide range of speeds and the engine more responsive to the driver's right foot. The 2.0T and 3.2 engines use a new type of fuel injection called direct injection, which pumps the fuel directly into the cylinder, instead of into the intake runner where it would haphazardly mix with the air on the way to the engine cylinders. This new system allows more precise metering of the fuel and the timing of its introduction as well as a better blending of the fuel and air, all of which combines to yield more efficient combustion. With this system, both engines not only make more horsepower and more torque than the smaller engines they replace, but also get the same or better fuel economy.
The 2.0T four-cylinder engine works best with the six-speed manual gearbox. The 2.0T suffers some turbo lag, and this is exacerbated by the Tiptronic automatic. Likewise, the Multitronic CVT continuously variable transmission with the four-cylinder and front-wheel drive is a competent package. There's not a lot of power down at the very bottom of the rev range. Even with the manual, passing a train of cars on a two-lane road can be a challenge. It's great for winding roads, however, it's just not that good for squirting at a moment's notice. The 2.0T also does very well on the highway and feels comfortable cruising at high speeds all day. The 3.2-liter V6 is smoother and more refined than the 2.0T and it works much better with an automatic transmission.
The six-speed Tiptronic automatic is almost as responsive as the six-speed manual and by far the more accommodating in day-to-day traffic. It works especially well with the 3.2-liter V6. The Tiptronic falls a bit short in the sporty, manumatic game, though. An algorithm in the powertrain management computer shifts up a gear when that will put the engine at the optimum point in the torque curve, and a button beneath the gas pedal shifts down a gear when mashed. This is all fine and good as far as an impressive application of computerization is concerned, but it mocks the Tiptronic's promise of a manual-override automatic. In practice, the downshift is occasionally helpful, but the upshift is disconcerting when it occurs in the middle of a corner. On the other hand, the Tiptronic's manual feature works great for holding a lower gear on a grade.
Steering response is crisp, with comforting directional stability. Ride and handling with the base suspension is firm, not stiff. The optional sport suspension tends more toward stiff, almost harsh, although not quite in the kidney-belt range. With either, there's little pogoing over undulating pavement on fast and narrow winding roads. Quick left-right-left transitions are handled with finesse. The same goes for the Avant. The V6 models, which weigh in about 150 pounds heavier, feel a mite less agile and a tick or two slower in response to driver inputs. All models, both sedan and Avant, and regardless of powertrain, feel planted and confident at speed, even into the low three digits. The brakes offer impressive stopping power and we noticed no fade. Smooth stops can be a challenge, however, almost as if all the electronic systems are confusing each other. The brake pads seem to continue pressing against the discs even as the pressure on the pedal is eased.
The Audi A4 comes standard with the following features:
- Sideguard™ head protection airbags for front and rear occupants
- Lower Anchorage and Tethers for Children (LATCH
- Dual-stage front airbags
- Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)
- Electronic Brake pressure Distribution (EBD)
- Electronic Stabilization Program
Reliability and Maintenance
Audi Owner Protection goes far beyond a new car limited warranty good for 4 years or 50,000 miles. It also covers an industry leading 12 years of corrosion perforation protection.
Interior and Comforts
The Audi A4 interior remained largely unchanged when it was facelifted for the 2005.5 model year. The pre-facelifted car was an all-new generation A4, launched as a 2002 model. It's a nice, high-quality cabin, as we've come to expect from Audi. Colors and finishes are muted. A choice of wood trim is available that nicely complements the interior. Seats are well bolstered and have plenty of lumbar support. The standard cloth upholstery feels durable and provides a bit of grip. The optional leather surfaces are elegantly stitched and fit our posteriors well. The seats, mirrors, steering column and other features adjust in every conceivable direction, helping drivers find a comfortable seating position.
Interior space in the new A4 matches that of the previous-generation model. It's generally adequate in front but somewhat limited in rear leg room.
All controls are focused on the driver and with few exceptions are ergonomically configured and intuitively located. A minimalist set of secondary controls on the steering wheel spokes manages audio and other functions. Steering column-mounted stalks operate the usual array of features and are clearly marked except the rear window wiper and washer on the Avant, which is controlled by the right-hand lever. A proper handbrake lever resides in the center console with a pair of cup holders alongside. Round gauges shaded by a hooded instrument panel look out through the top half of the three-spoke steering wheel. The information display separates the tachometer and speedometer, with fuel and coolant gauges tucked away down in the corners.
When DVD navigation is ordered, the stereo panel gives way to the map display, which then doubles as a stereo panel. The navigation display is one of the best of the current generation of such systems. Readily understood controls orient the cursor and shift the map scale, with on-screen telltales stealing very little real estate from the map. The map offers both a flat, two-dimensional and a bird's-eye perspective, the latter with a distant horizon visible running across the upper area of the screen.
Storage is aided by a big glove box, though it gives up space to the CD changer if the navigation system is ordered. A nice touch is a drawer the size of a credit card above the in-dash CD changer. The front doors have fixed map pockets. Net pouches on the rear of the front seatbacks hold magazines, snacks and other sundries. A power point in the center console bin is provided in addition to the cigar lighter in the front ashtray. A flip-down armrest in the rear seat contains two cup holders. The fold-down, height-adjustable front center armrest aligns with the driver door armrest, encouraging a restful, upright driver posture; it does, however, interfere with the handbrake, requiring either a wrist-contorting, forearm-straining pull-force or folding it up out of the way to gain access to the lever.
Cargo volume remains the same in the new A4, with cubbies in the cargo area's interior side panels and numerous tie downs. The trunk lid flips out of the way for easy access. The Avant features a two-way cargo cover that houses a pull-up, vertical net to restrain stacked objects or maybe a dog, which could be important in an accident. Pull-down grips inside the liftgate spares your hands from road grime.
The new A4 presents a more muscular and more visually planted frontal view than the previous model, this somehow despite the new A4's track being fractionally narrower than the previous-generation model's track. Opinions vary on the big grille. On one point, there's agreement: It's different. Whether this is a plus is subjective, but expect the look to appear in clearly recognizable and evolving form on all Audis as each model comes up for a redesign. We've already seen this on the new A6 and A8. The enlarged, trapezoidal grille opening increases air flow coveted by the turbocharger's intercooler in the four cylinder and the radiator cooling the larger, more powerful V6.
The headlamps give the fascia a more assertive look, with lenses that angle upward as they wrap around the fenders. Laterally split intakes below the body-colored bumper and outboard of the grille do dual duty, housing fog lamps and channeling air toward the front disc brakes. A modest hood bulge, a styling cue designers call a power bulge by way of hinting at the latent energy lurking beneath, carries the grille's vertical outlines back to the roof's A-pillars.
The side view shows a sharply creased shoulder line running the length of the car, from the trailing corner of the headlamp housings to the leading edge of the tail lamp lenses. Side window glass atop a relatively high beltline is nicely proportioned with the body mass. A bump strip breaks up the expanse of the lower door panels. The front and rear lower-quarter panels dip slightly fore and aft of the round wheel housings, pulling the body closer to the ground.
Good-sized tail lamps tie together the three elements of the new A4's rear fascia, positioned for the most part in the panels framing the trunk lid and license plate surround, but overlapping those two pieces to break up what might otherwise be an overwhelming expanse of metal. Single-tip dual exhausts exit beneath the monochromatic bumper at each end of an inset panel painted a contrasting color to the body's scheme.
Styles and Options
The Audi A4 comes in 7 different styles: the A4 Sedan, A4 Avant (wagon), A4 Cabriolet (convertible), S4 Sedan, S4 Avant (wagon), S4 Cabriolet (convertible), and RS 4 sedan.
While the exterior and interior option packages for each of these do not differ greatly, it is important to note that each style offers specifically different combinations of transmission (manual, CVT, or Audi's Auto Tiptronic), Four-cylinder, V6, or V8 and either front- or all-wheel drive (Audi's FrontTrak and quattro, respectively).
WikiCars Contributor Favorites
- Drive A4 - Audi Forums
Audi Manufacturer Sites
- Audi A4 Sedan - Official US Site
- Audi A4 Coupe - Official US Site
- World Audi - A full history of the Audi A4
Audi Dealer Sites
- UK Audi Dealer - Audi Essex (uk)