Quality and Verve
Christina DesMarais, Fri, 25 Mar 2011 01:35:59 PDT
Every car has different features and capabilities that help it tell a unique story. For the A4, two words come to mind: quality and verve.
First, the A4 isn't your average four-door sedan. On the road any newer Audi can be spotted by its hallmark LED "swoosh" headlights and LED taillights. Add the Audi emblem on the beefy grill and the German manufacturer is already banking major brand equity in the eyes of most beholders.
The interior-awash in buttery-soft leather-is where the A4 really sets itself up to compete against the BMW 3-series and Mercedes-Benz C class.
The A4 comes in three trim levels-Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. I tested the Premium Plus model, which includes eight-way adjustable heated front seats, three-zone automatic climate controls and an auto-dimming interior mirror with compass that recognizes glaringly bright beams behind the car and darkens the mirror automatically.
Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI) allows cabin inhabitants to access Bluetooth-enabled phone features for hands-free calling or music through a USB flash drive or other audio input. You can connect an iPod or iPhone to the car through a connector in the glove box, although I wished this hook-up was in the center arm rest. Reaching over to connect my iPhone was literally a stretch.
However, once I had access to my playlists and favorite songs I stopped using the regular radio and Sirius satellite radio altogether. At one point, the sound coming through the Bang & Olufsen speaker system was so amazing I stayed in the car to finish listening to Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" instead of getting out. It was such a symphony for my ears that I decided that hard-wired music (like playing a song saved to the car or on a music player) has much higher quality than what is delivered via radio waves. (Maybe everyone but me knows that but it isn't until you have access to a premium speaker system that these things become apparent.)
A little thing I appreciated was the trunk latch located on the driver door instead of in the usual driver leg area-not the most ergonomic spot. Speaking of the trunk, its capacity is just average at 12 cu.ft.
Using a "joystick" dial you can control a host of features through the MMI such as navigation, traffic information and car diagnostics. This information is all displayed on a screen that also shows video transmitted from the rear camera when reversing and is where you can watch a DVD when parked.
The A4 I drove had a four-cylinder 2.0 Turbo Fuel Stratified Injection (TFSI) engine generating 21lhp and 258 lb.ft. of torque. While there are certainly plenty of luxury sedans on the road with more power than the A4, the car accelerates quickly and corners with agility. In fact, when you're behind the wheel it feels like you could get to 60 mph faster than the 6.6 seconds Audi says the A4 can do.
I found myself checking the speedometer often because it is simply very easy to cruise over the speed limit and not know it. On a regular sedan's speedometer 60 mph is usually somewhere near 12 o'clock. In the A4, 60 mph is at about 9 o'clock with 180 mph at the end of the line, even though the car tops out at around 130 mph. The visual point Audi must be trying to make is that the A4 has enough punch and attitude for your average executive commuter, who, by the way, will get estimated fuel economy of 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
Commuting in the A4 is a comfortable experience, starting with the suspension which absorbs bumps better than any car I've driven lately. And of course, power controls are sprinkled throughout the cabin for adjusting the windows, seats, sunroof and cruise control.
A bit on terminology. "Quattro" means all-wheel drive instead of front-wheel drive. I drove the A4 directly after a snow storm on icy roads with no problems whatsoever. "Tiptronic" means the A4 has an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be controlled like a manual, using the S mode on the shifter.
It runs in the family
I drove Audi's flagship sedan, the A8, a few months ago and found it to be a lightning-fast epitome of luxury. The A4 is less than half the price of the A8 while retaining a good amount of its big brother's opulence. For someone like me with a moderate income, the Audi A4 is an astute choice, delivering both quality and verve.