MINTURN, Colo. -- Pushing on the go-pedal, we work a leather-laced steering wheel on Audi's 2013 A4 compact sedan to and fro to maintain a taught line on U.S. 24, two lanes of wiggly asphalt that follows the white-water Eagle River through a deep canyon in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
A4's 4-in-line engine, with turbocharger and intercooler plus Audi's remarkable FSI (fuel straight injection) technology applied, feels vigorous and quick, drawing on the full force of the plant's production of 211 hp peaking between 4300 and 6000 rpm plus 258 lb-ft of torque spread across a broad band from 1500 to 4200 rpm.
Transmission is a new fuel-saving 8-speed Tiptronic automatic with rev-matching downshifting, but Audi also lists a 6-speed shift-it-yourself manual gearbox.
A 5-link front suspension design seems light and lively, while Audi's Quattro system for traction at every wheel sets up the tire grip of a sticky-toed gecko.
The smart Quattro system, using a torsion-sensing center differential, automatically shifts the majority of all engine torque to whichever wheels, front or rear, attain the best bite of traction on slick pavement.
Steering, using a new electromechanical steering system that saves weight and improves fuel economy, acts quickly and precisely.
Brakes, with a big disc at every wheel, rely on electronic and computerized links to tame the all-season tires. Anti-lock brake (ABS) controls are standard, along with electronic brake distribution (EBD) plus Audi's electronic stabilization program (ESP) that checks lateral slippage and skidding.
A4 represents the best-selling nameplate at Audi.
The series tracks back in time to Audi's original compact-class sedan of 1972. Codenamed B1, it eventually reached the United States under the Fox label.
The first A4 landed in North America in 1996 as an improvement for Audi's 90 sedan in a streamlined package with all the right mechanical components aboard for serious hands-on driving. Coded as B5 to mark Audi's fifth-generation compact sedan, the A4 of 1996 became a benchmark product which initiated the alphanumeric nomenclature now used for all Audi sedans.
Variations followed with different powertrains, front-wheel-drive FrontTrak and all-wheel-drive Quattro modes, the Avant wagon and a serious sports performer with powerful S4 Quattro. And in 2002 the B6 generation of A4 brought an expanded structure with a larger cabin, followed by the B7 generation of 2005 stocking the FSI turbocharger and bold new body styling.
The A4 for 2013 builds upon the 2009 B8 generation with a fresh design for the external package and refinements for the 5-seat passenger compartment.
Theme for A4's exterior design is a fluidity of lines drawn in rectangular format with an exaggerated snout and abbreviated tail linked by the arching canopy over the cabin with low-slung windows and side pillars muted.
On the prow Audi's designers planted a vertical single-frame grille sandwiched between sharp-edged and narrow halogen headlamps featuring signature white-light LED tube rings and lower corner foglamps.
Side panels are chiseled with a character line notched low on each side that seems to swing upward in swift movement toward the tail.
The blunted rump looks clean with wraparound low fascia and left-side 2X tailpipes in chrome.
Pop the rear deck and you'll find a trunk compartment with more than 12 cubic feet of storage space.
A4's cabin layout is familiar with two sport buckets in front and a broad bench in back with indentions for two but room for three. Yet there's a high waistline to this scheme with super-clean and uncluttered styling for the dashboard and impressive textures and finishes applied, such as the band of aluminum stretching across dash and doors and standard leather seat upholstery.
Audi constructs the 2013 Audi A4 sedan in three trims: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige.
A4 Premium edition comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof, 8-way power controls for front seats, tilting-telescoping steering wheel, automatic climate system, and a sound system with CD player.
Optional packages for A4 Premium issues are Convenience (with Bluetooth connectivity, iPod interface and enhanced trip computer) and Lighting (xenon headlamps plus LED daytime running lights).
A4 Premium Plus trim stocks the equipment of Convenience and Lighting packages but also installs heated outside mirrors, heated front seats and driver memory functions, triple-zone automatic climate controls, auto-dimming mirrors and 18-inch alloy wheels with 245/40 all-season tires.
A4 Prestige carries adaptive headlamps, keyless ignition/entry, a blind-spot warning system, the Audi MMI Navigation package with online services, plus a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system.
A Sport Package applies sport suspension tuning, front sport seats and a 3-spoke steering wheel plus shift paddles with the automatic transmission.
And Audi's S Line Package includes sport suspension tuning, Alcontara leather sport seats, brushed aluminum inlays, a flat-bottom 3-spoke steering wheel, headlight washer system and 19-inch aluminum wheels with summer tires.
Audi's MSRP chart begins at $32,500 for the 2013 A4 Premium in front-wheel-drive FrontTrak with Multitronic CVT (continuously variable transmission).