EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Climbing into this 2014 Audi A4 2.0 TFSI Premium Plus is like getting reacquainted and catching up with an old friend. There's a familiarity here, and a nice luxury-sporting mix. The exterior is again, familiar, and the lines are clean, balanced and straightforward inside and out. The interior, to me, remains the gold standard: It's intuitive, very well built and good looking.
I've always been a fan of the VW group corporate 2.0-liter turbo four. It's smooth, offers plenty of power and works well in cars like this, the Volkswagen GTI, GLI and almost every other vehicle they put it in. The VW group has been doing this engine for a long time and you can tell. It's impressive. There's little to no turbo lag and all-wheel drive means essentially no torque steer. I can't imagine, nor see the need for, a smoother-shifting transmission. This is a car that can hustle, always feeling connected to the road. The ride feels to me like a nice blend of being tidy and well disciplined but not harsh.
The A4 is getting to be the oldest car in its class. The BMW 3-series, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS -- they're all newer and/or more recently updated than the A4. And I'm sure the new Mercedes-Benz C-class is dynamite. Yet to me, at this time and for my money, the Audi tops them. I suspect a new A4 is coming sooner rather than later. That will be a dog fight with the new C. I look forward to it.
SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: A new A4 is coming any day now, but the old model holds up very well across the board: Exterior and interior design and materials, excellent ride and handling, and the ubiquitous 2.0-liter turbocharged drivetrain.
I'd gladly knock the premium plus package's bag of mostly not-important-to-me features and save $3,500, which would bring this down to a $40K basic A4 with the $3K MMI and navigation package. And if you can find an A4 a dealer is looking to unload once the new car arrives, you might find yourself facing a seriously solid German luxury-car bargain. That's a deal I would jump on immediately, rather than, say, throwing down almost as much money for a well-equipped Mercedes-Benz CLA-class.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: The Audi A4 remains a formidable luxury car, at least as far as luxury cars on the entry-level end of the spectrum go. Depending on your list of must-have options and whether or not you'll need to tote more than one other adult around on a regular basis, a quattro-equipped example may make more sense for you than a comparably priced A3.
Styling? It looks like an Audi on the outside. While that's not necessarily enough to inspire lust, it's a look that's not going to get old any time soon.
If you thought the A3's center console was sparse, you'll be much happier inside the A4. The foldaway infotainment screen is replaced by a more conventional fixed screen, and you get all the buttons and dials for climate control (which does include an automatic function) that you could want.
Despite weighing a few hundred pounds more than the A3, I didn't notice a significant difference in the A4's performance or handling. It's not as engaging as, say, a 328i, but it's a composed driver that packs just enough punch to surprise when you come across a break in traffic.
The 2.0-liter turbo can be driven rather sedately if you like; it's not a high-strung mill with a tach needle that jumps at a tap of the accelerator pedal. Yet it's more than happy to launch you forward if you get a little more aggressive with your right foot; quattro is there to keep things smooth and well-grounded. The cabin remains quiet even at speed with the engine approaching redline. There's no raucous exhaust note to enjoy, which, for the buyer of this car, is probably just fine. It's certainly better than something conjured up by a sound symposer.
I did get a bit of good advice from a reader after driving a Q5 and detecting a hint of hesitation in the shifting. Namely, leave the car in “S” mode and don't try to anticipate the shifts; be firm and steady with the throttle and brakes and let the transmission do the work. I took that to heart and the eight-speed performed admirably. As with the A3, I actually wouldn't mind having wheel-mounted paddle shifters here so long as they're reasonably snappy and will actually let me hold onto a gear to redline -- and downshift on command.
As-equipped, and as-priced, this A4 is going to look very attractive to anyone scoping out a loaded A3 (one that we took for a spin, a Premium Plus, stickered at $41,995). I'm sure Audi will roll a price increase into any update it has in store for this capable sedan. Until then, it would be helpful if the Ingolstadt brain trust would devise some sort of mathematic formula to guide potential customers toward the optimal vehicle purchase -- it's getting confusing out here.
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: It's been a minute since the Audi has updated the A4 hasn't it? As others have pointed out already, the A4's competition is going into battle with newer models. BMW's 3-series was overhauled a couple of years ago and Mercedes' C-class is all-new for the 2015 model year. From Japan, Lexus has a new IS and Infiniti is pushing the fresh Q50. And then there is Volvo, which updated the S60 for 2014. Oh yeah, and the Cadillac ATS is out there, too.
But even as the graybeard in the group, the A4 still makes a compelling argument. Visually, I think it's simple; understated exterior lines have held up well. The interior remains a benchmark in the segment from a materials, build and ease-of-use standpoint. MMI remains my favorite infotainment interface from a luxury carmaker with its good combo of normal hard buttons mixed in with the rotary knob selector. Seats offer a decent support (though I would obviously prefer the great sport seats in the S4) and there is not a cheap looking surface in there.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is here and it's well-suited for the A4. There's strong pull throughout the rev range and shifts from the automatic gearbox are slick. When you leave the transmission in regular “D,” it does tend to short shift quickly for optimal fuel efficiency, though, which had me slot it down into “S.” That suited my driving preferences better and holds onto gears longer.
Ride and handling are best described as sporty, but still comfortable, where this A4 will take corners with composure with the suspension giving way to a little bit of roll. Then when you're just rolling around town it's well damped. Steering is lightly weighted, but responsive to driver inputs. Brake performance is strong and bite starts near the top of the pedal stroke.
So the A4 is still a strong all-around car -- one that I will continue to steer people towards. A comparable 3-series is a tighter handler, while the new C-class is a more attractive-looking vehicle. I will say the IS has become a really strong entry, while I haven't spent enough time in a non-hybrid Q50 to make a final call on how I feel about that one. The S60 and ATS are other really good ones. As you can see, there's not really a bad one in the bunch, which is a benefit to the consumer. Just remember: don't overlook the A4 just because it's the oldest car in the group.
2014 Audi A4 2.0 TFSI Premium Plus
Base Price: $36,795
As-Tested Price: $43,845
Drivetrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4; AWD, eight-speed automatic
Output: 220 hp @ 4,450-6,000 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,500-4,300 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,627 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 20/29/24 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 19.6 mpg
Options: A4 premium plus model including 18-inch 10-spoke RS design wheels with all-season tires, auto-dimming interior mirror with compass, auto-dimming heated exterior mirrors, heated front seats with driver memory, three zone automatic climate control, split-folding rear seatback and trunk storage package, advance key, xenon plus lighting with LED daytime running lamps and taillights, aluminum window surrounds, S line exterior ($3,500); Audi MMI navigation plus package including 1 CD, DVD-player with HD radio, MMI Navigation plus with voice control, color driver information display, parking system with rearview camera, Audi connect with six-month subscription ($3,050); ice silver metallic exterior paint ($500)
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