Audi is proof that good things can happen if you take your time and focus on doing the job properly.
|Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.Transmission: Front wheel drive models use a CVT, while quattro models use either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic. |
Fuel Economy: 20 MPG in the city, 29 MPG on the highway and combined 24 MPG.
Pricing: The 2014 Audi A4 kicks off at $34,695 including $895 in destination fees. Our test car’s grand total was $43,845.
Arguably for the past couple decades, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have been viewed by America’s car-buying public as the ultimate expressions of automotive luxury. But over the past few years, people have really started to notice the four-ring brand.
Products like the A4 sedan have fueled Audi’s recent growth. The Ingolstadt-based company marked another record-smashing year in 2013. In the U.S., deliveries topped 158,000 vehicles, up 13.5 percent compared to 2012. The Q5 crossover was the brand’s top seller but the A4 was hot on its rear wheels.
Subtle and Sophisticated
Like other Audis this little sedan is luxurious without being pretentious, it’s feature-laden but not overbearing. For whatever reason the company’s products feel special; you get the impression that Audi really cares. There’s a subtlety to these vehicles that’s absent from other luxury cars. The firm’s attention to detail is second to none and good taste abounds throughout its lineup.
Still, the A4 is getting on in years. This generation was introduced to U.S. customers in 2008 and here we are more than half a decade later and the car is, for the most part, unchanged. Either Audi’s fallen behind the crowd or they got it right the first time.
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The 2014 A4 is available in three different trim levels. Premium serves as the base, then there’s Premium Plus and Prestige at the top. With a handful of options in tow, our mid-range test car’s out-the-door price was $43,845 including $895 in destination fees. All told that’s not too bad for a nicely equipped luxury sedan. Remember, we live in a world where you can drop 70 grand on a pickup truck.
Some of the extras that padded the bottom line included Ice Silver metallic paint, which cost $500 as well as the company’s MMI Navigation Plus package for $3,050.
Of course this is a luxury car and it comes with a host of attractive standard features. Leather seating surfaces are included at no extra charge, as is a power sunroof. Heated exterior mirrors, front and rear fog lamps plus a driver-information display are freebies as well.
Sweetening the deal, our sampler’s modest options throw 18-inch wheels, three-zone climate control, heated front seats and xenon headlamps into the mix. The company’s advanced yet intuitive MMI infotainment system with navigation was also included.
Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel drive system was part of the package as well, providing secure handling and year-round grip. For slightly better fuel economy front-wheel drive is also available.
Behind the A4’s prominent single-frame grille is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; it’s the only powerplant available. Of course the high-performance S4 model features a muscular supercharged V6, which is every bit as fun as it sounds.
In addition to the turbocharger our car’s TFSI unit features other power adders including variable valve timing and direct fuel injection. It also brandishes the company’s valvelift system, which as its name implies, adjusts how far the valves open for optimum airflow through the engine. All told this 2.0-liter unit delivers 220 hp, which by today’s standards isn’t that much. However, torque is what really counts and it puts out a maximum of 258 lb-ft at just 1,500 RPM.
In our test car the engine was matched to an eight-speed automatic gearbox though a proper six-ratio manual is also available with quattro. However, if you want front-wheel drive you’re going to be saddled with a continuously variable transmission, so don’t do that.
This drivetrain arrangement results in a combined fuel-economy rating of 24 miles per gallon. That’s derived from a city score of 20 MPG and a highway figure of 29.
Part of what makes Audis so appealing is the quality of their cabins. The company has long been an industry benchmark for interior design and construction. Our tester was far from loaded yet it still exuded class and refinement. Everything about the A4’s cockpit is just so tastefully done, with top-shelf materials, abundant soft surfaces and peerless fit and finish. It even smells good with a slightly sweet, perfume-like aroma. Call it eau de Audi I suppose.
As for controls, there’s a smattering of buttons near the gear selector. MMI accounts for the majority of these but designers put the starter switch and volume knob in down there as well. This unusual placement takes some getting used to but it soon becomes second nature.
The company’s infotainment system is very good, though it does require acclimation. Still, once you familiarize yourself with MMI’s interface layout and button arrangement it becomes a snap to navigate. Another plus is performance; the system never seems to hiccup or slow down. It’s always fast and very fluid.
It’s much the same story with the A4’s climate controls. At first they seem needlessly complex but with a little training they become much simpler to discern.
In addition to all of this finery, a feature called Audi connect is rolled into the MMI system. It offers in-vehicle WiFi along with cellular connectivity that can accommodate up to eight devices. A host of Google services are baked right in as well, things like Google Earth for true aerial map views as well as Google Voice Local Search and more.
Audi connect is complimentary for half a year. After the trial is over the service is available for a fairly reasonable $15 per month.
Another aspect of this car that’s worth mentioning is the back seat. It’s decently spacious, with respectable leg- and head-room, though in reality it’s only good for two passengers. No one will want to sit in the middle position with that gigantic hump in the floor. Hey, you’ve got to get engine torque to the rear axle somehow and a large tunnel is probably necessary to accommodate quattro’s driveshaft. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger!
In motion, one of the first things you notice about the A4 is just how quiet it is. Ruckus from the road and air is negligible, even while traversing crumbling pavement or driving through gale-force winds.
The ride strikes a nice balance between sport and mush; the car engages its helmsman without beating him or her up. Likewise, the brake pedal has a confidence-inspiring feel to it; it’s neither grabby nor soft.
Thanks to a relatively low beltline and small pillars, with the exception of its somewhat chunky B-posts, outward visibility from the captain’s chair is pretty darn good, something that makes maneuvering a snap.
The A4’s electromechanical power steering is nice and light at low speeds though it gets noticeably heavier the faster you go. However, as velocity increases so does the sensation of isolation; it feels like there’s a filter between your hands and the road, like the finer details and textures from the front tires have been lost in translation. Going through turns you can still place the car right where you want it but steering that was a little less secretive would be appreciated.
The engine is super-smooth with excellent NVH – a lot of people would probably think it’s a V6 if they didn’t know better. That is, until they hit the accelerator. The 2.0-liter turbo actually feels kind of soft, especially at higher revs. It’s got tons of low- and mid-range torque, which is ideal for normal driving 95 percent of the time. But when you punch it, the car doesn’t surge ahead.
The eight-speed automatic is very refined, seamlessly changing from gear to gear and dropping ratios as your right foot dictates. However, on two occasions during my week with the car the transmission jerked a little bit as it downshifted at low speeds when rolling to a stop. This is my only complaint about it.
Still, Audi claims an A4 with the abovementioned drivetrain combination will accelerate from zero to 60 in a fleet-footed 6.2 seconds. On the street it doesn’t feel that fast, but perhaps the sensation of speed is muted because the cabin is so quiet. For a little perspective the 333 hp S4 can accomplish the same feat in an alleged 4.9 seconds; that’s genuinely fast.
The 2014 Audi A4 2.0T quattro Tiptronic is stylish, well built and luxurious; its driving experience, pricing and fuel economy are also commendable. Thanks to this praiseworthy blend of attributes it’s no wonder this car is a cornerstone of the Audi lineup.
The A4 may not be the fastest or best handling luxury sedan in its class, but it’s got unquantifiable emotional appeal that makes it seem like more than the sum of its parts. It feels mature, grown up and sophisticated in ways other luxury sedans don’t. Even after years on the market this car is still a worthy contender.