The Audi A4 sedan and wagon give drivers a solid choice among sporty German sedans, especially if it’s front-wheel-drive that they prefer.
The A4 cars were redesigned in 2017, and got no significant changes last year. For 2019, Audi tweaks the looks with a now-standard S Line appearance package. Allroad all-wheel-drive wagons get standard navigation on most models.
The standard engine for front-wheel-drive models is an impressively smooth 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder making 188 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, teamed with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters. It’s a brilliant powertrain for an everyday car, able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds.
All-wheel-drive models get a more potent engine, a 2.0-liter turbo-4 making 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, using that same 7-speed twin-clutch. It accelerates from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds.
Fuel economy is excellent with both engines. The front-wheel-drive A4 is rated by the EPA at 27 mpg city, 34 highway, 30 combined; the all-wheel-drive version is rated at 23 mpg city, 34 highway, 27 combined.
With automatic emergency braking standard, the A4 nearly aces its safety ratings and crash tests by both the NHTSA and IIHS. The Feds give it five stars overall, with four stars for frontal crash protection. The insurance industry-funded IIHS gives it its top â€œGoodâ€ scores on every test, with a Top Safety Pick award for the top Prestige model with LED headlights.
Other safety equipment such as a surround-view camera system or active lane control are also available.
The A4 comes as Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige models, starting at more than $38,400. All-wheel drive adds $4,600, including the engine that’s significantly more powerful.
Standard equipment in the Premium includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 7.0-inch driver information display, a 7.0-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, two USB charge ports, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic emergency braking, panoramic sunroof and 17-inch wheels.
The A4 Premium Plus (more than $43,000) adds 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, two more USB ports, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, wireless smartphone charging, navigation, an upgraded 8.3-inch infotainment display, keyless ignition, and reverse automatic emergency braking.
The A4 Prestige adds acoustic glass, 19-speaker audio, and a host of active safety equipment including adaptive cruise control with stop-and-follow capability. A loaded Prestige can top $50,000.
The Allroad, which costs at least $46,000, is similarly equipped, but with 18-inch wheels and adaptive dampers.
What used to be the optional S Line appearance package is now standard on every A4, bringing a bigger grille, creased hood, character lines on the fenders, bigger wheels and sculpted bumpers.
The straightforward styling features aerodynamically clean lines and creases, with well-defined edges. The grille wraps to the fenders and flows rearward to a wedge-shaped tail. The look is plain but not boring, while the large greenhouse tapers smartly toward the roof.
Overall, the styling is neither dramatic nor adventuresome. It’s been much the same for 20 years, and it has aged extremely well.
The main thing about the cabin of the A4, even the base Premier model, is that it feels like a luxury car, with standard leather upholstery, high-quality trim materials, excellent fit and finish, and maybe especially roominess. It’s high-tech, but still clean and warm, with ambient LED lighting. It’s hardly minimalist, although it is reserved when compared to the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3-Series.
The standard screen is seven inches, but the cabin can be more tech-centric, with a beautiful high-res digital instrument cluster and full-color head-up display for speed and other driver data, on Premium Plus and Prestige models.
The latest version of Multi-Media Interface (MMI) accepts inputs from voice, steering-wheel controls, or handwritten letters on a touch-sensitive pad. All A4s now include smartphone-app features.
The larger 12.3-inch infotainment/navigation screen isn’t a touchscreen, which makes it a bit finicky, but also allows the dashboard to be lowered and pushed back to create more interior space. The steering wheel is thick but not too big, and its controls are easy to use.
The leather front seats are eight-way power-adjustable and heated–that’s standard. They are comfortable for hours, despite being a bit snug with firm bolstering. Forward vision is exceptional, with thin roof pillars that don’t obstruct passengers much from the road ahead.
Although the A4 is a bit small on the outside for a mid-size car, it’s as roomy inside as rivals, in particular the BMW 3-Series. Five adults can actually go on a trip, with 13 cubic feet for luggage in the trunk. There’s 35.3 inches of rear leg room, which is enough for a long-legged passenger. Unlike some sedans, there’s ample foot room for the outboard passengers, although the center tunnel is always an issue for the middle passenger.
The Allroad wagon is in another league, of course, with 24.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, and a fantastic 59 cubic feet with the seat folded.
The base engine for the A4 is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder making 188 hp and 236 pound-feet of torque. Its spunk is satisfying, while its economy is gratifying. Throw in the paddle-shifting 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and you can’t find a better powertrain for a front-wheel-drive mid-size sedan.
The all-wheel-drive version moves the A4 into prime territory. Its 2.0-liter turbo-4 makes 252 horsepower with the same transmission, and chops 1.5 seconds off the time to reach 60 miles per hour. It’ll pass most any sedan on the road without a second breath. The engine is refined and quiet. The transmission might sometimes think twice at slow speeds, which is not uncommon, but it’s never jerky.
The Allroad wagons are about 200 pounds heavier than the sedans, but only a few tenths slower to 60 mph, and just as nimble in the corners, thanks to standard adaptive dampers.
The standard A4 sedan suspension is five-link front and rear, tuned for compliance. The chassis was stiffened in the 2017 redesign, which allows the suspension to be softened without losing sharpness in the corners. The adaptive dampers that are standard on the Allroad are optional on the sedan, and they soften the bumps while improving the grip and control. As a front-driver the A4 lacks some of the finesse of rear-drive rivals, but with all-wheel drive it pulls even.
The electric power steering is sharp but a bit light, but not so light that the A4 is not still predictable and nimble in the city. With the Audi Drive Select modes, the steering boost can be increased while the steering angle is widened.
Audi Drive Select includes four modes: Auto, Comfort, Dynamic, and Individual. The A4 feels most adept with the active dampers and the steering and transmission in dynamic mode. It responds promptly and takes corners predictably.
On slippery roads, the all-wheel-drive system is a dream. The A4 sedan and A4 Allroad have slightly different systems. The Allroad system disengages when not needed to save fuel, but re-engages in two-tenths of a second when sensors detect any wheel slip.
The Audi A4 is a bit small on the outside for a mid-size car, but its interior room matches its rivals, while the luxury feel of its cabin exceeds them. By the time you consider the fabulous powertrain, fuel mileage, and timeless styling, it’s a no-brainer, especially in all-wheel-drive Allroad form.
by Sam Moses, with driving impressions from TheCarConnection.