First Test: 2011 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro
Comfortable in the Middle, But For How Long?
Ever since 1995, when the Audi A4 first bowed in the U.S., it has been known as the car with the nice interior. That holds true today, but impressive confines alone don't win sales battles. Last year, Audi sold 34,672 A4s in the States, placing the car somewhere in the middle of the tough premium compact car market. That number was enough to top the Lexus IS and Acura TSX, but the A4 lags behind the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (58,785) and the BMW 3 Series (100,910).
According to those numbers, Audi's German rivals have a better grasp on what makes the segment tick. But with each new generation of the A4, the folks at Ingolstadt are slowly but surely giving those automakers a reason to look in their rearview mirrors. The entry-level sedan we recently had in for a week of testing is a perfect example. We've always been fans of the A4's modern, understated sheetmetal. This particular model sported Audi's Brilliant Red paint job and the Titanium Sport Package, which included 19-inch, five-spoke wheels and black trim accents. The combination was a head-turner, even for drivers of the sleek A5 coupe, the A4's platform mate. The $2000 Sport package also includes high-performance summer tires, a sport suspension, extra bolstering for the front seats, a three-spoke steering wheel, and black interior trim pieces. It's a must-have option, in our books. Our tester also had the $3400 Premium Plus package, which includes such niceties as Audi's signature strips of LED bling, xenon headlights, Bluetooth, three-zone climate control, and more.
Better yet, this tester was fitted with the six-speed manual. Before we dive into the fun part, we should mention a few notable changes since we last tested an A4 in 2009. The six-speed automatic transmission gives way to a CVT unit for the front-wheel-drive model, while the Quattro A4 gets Audi's new eight-speed gearbox. Audi also nixed the 3.2-liter naturally aspirated V-6 that put out 265 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. That means the 2.0-liter turbo-four engine rated at 211 hp and 258 lb-ft is the sole workhorse for the A4. That's not surprising, as Audi has never been shy with forced induction engines and the costlier V-6 wasn't that much better than the four-banger. As we've said many times before, Audi's 2.0T is one of the best four-cylinder engines out there. It sips fuel (our tester is EPA rated at 21/31 mpg city/highway) and power is more than adequate in most driving situations.
And with a 0-60 time of 6.1 seconds, the A4 is actually faster than both than the 328i (6.3 seconds) and the C300 (7.1 seconds). But reaching that time was achieved only "by slipping the clutch at some absurd point in the rev band and shifting before redline, as power seems to fall off dramatically," said associate road test editor Carlos Lago. The engine clearly lives for the middle of the rev band, and keeping it there was a blast while rowing through the six-speed manual. The A4 also performed admirably in our brake test, needing only 110 feet to stop from 60. It tackled our figure-eight test in 25.7 seconds, on par with the 335i we tested last year. We attribute the A4's success to its arsenal of sticky tires and trademark Quattro system. As road test director Kim Reynolds noted: "What I did like is how early in the corner exit you could get hard on the power and catapult onto the straight 'as if on rails' (as they say). That's the car's best trick."
Its track performance also translated well in real-world spirited driving on canyon roads in and around Malibu. The A4 never felt underpowered (again, as long as the engine was singing in the midrange) and steering was precise, though a bit light. But throttle response was a bit laggy, especially when blipping the gas pedal during downshifts. We suspect Audi's Drive Select would've helped here. Our long-term A4 Avant had the $2950 system, which adjusts suspension stiffness, steering dynamics, and throttle response. The system, however, is only available with the range-topping Prestige package, which adds navigation, Bang and Olufsen sound, Audi's advance key, and blind spot and rear backup monitors. That setup will cost you $47,375 compared to the $39,255 price tag on our tester. That also puts you just $800 away from the $48,175 base price of an S4, the more macho Quattro with the supercharged, 333-hp V-6. (This is where the salesperson tells you your monthly payments go up by only a few dollars.) Decisions.
|2011 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$39,605|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.0L/211-hp/258-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3621 lb (55/45%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||185.2 x 71.9 x 56.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.8 sec @ 92.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||110 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.91 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||25.7 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||22/30 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||153/112 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.78 lb/mile|