The Audi A4 is a sportier alternative to a traditional luxury sedan and is in the same class as the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Cadillac ATS.
For 2016, Audi A4 receives several enhancements. The 2016 A4 Premium model comes with a three-spoke multifunction steering wheel. Also new for 2016: The Navigation plus package includes Advanced Key and Audi connect. A Bang & Olufsen Sound System has been added to the Technology package on 2016 A4 Premium Plus models. New for 2016, A4 Premium models with the S line competition plus package feature 19-inch five-spoke wheels. Last redesigned for 2009, it is mechanically unchanged since the 2011 model year. A redesigned A4 is expected soon.
Audi A4 uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 220 horsepower. Quattro all-wheel-drive versions come with either with a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic; front-wheel-drive models use a continuously variable transmission. The quattro system sends 60 percent of the power to the rear tires during normal driving, and up to 85 percent as needed for traction.
A4 quattro models get an EPA-estimated 22/31 mpg City/Highway with the 8-speed automatic; Premium gasoline is required.
The A4 doesn’t earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick, as it scores a Poor rating in the insurance industry agency’s new small overlap frontal test. The good news is that rear-seat side-impact airbags are available. A rearview camera is not standard but available, along with a blind spot warning system and adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a stop if the system detects an imminent crash.
Audi A4 is sleek and rakish, with headlamps and a subtle grille with an expert touch at the chamfered corners. Foglamps low across the spoiler give it muscle at ground level. It’s handsome and understated, a sharp car with a relaxed profile and aggressive stance.
There are three exterior trim packages that change its visual character. Black Optic gives the A4 a black grille, black window trim, and 19-inch wheels.
Leather is standard, and the cabin, dominated by a deep dark dashboard, is trimmed in aluminum or wood. There’s some plastic but it’s handsome and well finished. We like the thick steering wheel, both trims, and especially the starter button, beefier than those in the BMW and Mercedes.
The A4 is good for tall drivers, with comfortable and supportive seats that are superb; sport seats are available. Rear seating is tight, on a bench that’s low. The Audi’s trunk is smaller than the BMW’s.
With available Audi Connect, you can make the A4 a mobile hotspot. The navigation system uses Google Earth and Google Street View displayed on a gorgeous LCD screen, making for an excellent GPS experience.
Audi’s 2.0-liter turbo used to be the fastest kid on the black, but now it feels underwhelming. Both the Cadillac ATS and BMW 3 Series are quicker and more nimble.
We strongly recommend getting quattro. First, Audi excels at all-wheel drive so it would a shame not to get it. Second, quattro comes with an 8-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual, both of which are superb, and either a much better choice than the slow CVT. The 8-speed Tiptronic automatic works extremely well, blipping the throttle to match revs when downshifting and performing quickly when upshifting. The 6-speed manual is another great option because it turns the A4 into more of a sports sedan. The manual shifts precisely and is fun, with an easy clutch pedal. A hill-hold feature prevents rolling back when taking off on a steep hill.
The A4 is taut and stable, with a slightly firm ride and a decent feel to the electric power steering; with available adaptive steering, the steering effort is varied. The A4’s electric power steering does not have the natural feel of a sports sedan. The optional sports suspension has a firmer ride quality but it isn’t harsh and it sharpens handling response.
A4 handles good with front-wheel drive, great with quattro. Quattro is outstanding in snow and rain, and it performs better than BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus all-wheel-drive systems. Audi gained vast experience with all-wheel drive while competing in the World Rally Championship; the others do not have that experience. Quattro improves handling on dry asphalt, also. In terms of two-wheel drive models, BMW’s rear-wheel drive is superior to Audi’s front-wheel drive.
Also available is Drive Select, with settings for the suspension, steering, throttle and transmission. We like the stock setup, with its broad range and its predictability. We think it’s easy to live without different settings for driving.
There is a sport package available that stiffens the suspension, different dampers along with wheels and tires.
We liked the way the brake pedal felt and they work well at higher speeds.
Buying a car that hasn’t been redesigned in seven years, when there’s a redesign coming soon, only makes sense if the deal is a steal.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.