For the price of this sport wagon (over $47,000), Audi has brought to the table a ton of technological and mechanical features that actually add value. For all that is offered, you really feel like the A4 is worth the money. We consider this Audi A4 Avant 3.2 FSI with the S-line package to be the ultimate A4, outside the S4 or RS4 of course. The 3.2 FSI is a brilliant power plant with a vicious roar and powerful thrust. The interior is impeccable, and the exterior, despite its critics, looks delicious in this deeply reflective silver paint. It's a tastefully designed package. The larger wheels add strength to the wagon's stance, and the aero treatment combined with the bright work around the windows and the aluminum roof rails add a touch of elegance.
So how does it all boil down? The A4?s a great car, and there are a lot of other ways to own one. The A4 can be
ordered a wide variety of configurations. This particular formula is expensive, but, apples to apples, it?s priced
better than anything its direct German competition could offer. There are two areas that need to be looked at rather
critically. First, you can only get the brilliant 3.2 FSI with an automatic. As always, the manumatic option is there,
but we have never been happy with the response time or the constant electro-babysitting manumatic transmissions offer.
There is a sport mode, which pretty much shifts how we would, but it?s not the same as rowing the gears yourself. This
omission spills over into our other gripe.
Clearly, BMW is the benchmark in the steering feel department, and if someone wants to really play against the boys from Bavaria they need to step up their game. How disappointing the A4 is in this case. Actually, the Audi possesses a wonderful steering wheel behind a perfectly weighted and assisted steering gear, but you can feel where it fails. The A4 has a front wheel drive bias, and you feel it in the steering. You can?t help but wonder, gee, if Audi put a little less power to the front wheels, this whole package would feel so much better. It?s a good thing the rest of the vehicle is so potent. Toss this wagon into a turn and hold on. It?s a point and shoot affair, and perfectly acceptable for most occasions. You just wish, for Audi?s sake, that they could take it that one step farther. Reports of the latest comparisons between the M3 and RS4 show us that Audi is closer with their latest super sedan, so maybe soon people will be talking about the engaging experience offered by BMW and Audi. We would say the Audi A4 is behind the BMW in driving experience, but ahead of just about everyone else in this class when it comes to providing a luxurious sedan or wagon with that?s filtered in a way that special driver-centric way.
Speaking of comparison tests, the latest one from Car and Driver did not treat the A4 too kindly. The lack of a manual transmission and V6 combination seemed to hurt it in this particular test. They don?t openly say that, but every other vehicle in their test group, save the Lexus IS, is equipped with a manual transmission. The Audi finished 5th behind the Acura TL, Infiniti G35, Lexus IS, and BMW 330i. The Lexus undoubtedly has a horsepower advantage which probably overshadowed the mandatory slushbox, but all the others are equipped with manuals. Like we said, manual transmissions play to the driver?s desire to be ?involved? in the experience of driving, and we would certainly give the A4 a ho-hum ranking against the row-your-own vehicles. We have to wonder if the Audi would have faired better against a fleet of automatics. The A4 was also blasted for being bland and out-dated. We think that?s not entirely fair, especially considering the very relatively recent redesign. The A4 is more about understated elegance than flash anyway. It has a beauty about it, like a fine watch.
This is an excellent buy if you can afford it. It?s quiet, luxurious, fast, and handles beautifully. It?s a good option for those who want the feel and character of a traditional German compact sedan, but who don?t want a BMW or Mercedes. For us, we?ll continue to dream, and maybe scheme up some plan to get our own 2.0T Quattro with a manual or maybe an A3 with DSG.