• May 8th 2009 at 11:58AM
  • 69
2009 Audi A4 3.2 Quattro - Click above for high-res image gallery

Like nearly every other automotive outlet on the planet, we've become increasingly enamored with Audi's recent product portfolio. From the A3 to the S8, the Q7 to the R8, with all the accolades Audi's received you'd think the crew from Ingolstadt simultaneously cured cancer, rid the world of nuclear weapons and deflected a meteor destined to bring about the next ice-age.

But as the praise flowed, Audi's volume model – the A4 – grew tusks that would rival a walrus. The original A4 (B5) debuted when Boys II Men was near the top of the charts and its duo of follow-ups (the Audi B6 and B7, not the trio from Philly) were more technical reworks than thorough overhauls. But a funny thing happened in the process. As the sheet-metal evolved and the interior became a benchmark, underneath, the A4 turned into a credible sports sedan. With the engine migrating closer to the firewall, the all-wheel drive system nearing perfection and the available drivetrains offering a combination of tractability and fuel efficiency, the A4 could be all things to all people – enthusiasts included. So when developing the "all-new" A4, Audi knew it had to hit every note in pitch-perfect harmony. Our First Drive proved that many of the A4's foibles had been left in the past, but until we lived with one for a week, the jury was still sequestered in a hotel, living off an $11 per diem. Now, deliberations are over and we're prepared to deem the 2009 Audi A4 one of the best sports sedans on the market. In fact, the A4 is so good, it's almost boring. Almost...

Photos copyright ©2009 Brad Wood / Weblogs, Inc.

Say what you will about the massive grille affixed to modern Audis, its rare that a singular design element has been employed so seamlessly and effectively on such a wide range of vehicles. The gaping maw looks pleasant on the A3, imposing on the Q7 and absolutely sinister on the R8. Matched with the new angular headlamps, LED eyeliner and the subtle protrusion of the front diffuser, the new A4's fascia is both aggressive and elegant. And it needs to be. The profile is as bland as unsalted butter and the rear, particularly when viewed dead-on, is a frumpy rump that contradicts an otherwise taut design.

Inside, everything we've come to expect from Audi is available in spades, beginning with the seats. Our tester's thrones, both fore and aft, are comfortable places to spend endless hours on the road, and the biggest complaint levied on the outgoing sedan – it's absolutely abysmal rear leg-room – has finally been addressed. Boasting a 6.6-inch longer wheelbase, a stretch of 4.6-inches in overall length and an additional 2.1-inches in width, there's no bad place to sit in the B8 A4.

Manning the helm, we secretly wished Audi would have equipped the A4's tiller with a three-spoke design rather than the four-spoke unit, but otherwise, the steering wheel sports a perfect balance between diameter and heft. The redundant controls for the stereo and phone are as easy to read as they are to manipulate, while the four-dial gauge cluster and the information display nestled between the tach and speedo manage to deliver a host of at-a-glance information without threatening to overload the driver with navigation, audio, temperature and gear displays.

Audi's MMI infotainment system remains one of our favorite multi-command controllers, seamlessly integrating with the dash-mounted display and offering a perfect ratio of real, honest buttons to compliment the central dial controller. If there was one gripe, it's the initial need to remind yourself that twisting to the right sends the cursor upwards, while rotating to the left sends it spiraling down – the direct opposite of a volume knob. But after a few miles of manipulation, MMI becomes almost second-nature, allowing the operator to watch the screen and essentially "touch-type" their way through the system's sub-structure.

The interior is awash with all the standard luxury car amenities, from the back-up camera to the start-stop button, and while we're not totally enamored with the park-brake switch on the center console – we'd prefer a traditional lever because we're weird like that – considering the outgoing A4 (and A3) had an issue with the handle butting into the center armrest, we figured this is Audi's solution to an inelegant problem.

Although most of the switchgear is self-explanatory (dual-zone climate control, seat heaters, etc.), there are a couple of stand-outs. At the base of the driver's side A-pillar is a switch that toggles the blind-spot warning system and as you work your way down the center console you'll find two buttons flanking the words "Comfort," "Auto," "Dynamic" and "Individual."

To our surprise, Audi's Drive Select system stands in stark contrast to the majority of dynamic suspension setups on the market. Toggle between the three modes and you'll actually feel the difference through the steering wheel, accelerator and suspension. Thankfully, Audi had the foresight to make a custom setting that allows you to pick and choose what specific features you prefer (although it doesn't default to your chosen setup when re-starting) and we found ourselves gravitating towards a sports setting for the steering and throttle/transmission, with the suspension set to comfort. Our custom map seemed to combine the best the A4 had to offer, both around town and on the open road, and when we finally got down to business, the full-on Sport mode delivered... to a point.

Audi's made huge strides in the steering department, and the new A4 is no exception. But the uber-tactility of some of the A4's Germanic competition is lost on Audi's newest entry-level sedan. Although the active steering blends bends with ease, on-center feel and initial turn still fails to elicit the directness we've come to expect in the segment. But where the steering falls short, the 3.2-liter V6, six-speed tiptronic gearbox and Quattro all-wheel drive system steps up to prove Audi's been doing its homework.

While the 3.2-liter bent-six is gone for 2010, buyers shouldn't feel slighted. We've driven a host of Audis equipped with the turbocharged 2.0-liter four, and while it might not be the sexiest option to some, it offers most of the bang for a fraction of the bucks. Regardless, the V6 is a competent performer on par with the BMW 328i, and with 265-hp on tap at 6,500 rpm and 243 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm, it's more than adequate for daily-duty. But given the choice, we'd take the 2.0-liter turbo nine-times-out-of-ten. It's the perfect powerplant for the sedan and we think Audi's decision to nix the six was an intelligent choice given both the take rate and the current market conditions.

Transmission options on the A4 are limited to either the Multitronic (CVT) on the FWD model or the six-speed Tiptronic on the Quattro variant. Regardless of your engine choice, an S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox or six-speed manual are notable in their absence. Needless to say, that's a disappointment, but the Tiptronic fitted to our tester performed its duties without complaint, delivering quick shifts and suffering endless abuse as we banged the console-mounted stalk fore and aft while attending to the bends (paddle shifters are available, but weren't equipped on our evaluation model).

The A4's additional length and girth were welcomed on the motorway, but the added weight becomes increasingly apparent when taking corners at speed. While body-roll is almost non-existent and the all-wheel drive system offers more grip than Fixodent, there's something about chucking the A4 through a series of high-speed switchbacks that fails to trigger your inner-hoon. Even with the traction control fully defeated and understeer rarely rearing its head, the A4's grip-and-go nature feels more like cheating physics than mastering the dark-arts of car control. It's brilliant – don't get us wrong – but it's akin to channeling Madoff over Mozart.

That impression lasted throughout our week and we found ourselves sometimes smitten and others unenthused. We went so far as to spec-up an A4 wagon, only to convince ourselves later that our money might be better spent on a Quattro-equipped, 2.0-liter A3 with the six-speed S-tronic. As tested, our 2009 A4 sedan came in at a decidedly pricey $49,975 (including destination), easily in range of the segment stalwart, BMW 335i. We'd be lying if we said the A4 was just as entertaining as the Bimmer, but the security of all-wheel drive, the top-notch interior and the choice of a four-cylinder could easily put the Audi at the top of the list. And given the choice between the two we'd almost be compelled to pick the A4... almost.

Photos copyright ©2009 Brad Wood / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Months Ago

      2.0T vs 3.2 

      Now I'm so not a V8 US muscle fan, but one thing rings true. Cubic inches rule as long as they are machined with smart technology and not just bang and fart US style!

      Now..What if you turbo'd a 3.2 or or supercharged it.!!!

      I've loved my M3's pre 07 because thats what I had then. But the 3.2 Audi is an awesome engine. And I wonder if that's why NIO one has gone to the trouble of building some kind of charge for it? Nope nada, not a turbo kit, no superchargers nothing on the market...Oh sure lets boost a 2L and hey I'm not saying that not a bad thing. But we have 3.2 cubic inches here...6.1 Sec standard. What if we boosted 3.2 just like we do a 2.0Lt... just saying.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QEZPb2WeJk Yes not an A4 and slightly different short block but do the maths..

      2.0T or 3.2T

      Someone tell me why no one does this to the 3.2 A4/A6 B7

      • 6 Years Ago
      I actually drove a bunch of bimmers including the 335i sedan and compared it to the Audi A4 2.0, Lexus IS 350 and Merc c300 yesterday. It was a BMW drivers event in Montreal.

      I agree with this article in that I would probably choose the 335i first and A4 2.0 second.

      the interior of the 335i is gorgeous and the throttle response and handling is pretty awesome.

      I'm sure the bimmers were setup to drive better than the competitor cars but the 335i is very impressive. The A4 2.0 was fun to drive too, but not as fun as the 335i.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Considering that the 2.0 is probably closer to the price of the 328 than the 335, I'd say that the comparison was more than usually stacked in BMW's favor :) Or did they include list prices on the cars?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I would pass on the 3.2 everytime. What's the point? Better fuel economy on 2.0t, manual transmission not available on the 3.2, same general body kit. Plus 2.0t can be modestly chipped for next to nothing giving better HP per pound, fuel economy and handling. Audi, kill the 3.2 it's a waste of time. Give us a 2.0t special with 255hp from factory!!! We know you can do it.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Hey now. Be kind, it was a pretty good write up.

        We all know 90% of the regular readers despise automatics, but that doesn't mean we can't appreciate the bread and butter products that the other 92% of drivers purchase.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The review was very favorable and I love the new A4, don't get me wrong! Its just that time and time again Audi has dropped a V6 in the A4 that really didn't make much sense. Take for instance the 3.0 vs 2.8 in the last few series of A4. What was the point? Heavier, less economy and marginal top end speed increase. The 2.0t is the sweet spot, if they would only allows us to enjoy a more performance oriented version that would be just sweet. Am gonna go out on a limb and suggest the label 2.0t Sport...
      • 6 Years Ago
      The color of the interior is no good. Good Audi charcoal and no wood trim would be perfect. And, I agree with whoever it was, the previous A4 interior was better somehow; less fussy.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm not sold on the interior either. It looks very pieced together, although I'm sure the materials are top notch. The exterior looked better in the last generation A4 and I'm wondering how heavy this thing has become, 3,700 lbs? We know it has gotten very pricey, that's for sure. I'll take my lighter 9-3 Aero with the 2.8 L V6 turbo and 258 lb-ft of torque at 2000 rpm on up.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't know what volume knob they use but when i turn it to the left the volume goes down just like the cursor on the screen.

      "it's the initial need to remind yourself that twisting to the right sends the cursor upwards, while rotating to the left sends it spiraling down – the direct opposite of a volume knob."
        • 6 Years Ago
        The part that's "wrong" with that is that, generally, turning a knob to the right (or scrolling a screen to the right) reveals new information. Moving the knob to the left goes "backwards" or reviews old information. New information is almost always presented below old information on interactive screens.

        Think about tuning. If you wanted to move from 95.5 to 95.7 FM, you'd probably turn the knob clockwise one click. If I was watching a list of radio frequencies move as I did it (contrived example, I know, but work with me), I (and many others) would expect that 95.7 would appear visually below 95.5.

        Its not that its not learnable, its that it goes counter to the way that the vast majority of other scrollable interfaces are designed. And that's silly.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Of course it's a matter of taste, but the Infiniti G37 Sedan crushes this overpriced car in just about every single way.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Well, you say potato... and I say you're mistaken.
        • 6 Years Ago
        While I don't agree with the "easily distinguishable superior build quality" comment, I do agree that the A4 has more "exclusivity", but I believe that's because it's priced for a particular market, and not priced for its true value as a car.

        It seems Audi is trying (succeeding?) in becoming the new BMW. Here in Upstate NY, cars like that are primarily driven by posers who are more impressed with the cost of a vehicle than the design. You don't seem to fall in that category, Phil, and I respect your opinion even if I disagree with it.

        Visually, the A4 is boring, except for that gaping maw, which is rather tacky. Mechanically... I've only ridden in one, and it didn't impress me. I've driven the G37 a number of times, including the 6MT... and that was an impressive ride.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It certainly doesn't crush it in the looks department.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Depends on what you're standards are and what you're looking for. Shopped the G37 against the new A4 very thoroughly. Drove them back to back over and over. Audi's 4 cyl turbo had plenty of power, although expectedly not quite as much as the Infiniti's V6. Realistically though, there is no Autobahn near me and I drive the car around town 95% of the time, and off the line, the torque of the A4 was excellent. I felt that the Only reason I even considered the Infiniti was because it had bargain pricing. Even that was not enough for me to pass on the better athletic looks, easily distinguishable superior build quality, exterior and interior design, sportiness, and exclusivity of the A4. Upon detailed first-hand inspection, I find it very apparent that a lot of attention and engineering go into Audi's vehicles. Average people may not comprehend the differences between different car makes, but there is a lot of difference between "just a suit" and an "Armani".
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'll take an Audi anyday, the Japanese will never make cars better than the Germans!
        • 6 Years Ago
        >> I'll take an Audi anyday, the Japanese will never make cars better than the Germans!

        Racial loyalty? That's just childish. How embarrassing for you.

        My experience with BMW and Audi impress me as finely tuned machines, but with a build tolerance so thin as to require constant, expensive maintenance. And they are just way, way too expensive for what you get. So if money and time are not valued considerations, by all means, give it away.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I would probably take a G37x over an A4 quattro if I had to buy one today.

        But I can't fault anyone for buying the A4 either. I can see the attraction.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Owner of a B7 3.2 here. The 3.2 is a wonderful, refined engine. Comparable on smoothness to the lovely BMW 330i's (former car).

      Here is where I stand on Audi's as future cars though:
      * no more S4 Avants
      * only A4 Avant you can buy is the 4-banger
      * no more Avant with a manual
      * higher price for a 4banger.. huh?
      * Q5's and Q7's are just garbage in design IMHO
      * yet to even push their TDI models to us in the USA

      I'm thinking the next car will be a return to BMW. Seems like the only manufacturer that balances luxury with sport these days. The fact that you can buy a 5series wagon in stick says something.

      Audi, your dead to me.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The B7 (last model) A4 was heads and tails better looking. I should know, I love my baby. You guys griping about the interior haven't been in one. I'm on my 3rd A4, the look, feel, and ergonomics are second to none.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I was fortunate enough to have a quick drive in the new GTI when I was in Europe last week and I have to say, if you don't need awd, that is a fantastic car for just a bit over half the price of the fully optioned Audi in this article. The build quality of the interior is almost as good, if not as good as the current A3/A4.
      • 6 Years Ago
      You can't get the 6-speed on the 3.2, but you most certainly can on the 2.0 turbo, and that would be my combination of choice! The new A4 is so slick, it would definitely be my next car if I were in the market.
      • 6 Years Ago
      In addition to your wish for a 3-spoke steering wheel, I also think that center part of the steering wheel could be slimmed and/or otherwise shrunken a bit; it looks a little too big and blocky for my tastes (but that's just from pictures, so maybe my opinion will change in person).
      Otherwise, I love this car.
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