2009 Audi A4
If there’s one truth in the entry-level luxury sedan segment in North America, it’s that you’ve got a lot of choices. In fact, the word overwhelming comes to mind. As such, refreshing an entry-level model can be tough, especially once you factor in a tanking US dollar and gasoline prices moving upwards with disturbing determination. While the outgoing A4 model was a superb all-rounder, Audi decided it was time to aim for the top of the podium and grab some of those often touted “best in segment” accolades. In doing so, the 2009 Audi A4 Quattro
has grown longer by 6.5 inches and wider by 2.1 inches, leading to more interior legroom and a more stable track. Furthermore, the newly revised 2.0-liter engine has received a significant torque bump, giving the A4 even better blend of luxury, economy and usability.
What's to Like
The 2009 A4 is much larger overall, but intelligent chassis design has decreased weight by ten percent, while fuel economy rises by the same amount. Best in class rear legroom as well as best in class braking give the A4 a clear advantage in the segment.
What's Not to Like
The 3.2-liter model is significantly more expensive than the 2.0-liter, and pricey options can quickly see 3.2-liter A4 stickers approaching the S4’s base price. Quattro all-wheel drive unfortunately does not come standard.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
While the high-performance sedan segment is where the German automakers prefer to wage their never-ending war against each other – lobbing horsepower-churning V-8s back and forth – the framework for these flagship performance models comes from the entry-level sedan. The biggest criticism of previous Audi S4
models was that the engine sat mostly ahead of the front axle, upsetting the car’s forward balance and causing understeer, a design which came as a direct result of the A4’s underlying architecture. Audi has rectified the problem with the 2009 A4, moving the engine back over the front axle to create a superior front-end balance. As a result, the new A4 is much more neutral through the corners than the model it replaces, especially the 2.0TFSI model due to its lower weight. When driven hard through slower, second gear corners, there is still some push in the front-end, but the improvement is dramatic, aided by a 40/60 front-end torque split taken from lessons learned developing the RS4. Audi Drive Select is a welcome development and controls engine, suspension, transmission and steering characteristics. The system is best showcased through dynamic steering which turns the A4’s steering rack faster at slow speeds, thus requiring less input to complete sharp turns, and tightens up closer to a 1:1 ratio at faster speeds, though it constantly adapts to conditions. The system has three modes; comfort, auto and dynamic, the last of which really stiffens the steering, providing improved feedback from the road.
Engine and Drivetrain
The A4 comes with either a 2.0-liter TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder producing 211 horsepower and a massive 258 lb-ft of torque, or a 3.2-liter V-6, which makes 265 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. Unless you really want the extra ponies, the V-6 no longer seems to justify its higher cost as it now makes less torque, weighs more and returns worse fuel economy than the 2.0-liter. Automatic Tiptronic gearboxes are available for both engines and a six-speed manual can be mated to the 2.0-liter, all of which put power to the wheels via Quattro all-wheel drive. FrontTrak front-wheel drive via a continuously variable multitronic transmission is also available for the 2.0-liter model.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
A technology that is becoming rapidly more popular is active cruise control, which is included as an option on the new A4. By using radar waves to determine the distance to the next car, active cruise control is able to keep the A4 a predetermined distance from the car it is following. Audi side assist is also making its debut on the A4 model, which again uses radar sensors to detect vehicles in the A4’s blind spots and warns drivers of the situation by illuminating a warning light on the side view mirrors.
Key Technology Evaluation
Audi’s excellent Multi-Media Interface (MMI) now comes standard on the A4 and utilizes an integrated high-mount color screen to control functions such as climate control and the sound system, as well as optional navigation. The headlights are now underlined by sleek, R8-esque LED running lights that have the added effect of reducing daytime running light energy consumption by 95 percent compared to standard units. ESP stability control is quick to strangle the throttle when the wheel is cranked over out of a turn, but the system can be disabled, showcasing Quattro’s dynamic abilities.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Official EPA numbers aren’t available yet, but Audi has promised efficiency increases for both engines. The current ULEV-II 2.0 TFSI unit returns 20 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, and Audi is promising an increase of 15 percent fuel efficiency, which should result in a combined cycle of 27-28 mpg. The current V-6, which returns 15 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway and qualifies for LEV-II emissions, should experience a fuel efficiency increase of ten percent.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
As usual, Audi is at the top of its game when it comes to design, delivering an ergonomic, high-quality, comfortable interior. The controls are logically placed, easy to access and have a high quality to feel and weight to them. Again, backseat room is ample thanks the A4’s longer dimensions.
As a result of its increased length and wider track, the 2009 A4 has a stretched out, lower, sportier look to it, with a hood line that is reminiscent of a BMW 1-Series
. The side sills incorporate what is known as a “Tornado Line,” car designer speak for a flowing, protruded line set in purely for style. The front end is still dominated by Audi’s now signature love-it-or-hate-it trapezoidal grille. We kind of love it.
What We Think
Audi really listened to the criticisms of the outgoing A4 and has done a great job correcting them, delivering an excellent, more efficient platform. While the A4 is no segment-buster (it’s arguable that nothing can be with so much high-quality competition), its quality should go a long way to delivering the increased sales Audi is hoping for. If its baseline dynamics are anything to go by, then please Audi, by all means, bring on the new RS4.