2010 Audi A4 Premium Plus

Automakers dream of creating vehicles that people can identify from 50 paces.  This can go horribly wrong (I’m talking to you Pontiac Aztek).  Audi has always done it right with the stylish A4. Naming all its competitors would eat up valuable space and time but the short list includes BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class.  OK, let’s throw in the Infiniti G37.  Maybe the larger Cadillac  CTS too.  All right I’ll stop there.

The A4 I’m driving is very well equipped at $46,630 including destination.  Base models start at around 32 grand and come with a Continuously Variable Transmission and FrontTrak (front-wheel drive to you and me).  $900 adds quattro all-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual.  A 6-speed automatic with manual control is available (S-Line trim adds steering wheel paddle shifters).  Keep in mind that some people don’t care for the shiftless dynamic of CVT transmissions.  I have not driven Audi’s so if you check it out drop me a note to let me know what you think.

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When the all-new A4 was introduced last year the 2009 model offered a V6 upgrade path.  2010?  De-nied.  Audi is simplifying the line up so if you want to go faster Speed Racer, you’re going to have to commit to the high performance S4.  All A4s get a turbocharged 2-liter 4-cylinder that makes 211 horsepower.  It prefers premium fuel thank you very much.

No V6?  No problem… kinda.

A4 is hardly a slug, 0-60 runs are brisk in 6 and a half seconds.  This is a skosh quicker than many of the all-wheel drive competitors according to Audi.  There’s no turbo lag to speak of either.  My only complaint with the performance is aural, the throatier sound of the V6 is missed.  The 2.0T emits a much tamer exhaust note, more luxury than sport but I suppose that’s its mission.

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In the corners A4 is a solid performer.  The hairs on the back of my neck find the BMW 3 and Infiniti G to be little more engaging in hard maneuvers but most owners aren’t attending track day with this car.  Ride quality is taut but comfortable, road noise is subdued though not library quiet.  EPA fuel economy is 21 city, 27 highway.  With quattro all-wheel drive, A4 is planted and secure in wet and sloppy conditions.  Highly recommended for wet Northwest conditions, normal power delivery is 60 percent to the rear, 40 to the front.

Just call it Sybil

A4 can have multiple personalities with Audi Drive Select.  Perhaps you and your spouse can’t decide on sport or comfort.  In this case Drive Select isn’t just tech, it’s part marriage councilor . Through buttons on the center stack (and in more detail using the Multi Media Interface) pilots can tailor the steering ratio, transmission shift points, suspension firmness and throttle response to their heart’s content.  Not for the indecisive.  At $2,950 it’s not cheap, but neither is a divorce lawyer.

The A4 is a good looking sedan and to help your image further there’s a hill-holder feature.  Take your foot off the brake when waiting at a stoplight and even on steep grades you won’t roll back into the car behind you.  Always bad form.

A positive stereotype

Audi can always be counted on for well done interiors and once again they’ve done a nice job with the cabin.  Materials and lighting are premium grade and remember, this is what an owner sees the most of.   Seats are comfy but don’t have the side support good for hard cornering, especially with leather.   Audi’s MMI user interface uses a knob and 4 main buttons that relate to what’s in the corners of the screen.   It’s fine but does take a while to get used to.

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Along with Sirius satellite radio, iPods are supported.  Optionally.   It’s a gripe I have with Audi’s pricing.  Basics like iPod integration and Bluetooth for handsfree phone operation cost extra and they aren’t cheap.  In my tester, Bluetooth and iPod interface are part of Prestige package which includes keyless ignition and a great Bang & Olufsen sound system.  Nice, but it’ll set you back $8,700.  Bluetooth alone is $700.  Kia offers phone and music player connectivity standard.  Just saying…

Something new in the back

Last year’s redesign gave the A4 something it never had, decent rear seat room.  To test this space I get comfortable behind the wheel and then check on whether I can tolerate sitting behind myself.   Two average sized adults will be fine, three will be a bit pinched partly due to the drive shaft tunnel.  Foot room is good but with a low seat, knees are up high with less thigh support.

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Rear passengers can adjust the temp a bit with a hot/cold mixer (not dedicated climate zone) and there’s a handy armrest with storage and cupholder.  Like many Volkswagen products, side torso airbags are available in back to augment the side curtain units.  Wish more manufactures would offer these.

A closer look at trunk technology

Bet you didn’t know there was such a thing.  That’s why I’m here.  Pop the decklid of the Audi and it springs up nicely, eager to swallow an arm full of groceries.  That’s the positive side of gooseneck hinge arms.  Unfortunately they take up a small amount of useful space.  At least Audi trims it so the arms don’t scrunch cargo.  Using my old standard, A4 holds 6 packs of Kirkland brand bath tissue, average in class but it has to be wedged in.  The rear seatbacks split and fold for more room.  Not enough?  Go for the handsome wagon, called Avant in Audispeak for even more space.

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So, what to buy?

I’ve spoken of competition- 3 Series, C-Class, G37, CTS, IS.  These are all nice cars, all available with AWD.  Anyone would be fortunate to drive any one of them.  Here’s where the test drive is very important.  Only you can decide.  My take?  Audi’s strength lies in style, power and comfort.  For high performance I suggest the S4 that starts at $46,725.  With its attractive interior, clean distinctive profile and signature daytime running lights that look like electric eyeliner, Audi keeps the refined A4 fashion forward.

FULL GALLERY BELOW.  ALL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY AUDI.

7 Comments

  1. scm2010 says:

    Tom,

    I was just enjoying your review of the Audi A4.
    I live in western Pennsylvania so an AWD vehicle would probably be the way to go for me, this past winter I drove a front wheel drive in the snow. I’ve been driving an ’86 300ZX for a long, long time and really enjoyed it, but am looking forward to a new vehicle, particularly one with automatic transmission and AWD versus the RWD. I recently test drove an A4 AWD last week, and then took a Merceded C-Class AWD for a spin. Hardly any comparison in my opinion with the A4 winning out. Then I drove an Acura TL and while closer to the Audi A4, I think I prefer the Audi A4. Tomorrow I’ll be test driving some BMWs. So far I enjoyed the feel of the Audi for driving as well as the interior features and how the exterior looks the most. I was surprised that the price was better than that of the Acura TL, but that may be due to the engine differences and possibly also reliability.

    Thanks to your review I will also test drive the CTS and G37.

    Any others?

    -Steve

    • TV says:

      I was going to suggest those last two but you beat me to it. Sounds like you’re going for premium brands. On the cheaper end of the AWD spectrum there’s the Suzuki Kizashi, VW CC, and Subaru Legacy off the top of my head. I’ll have the Kizashi piece up in the next day or two. Enjoy your test drives! Let me know how things go Steve… TV

  2. sam.morris96 says:

    Hey Tom,
    I love your reviews, keep up the good work! I was wondering what you think is a better car to buy; a prestige Audi A4 like yours or a fully loaded G37x. I am having a tough time deciding and although I test drove both of them, I still can’t choose. How was your experience been with driving these two brands, and which one would you choose? By the way I do live in the Northeast so AWD is necessary. Thanks.

    • TV says:

      Very tough choice Sam. Really, I’d have to say it comes down to personal preference (and even I would have to think long and hard about this decision). I have a brother-in-law who owns a G35X and he’s had great luck with it. The driving dynamics of the G37 are great and I like the richness of the V6 engine sound.

      That said I prefer the design of the Audi inside and out. If you have the bucks step up to the S4, one of my favorite vehicles.

      Also, have you looked at a Cadillac CTS or BMW 3-Series? Both come with AWD. Both great cars.

      My favorite advice is to simply buy the car you love. Do that and you’ll keep it longer and take care of it better. And while you should you should use reviews by me and others as a guide, don’t use them as a bible. That’s not a cop out on my part, just a reminder that we could be very different.

      Let me know what you end up doing!

      • sam.morris96 says:

        Thanks for the quick reply, and the great advice. The VW CC is a step down from my last car, and two of my friends own 3-series’s (come on, I have to rebel). But the more I think about it, I’m leaning towards the Audi A4. I previously had a Lexus IS 250 (leased), and it was great (albeit the lack of power). Although the power of the G37 is unmatched, the interior is a little too similar to the Lexus. In addition, I do plan to buy a manual Audi A4. Since the Infiniti and Lexus are both automatic, I think a change of pace in transmission is nice. I do not have much experience in driving manual’s, but from the little I’ve driven it I find it more entertaining that automatic. Also, from what I hear, manual cars are more reliable if driven properly. Furthermore, the Audi A4 has better gas mileage, folding rear seats and bigger trunk, better sound system, and the driver information screen in the dash makes it much easier to change songs, etc. while driving. Also from what I understand, the extra fun from the Infiniti G37 compared to the Audi A4 can really only be felt on the track; a manual A4 would do just what a G37 can do on a twisty road, plus the G37 doesn’t have that extra joy in rowing the gears.

        Please do me a favor in reviewing the statements I’ve just made (including your opinion on manual cars), for any outside thoughts are greatly appreciated. Lastly, I wanted to ask your opinion on reliability. I plan to keep this car for 6-10 years. Many say that Audi’s aren’t that reliable while Infiniti’s are, but others say Audi cars now are very reliable. Please help me gain some insight on this topic. I know people say that German cars have more reliable powertrains than Japanese, but much less reliable electronics. I just want to understand the extent of this statement. What am I looking at for these cars during (but especially after) the warranty is up?

        Thank you very much. Sorry for the long reply.

        • TV says:

          I’m on deadline so sorry I’m going to make this brief, I’ve known plenty of cars to go over 150K with no problem with the automatic so I’m not sure that’s much of an issue. If you do mainly highway mileage a manual would be fine, some just don’t like slogging with them in heavy city traffic (even I get tired of it sometimes and I own 2 cars with manuals).

          I’d disagree that it can only be felt on the track though in city driving it’s more subtle. I’m all for an entertaining car 24/7. Both are in the ballpark though. I prefer 3 Series in that department for what it’s worth.

          Reliability is tough to gauge. Yes, many of the brands that have been labeled as high maintenance have supposedly improved. Wish I could bend space and time and tell you if it’s true. The folks at VW have told me how hard they’re trying to rid themselves of that perception but in the end the proof is in the pudding. It seems as though the European and American brands have substantially improved, many rated higher than some Japanese brands in the latest JD Powers long term reliability survey for a number of years now. Buick, Lincoln, Ford, Mercury and Cadillac were all in the top 10 this year I believe. No VW or Audi though.

          The Japanese have some pretty decent powertrains so I don’t know that that statement is true. At this point I’d say you just have to follow your gut, sounds like the research has already been done and you know what you want. I’ll close with telling you to test drive a few others other than A4 and G37. You’re about to fork over 40K+. What can it hurt to drive a few cars that are on the fringe of your list? Believe me, different cars can surprise you. The top 2 I’d say would be CTS and Acura TL.

          So much for being brief… Best of luck!

    • TV says:

      One last suggestion, kind of a wild card. The VW CC comes with AWD and it’s a pretty good bargain. Just throwing it out there…