Though it's going on two years since its last full redesign, the 2011 Audi A4 continues to present a fresh, if rather conservative, face. It backs it up with abundant technology, very good fuel efficiency, and fair performance. MotorAuthority rates the 2011 A4 an 8 overall.
Styling is more aggressive on the new A4 than in previous models, and it's much more engaging than the more staid models further up the Audi range, but it's still not as dramatic as rival offerings from BMW or Mercedes-Benz. If you like to fly just under the radar in a car best appreciated by those in the know, however, the A4 may be what you're looking for.
The 2.0-liter four-cylinder delivers 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, enough to hustle the A4 along at brisk, if not breathtaking speeds. Power delivery is somewhat peaky, however, coming on in a rush once you clear the 2,500 rpm mark, occasionally leaving launches or slow merges into traffic in the lurch until the boost builds. Despite the fun to be had with the engine, we are left wishing it sounded a bit better; over about 4,000 rpms, the tone becomes coarse and boomy.
Opt for the much more impressive S4, and you'll get a supercharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder good for 333 horsepower. Paired with the same quattro all-wheel drive system that's available on the standard A4, the S4 is a performance animal, with the sound, feel, and acceleration you'd expect from a true performance sedan. It also gets interior and exterior upgrades to look the part as well, though like its pedestrian basis, it manages to snarl while remaining discreet.
Steering is much improved over the previous generation of A4, and generally among the better examples in the class, avoiding the over-boosted, too-light feel many cars have gone for of late. Feedback isn't perfect, but there's enough roadfeel to keep the driver engaged, if not enough to comfortably approach the limit. Braking is probably the weakest spot of the A4's overall performance equation, with low-speed stops made jerky by grabby pads and over-boosted power assist. From speed, however, the brakes work very well.
Handling, on the whole, is much like the steering: good, but not great. Low-profile tires and large 18-inch alloy wheels that come with the Sport Package improve cornering and responsiveness, but deliver a somewhat over-firm ride.
As usual, you can count on Audi for a comfortable, well-appointed, stylish interior. It's not as far ahead of the pack as it once was, but it's still fully in the mix with the best in its class. Most of the materials are A-grade, but the odd metalized plastic trim can look a bit below its pay grade. The rear seat is a bit tight, but like the front seats, it's comfortable for those that fit.
Technology offerings are impressive for an entry-level luxury sedan, particularly the available Bang & Olufsen stereo system. Sirius Satellite Radio with real-time traffic, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, and iPod hook-ups are also available. New for 2011 is an optional HD Radio kit, Nutmeg Laurel wood trim, and a Titanium Sport options package.
Read TheCarConnection's full review of the 2011 Audi A4
for a complete look at the luxury sedan's strengths and weaknesses, features and faults.