The A4 is the most popular car in Audi’s current lineup, accounting for a full 50 percent of the brand’s sales in the United States market. With numbers like that, Audi was careful to ensure that the 2013 facelift and mild refresh given the A4 enhanced its appeal instead of diminishing it.
The compact luxury sedan market is a tough one to compete in, and Audi’s A4 faces challengers like the hallowed BMW 3-Series, the Mercedes-Benz C Class and even the new kid on the block, Cadillac’s ATS. Thankfully, the A4 comes in enough variants to satisfy nearly every sedan buyer, from the front-drive 2.0T Premium to the high-performance, all-wheel-drive S4.
We think the restyling helped the car’s appearance quite a bit. Its grille, now reduced in size, adds to the car's frontal appearance without dominating it. Headlights are downsized, too, as the latest fashion dictates, yet the fog lamps are slightly more pronounced to give the car a more sporting look. Range-topping S4 models wear a more aggressive body kit and come adorned with metallic trim, but the basic shape of the car is unmistakable as an A4.
We’re generally fans of Audi’s interiors, and the A4 certainly doesn’t disappoint here. Whether you opt for wood or aluminum trim, the cockpit feels warmer to us than the techno-inspired trappings of other luxury sedans. Controls are where you expect them to be and the overall feeling is one of high quality, from the materials used to the fit and finish. Opt for the S4, and you can choose a piano black and steel trim package that further enhances the look of the red-stitched sport seats.
Opt for an A4, and your sole choice of engine is Audi’s beloved 2.0-liter TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder. Though it has some turbo lag, the engine feels stronger than its 211 horsepower would have you believe, especially when linked to the six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic available on quattro models. Front-wheel-drive A4s come only with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which trades off responsiveness and driving enjoyment for better city fuel economy. We’d pick a quattro model with the six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic ourselves, as both deliver better highway fuel economy (and significantly more fun) than the CVT.
The S4 gets a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, rated at 333 horsepower and mated to either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. Audi’s quattro AWD is standard equipment, and it helps the S4 dash from 0-60 mph in less than five seconds, on the way to a governed top speed of 155 mph. While it may not match the BMW M3 or Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG for performance, the S4 will likely seem more sensible as a daily driver than its German rivals.
All A4 models handle relatively well, but Audi gives buyers the ability to up the ante with options like a sport package, Audi Drive Select and Dynamic Steering. Be sure to drive a sport package equipped model before checking the option box, as the ride quality may prove to be too firm for some buyers. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an A4 that attacks curves like a pit bull on a pork chop, the S4 will likely be the most satisfying.
Inside, front seats are comfortable enough even in base models, though we find the optional sport seats (included on S4 models) to be our favorites. There’s room enough in the second row for two adult passengers to be comfortable, though seating is provided for three. Taller passengers won’t be happy with rear-seat leg room, and the rear seat sits low to the floor to boost headroom as much as possible.
Though the list of standard features is lengthy (including power seats, leather seating surfaces and satellite radio), some obvious choices are still considered options. Why is Bluetooth phone integration, for example, included on Volkswagen models but not on the Audi A4?
On the other hand, Audi does offer some impressive available features, like its Google Earth and Google Street View based navigation system (which requires a subscription to Audi Connect), its 3G wireless mobile hotspot capability and its superb Bang & Olufsen audio.
Prices for the A4 range from $33,395 to $45,245 (including an $895 destination charge), while S4 models are priced from $48,495 to $56,145 (including destination).
For a more detailed look at the 2013 Audi A4 and S4 models, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection