2009 Audi A4 2.0TFSI Quattro Review


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i DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2009 Audi A4 2.0TFSI Quattro Review

The Audi A4's technical excellence and front- or all-wheel drive prowess have always been first-rate, but since its inception in 1994, its styling has been on the conservative side. While that has undoubtedly added to its attraction for those people looking for a compact sports-luxury sedan that is different from the common choices, a little more flash, tastefully done, wouldn't hurt at all.

And that is exactly what Audi has done for the next-generation 2009 A4. At a quick glance, it looks like its high-performance cousin the S5. And while it leverages familiar styling cues for continuity, the newest A4 is just a touch larger than its predecessors, for more interior space, re-proportioned for both looks and chassis dynamics, and revised under the skin for improvements in safety and performance.

The new A4 is offered in both sedan and sport wagon (Avant in Audispeak) body styles. If the bodies are new, the engines may seem familiar at a glance, as they are the familiar 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or 3.2-liter naturally-aspirated V6. But both have been significantly developed for improved efficiency. Which means more power from less fuel. And the six-speed torque-converter automatic used with both engines has important enhancements for increased efficiency and performance as well. Sedans are offered with the four in front-wheel drive form, with the newly-upgraded continuously-variable (CVT) "Multitronic" transmission, four-cylinder quattro all-wheel drive with a six-speed manual or the automatic, or V6-powered with quattro and the automatic. The Avant is currently offered with the turbo four and automatic in quattro trim only, for an all-weather stealth sports vehicle.

I recently concluded an impressive week with a new A4 2.0T quattro with the automatic and a more than comprehensive sampling of the option list. Most of the $12,790 worth of options emphasized the A4's luxury side, with premium sound, LED daytime running lights as found on the S5 and R8, enough electronic entertainment systems to perhaps qualify for a booth at CES, and more. But I'd give more attention to the Audi Drive Select system, which integrates engine and transmission mapping, steering, and suspension control systems to allow ride qualities, handling characteristics, and reaction times to vary from sporty luxury to purely sport under manual control, or to vary automatically as determined by the onboard computer systems. It's more transparent and less intrusive than some other systems in the same vein, and is entirely in keeping with Audi's high-tech character. Vorsprung durch Technik, as the Audi motto goes - or "advancement through technology". Think of Drive Select as fighter jet technology for the street.

But in truth, all of that is icing on the cake. The basic A4 is an extremely competent car, as always, and with the extra horsepower and torque now extracted from the direct-injected 2.0-liter turbo engine matched with quattro traction it is like no other car in its class. It's the refined offspring of a rally car in a business suit, perfect transportation for all conditions.

APPEARANCE: Attention to detail makes quite a difference. While the newest A4 is still discernibly an Audi, and an A4 at that, every body panel has been subtly and suitably revised. It's longer and wider, with a longer hood and shorter front overhang. The large "monoframe" grille and angular character lines that distinguished the previous generation have been further developed, and for the better. The grille is a little more angular, and lower, and the extra width and longer hood further improve proportions. That, the lower "air dam" extensions on the front bumper fascia, and the wide, low headlights with -- if the optional xenon lights are specified - LED running lights give it a look very much like the S5. Crisp character lines on the sides banish visual boredom from that aspect, and the rear is a pleasant mix of rounded shapes and sharp lines highlighted by the characteristically Audi taillights.

COMFORT: Audi's interiors have long been among the best in the industry, and that won't change any time soon. The new A4 shares much in design, execution, and materials with its more-expensive siblings. Aluminum-bound wood trim is especially elegant. But the A4 has never been a particularly spacious car, especially in the rear seat. That has been remedied. It's not the largest car in its class inside, but it is larger than before, which will especially please rear passengers. Up front, leather power seats are standard fare, and they are as comfortable and supportive as expected from a premium German car. A tilt-and-telescope adjustable steering wheel allows a perfect driving position, and the instruments and center stack controls are directed toward the driver. The main instruments are easy to read, and with the optional navigation system, navigation and audio controls are through the MMI interface button on the console. It has a learning curve, but not as steep as some other German systems. An electro-mechanical parking brake, activated by a small switch on the console, frees interior space. With the optional "Advanced Key", starting and stopping is by a pushbutton on the console. Otherwise, the fob is inserted into a receptacle on the dash. As mentioned, rear passengers get a touch more room, and the trunk, never lacking in an A4, is usefully large, with a 60/40 rear seat split for times when more is necessary.

SAFETY: The 2009 A4 was designed and built with the goal of achieving the highest safety ratings and performance. This comes from controlled deformation of front, rear, and side structures around a strong passenger cell. Adaptive front airbags always deploy fully, and may deflate partially if in minor collision. Side bags are standard in front and optional in the rear, while a full-length head curtain is standard. Strong four-wheel antilock disc brakes, the ESP stability system, responsive handling, and quattro all-wheel drive traction add active safety. Optional rear and side-assist systems warn the driver when vehicles or other objects are in the blind spots.

RIDE AND HANDLING: All parts of the new A4 work together to improve stability, efficiency, and handling. The body design, and attention to underbody and internal airflow, helps stability at speed and reduces wind noise, for a quieter and less-stressful driving experience. Besides improving occupant protection, the new, stronger, more rigid unibody structure helps to improve ride and handling. The suspension, although of similar design to that used previously, uses more aluminum for reduced unsprung weight and resultant response improvements. The longer wheelbase and repositioned drivetrain components mean improved weight distribution. Add in the adaptive, configurable Audi Drive Select variable damping, steering response, and drivetrain response system and quattro permanent all-wheel drive, and the result is a car with an enviable combination of ride comfort, responsiveness to driver input, and grip.

PERFORMANCE: The first-generation 2.0TFSI engine was a sweetheart, with a fine combination of power and drivability. With 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque it made any V6 offered alongside it redundant, especially in a car of the A4's size. For 2009, the addition of variable cam phasing on the intake cam and the Audi Valvelift System (AVS) for variable valve lift on the exhaust cam to the existing high-pressure direct fuel injection and intercooled turbocharging systems raises horsepower a bit to 211 (at 5300-6000 rpm) and torque a healthy amount to 258 lb-ft -- between 1500 and 4200 rpm, meaning that maximum torque is available most of the time the car is being driven. Add a choice of six-speed transmissions in quattro trim, manual or automatic with Tiptronic¨ manual mode, and the result is an excellent combination of performance and economy. Despite the greater power, and acceleration -- 0-60 is around 6.7 seconds with the automatic -- the new A4's fuel economy is better, to the tune of 10 to 15%. EPA ratings are 21/27; I saw 19/28, and that highway mileage was not a simulated 50 mph on a chassis dynamometer... Turbo lag is only a minor concern, and then only if engine revs go below 2500 rpm.

CONCLUSIONS: With the 2009 A4, Audi has made a good car even better.

SPECIFICATIONS
2009 Audi A4 2.0TFSI quattro

Base Price			$ 32,700
Price As Tested			$ 46,675
Engine Type			turbocharged and intercooled dual
				 overhead cam 16-valve inline 4-cylinder 
				 with direct fuel injection, variable
				 intake cam phasing, and variable
				 exhaust cam lift
Engine Size			2.0 liters / 121 cu. in.
Horsepower			211 @ 5300-6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			258 @ 1500-4200 rpm
Transmission			6-speed electronically-controlled
				 automatic with "Tiptronic"¨
				 manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		110.6 in. / 185.2 in.
Curb Weight			3680 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		17.5
Fuel Capacity			16.9 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded regular gasoline
				 recommended for maximum performance.
Tires				P245/40R18 93H Pirelli P6 4 seasons m+s
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 ABS, EBD, ESP standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent five-link /
				  independent trapezoidal link
Drivetrain			inline front engine,
				  permanent all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		21 / 27 / (19/28)
0 to 60 mph				6.7  sec


OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Prestige model - includes:
  18" alloy wheels with all-season tires, Bang & Olufsen
  premium sound system, Audi side assist, Audi rear
  parking system, Advanced Key keyless start/stop, 
  xenon plus headlights, LED daytime running lamps, 
  Bluetooth¨hands-free phone interface, three-zone
  climate control, heated front seats, Homelink¨ universal
  garage door opener, exterior chrome window trim, 
  auto-dimming mirrors, 6-CD Symphony radio, Audi
  music interface, memory for driver's seat and exterior
  mirrors, driver information system with trip computer,
  rain and light sensors				$ 7,300
Audi Drive Select					$ 2,950
Navigation Package with camera - includes:
  DVD-based navigation system, voice control,
  color driver information system, rearview camera	$ 2,500
Ash almond beige interior trim				$   400
Destination charge					$   825

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