SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 28,790 Price As Tested $ 40,155 Engine Type VIVT* DOHC 30-valve 2.8 Liter V6 w/SMFI** Engine Size 169 cid/2771 cc Horsepower 190 @ 6000 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 207 @ 3200 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 102.6"/68.2"/178.0" Transmission Five-speed manual Curb Weight 3521 pounds Fuel Capacity 16.4 gallons Tires (F/R) 205/60R15 H-rated all-season Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/all-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content N/A Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.31 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 17/27/23 0-60 MPH 9.0 seconds 1/4 Mile (E.T.) 17.0 seconds @ 85.5 mph Top speed 130 mph * Variable intake valve timing ** Sequential multi-point fuel injection
( Matt Hagin says Audi has a full lineup from the impractical, but cute TT coupe to the stately A8. Bob Hagin says the most practical of the bunch is the small A4 sedan with the mid-sized 2.8 liter V6 engine.)
BOB - Most of Audi's promotional emphasis is on its TT Coupe, a cute little sportster that's about as practical as an ocean-going canoe. I feel that way because I'm getting older and I've come to appreciate a more practical and comfortable all-around vehicle like the Audi A4. It's not so big that you need a riverboat pilot to park it on city streets, but it's not so small that you have to strap stuff on the top if you want to transport some extra cargo. And with 190 horsepower and 207 pound/feet of torque pulling 3500 pounds, its performance is good enough to easily stay up with traffic.
MATT - Our test A4 had the Quattro all-wheel-drive option. The Quattro system was a pioneer in the auto industry 16 years ago and turned the conventional Audi coupe into a street charger. It helped that it had a powerful turbocharger but last I looked, those 1983 versions are still selling for five times the going price of an Audi sedan of the same vintage. I remember testing that model back then and it had a push-pull button on the dash that activated its Quattro system. This the modern model is fully automatic, so it's "on" all the time. During normal road conditions, the majority of the engine's power is sent to the front wheels. As those conditions change, the power can switch itself to an even split to all the wheels. In some severe situations of mud and snow, the Quattro system can even divert itself to a single wheel if that's the only one of the four that has traction. This technology is very advanced and very helpful.
BOB - All this Quattro mechanical "magic" is operated through three differentials, the one in the middle being the "splitter." It works in conjunction with the anti-lock braking system and it's all controlled by the on-board computer. It sounds like race car stuff, but it works so seamlessly that the driver and passengers never really feel the switch. The same system can be had on the A4 Quattro Avant which is a fancy name for the A4 station wagon. There are a couple of other A4 models in the fleet, too. The hottest of these four-doors is the S4 2.7 Quattro which is the same general configuration as our tester, but with a slightly smaller V6 engine that has been transformed into a street-racer by the addition of a pair of turbochargers. This bumps the horsepower up to 250, with a suspension to match. The A4 can also be had with a twin-cam four-banger that has been muscled-up via a single turbo. This A4 1.8T version is usually displayed in yellow or some other bright color and Audi sort of alludes to it as a "boppy" young adult's entry-level luxury car. We've driven that one, too, and it's a blast to drive.
MATT - That little turbo powertrain worked so well for Audi, it loaned the engine, sans a few horsepower, and sends it to Volkswagen for its New Beetle Turbo. All the Audis, including the A6 and the V8-powered luxo A8 utilize sophisticated mechanicals like a high-tech four-link front suspension that literally does away with the torque-steer that often accompanies high-powered, front-drive cars. The interior has a drop-down full-side air "curtain" that helps protect everybody inside from side impact, while the rear seat has additional side bolstering. The Audi press package, where we get much of our information, makes much of the fact that the interior trim can be selected with "Ambition," "Ambiente," and "Advance" styling cues. These labels are actually colors and other ancillary trim pieces that are supposed to fit the buyer's self-image but to tell the truth, I couldn't see a differences except for the color and texture of the upholstery material. When we tried three A4s with the three interiors, my mood stayed the same in each.
BOB - I sometimes don't understand that self-image thing, Matt. That's why I drive an old, beat-up van every day. I do understand and appreciate variable-valve timing and intercooled turbochargers but those subtle nuances like integrated color schemes that interact with textures seem to go right over our heads.