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2009 Audi A4 Sedan 2.0T Quattro Review

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MORE:Compare Audi Specs and Prices - Audi Buyers Guide

Agile, Attractive and Admirable
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

I continue to be impressed with the amazing competence of the Audi Quattro all-wheel drive system. This is the third time in the last few years that I’ve been testing a Quattro during some of our most treacherous Michigan snow storms. The first – a Q7 - and second – an A6 – brought me safely through ‘lake effect’ snows on the way to the Chicago Auto Show. Cars and trucks –even semis – were filling the ditches and median, while I skittered along at a good pace barely feeling the Audi gently correcting itself in the wet, freezing slush and heavy snow.

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This week I got out front of another bitter cold accumulation of winter flotsam coming rapidly in from the southwest. We were on our way to the funeral of my friend Bob’s 101 year-old mother in a little town two hours east of here. The A4 was a quick, pleasant ride on the way over just ahead of the storm, and really showed its mettle on the way back, as the roads quickly iced over. Again, lots of cars were in the ditch. Six cars were snuggled up to the concrete barrier on I-69 in Flint, 3 of them facing the wrong way, with a couple of tow trucks and a cop car presiding over the mess.

But, again, we were skittering along confidently at a good pace feeling the Audi gently correcting itself on the icy, snowy freeway.

This A4 – updated for the ’09 model year - is a thoroughly modern design both inside and out. Audi continues to successfully court the up-scale buyer with this sophisticated, attractive little sedan that also comes in a station wagon, or “sport wagon” if you prefer, called Avant and two Cabriolets. The Cabrios are last generation and come in regular and “S” versions. We can expect a Cabrio based on the new generation soon, we’re assured.

As with most redesigns, this one is bigger than its predecessor, increasing wheelbase by 6.3 inches. Other dimensions increase a tad as well. That extra wheelbase allows for more rear seat room as well as an admirably deep, cavernous trunk displacing 16.9 cu-ft. It does not, however, make for larger door openings. I found it particularly cramped getting into and out of the driver’s door. Yes, I know, I’m an oversized guy, but I don’t have nearly such a hard time with other small and mid-size sedans. That low roof line contributes to nice styling but not to easy ingress and egress. Once in, however, the seats are comfortable and supportive, but the cockpit still felt cramped to me.

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I have always found Audi controls, as well as many other German systems, less intuitive and sensible than US and Japanese cars. The air flow mode icons, for example, are confusing and it takes some serious attention and concentration to learn and manage all the systems. Once figured out, of course, they’re fine. But expect some confusion to begin with. Fit, finish and quality of materials are impeccable, as you might imagine for this class of car.

Styling is not quite as conservative as we might expect from Audi, but is certainly attractive, I think most would agree. Audi has been a style-setter since it’s been in the US market, but is not known for cutting-edge or bold design. This one just flirts with being bold. The squinty-eyed head lamps glow with slick, curved lines of LED daytime running lights. Multiple flowing lines move gracefully rearward for a fast look. The stance is low and wide with substantial front overhang. But that front view is still aggressive. Blacked-out upper door frames give it a coupe look and the C-pillar slopes quickly toward an arbitrary point above the rear bumper. And, they’ve achieved a drag coefficient of just .28, which is really sleek and slippery.

Under the hood we find the smaller of two engines available in the A4 – the 2.0-liter turbo-charged, 4-cylinder that cranks out 211 horsepower (up from 200 last year) and 258 ft-lbs of torque. That’s more torque than the available 3.2-liter V6, by the way. We feel just a hint of turbo lag, mostly from a standing start. Once spooled up the power is right there. Car & Driver got a 0-to-60mph time of 5.7 seconds, but Audi claims only 6.7. “Only 6.7” we say. That’s still mighty quick. EPA numbers indicate 19-mpg in the city and 27 on the highway with 91-octane fuel is recommended. We observed about 24-mpg average in mixed, but very cold, conditions this week with this 3,400-pound car.

As I alluded to earlier, Quattro is the charm. The system has been around since the early 1980s and has evolved over the years. Starting out using a mechanical, locking differential distributing torque to all wheels equally all the time, it is now electronically controlled and integrated with a sophisticated electronic stability control system allowing a variable torque split depending on conditions - a smart system, indeed. Under normal driving the system is rear-biased at 40/60 to give a rear-wheel drive feel.

Suspension is sophisticated as well with multi-links up front and trapezoidal links in the rear. Ride is excellent under all the situations we encountered this week including our jouncey country road that has already begun to heave in anticipation of spring. It’s also very quiet inside. Over all, the A4 provides a convincing up-scale, luxury experience.

As I was returning the car a few days ago I encountered a deserted parking lot covered with about four inches of wet, packed snow. I pushed it around as hard as I could in circles with ESP engaged, but the car would not allow me to slide. Then I turned the ESP system off with the little button on the console and had a wild time sliding in any direction I chose. What a hoot!

The A4 Sedan comes in three trim levels – Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. Our tester is the top-level Prestige showing a base price of $40,825. Of that price $7,300 is the Prestige Package that includes: 18”, 5-spoke alloy wheels, Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, Audi parking system (rear), Audi side assist, keyless entry and starting, Xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lights, Bluetooth phone interface, three-zone climate control, heated front seats, Homelink openers, memory settings, driver info system with trip computer and rain/light sensor. Take away the Premium Package and you still have a sun roof, leather, Sirius Satellite radio, hi-line steering wheel with lots of controls, a full compliment of air bags, lots of safety equipment and admirable content over all.

Warranty is 40,000-mile/5-year plan with 12-years coverage on body rust perforation and a year, or 5,000-mile free service plan.

The Audi A4 is a bit pricey, though certainly not out of line with other small entry-luxury cars like the BMW 3-Series, MB C-Class, Lexus IS, and many others. This is, after all, a remarkably crowded market segment. Characteristic of this genre is a trend toward individuality, and the A4 stands out from the crowd well in content and concept – particularly in a snow storm.

MORE:Compare Audi Specs and Prices - Audi Buyers Guide

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved