2012 Audi A4 2.0 TFSI Quattro Ride and Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2012 Audi A4 2.0 TFSI Quattro
Audi's compact A4 sports sedan is little-changed for model year 2012, and congratulations to Audi for that. No major changes were needed. As ever, the A4 combines elegant simplicity in form with prowess in function. Standard and optional equipment levels for the various trim levels have been tweaked a bit, and there are changes to packaged and standalone options. Audi knows what some manufacturers forget: Don't mess with a good thing.
I last drove an A4 in late 2008, just after the current generation debuted. The biggest change since then was discontinuance of the optional 3.2-liter V6. Why drop what would be expected to be the performance engine in a sports sedan? Because, with 211 maximum horsepower, and more importantly 258 lb-ft of torque from a low 1500 rpm, the standard 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injected engine made the V6 redundant. Less weight in front, from a lighter engine, makes for better handling, and the smaller engine is less thirsty. Top speed with the V6 might (might) have been higher, but that's irrelevant anywhere but the Autobahn. Audi's 2.0T is a jewel of an engine, and is perfectly suited as power for a compact premium sports-luxury sedan -- that can hold its own against one with apparently more engine quite well, especially when the Audi is in all-wheel drive quattro® spec.
The entry-level A4 has a front-wheel drive spec, with the multitronic® continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Above that are the quattros (small "q"), with a choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic (Tiptronic®) transmissions. Trim levels for all are Premium (base), Premium Plus, and Prestige.
My test car was a Prestige model with the manual transmission, S-Line trim package, and Sport Package sport suspension and interior upgrade. As such it was a fine definition of a German sports-luxury sedan, emphasis on sport but with no lack of comfort for long times and distances in the car. quattro all-wheel drive is not merely for winter security, it improves traction and power delivery on any surface in any weather condition, adding to cornering and maneuverability, and so active safety. If cold numbers don't seem to proclaim the A4 best in class, numbers are not everything. Balance is important, and balance the A4 has.
APPEARANCE: In the current A4, Audi has fully integrated its oversized "monoframe" grille into the curved shapes and contrastingly sharp character lines of the body. It's elegantly understated in major form, with interesting, cohesive details. Large grilles and LED daytime running lights are all the rage now in automotive fashion -- and both styling features started at Audi.
COMFORT: Form follows function, but there's no reason for the form to be visually boring, or worse, overly complex. Audi has been a leader in interior design and style for well over a decade, and keeps ahead of the competition by simple and functional design that also has visual appeal and creative use of materials. The A4 is a fine example sharing much in design, execution, and materials with its more-expensive siblings. Aluminum-bound wood trim, another now-copied Audi styling innovation, is especially elegant. The A4 is not the largest car in its class inside, but the current version is larger than older ones, especially in the rear seat, a worthwhile reason for a little growth. Trunk space has always been an A4 strength, and that continues. 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. A variety on upgrades add can convenience.
SAFETY: The A4 was designed and built with the goal of achieving high 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.
Watch TACH's exclusive Audi A4 TFSI promo video
RIDE AND HANDLING: All parts of the A4 work together to improve stability, efficiency, and handling. The clean 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 occupant protection, the strong, rigid unibody structure helps to improve ride and handling. The suspension, although of similar design to that used in earlier versions, uses more aluminum for reduced unsprung weight and quicker response to driver and road inputs. A longer wheelbase than in earlier models, 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. My test car had the Sport Package, which meant a 20mm reduction in ride height and slightly firmer suspension calibration. It's a proper sports-luxury tuning, capable and comfortable and completely appropriate.
PERFORMANCE: The original 2.0TFSI engine had a great 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. In 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 raised 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. Turbo lag is a non-issue unless the engine is lugged at too low revs, which is one of the worst things that can be done to an engine. Keep the revs up! The new eight-speed automatic should work well, with shorter steps between gears and Tiptronic manual mode. The manual works perfectly, and with the engine's wonderfully broad and strong torque production shifting is usually optional, with any of two or three gears a possible choice. Shift action is very good, and the stick is a bit lighter than the automatic, for small improvements in both acceleration and economy. EPA mileage is 21mpg city, 31 highway. I got 23 overall, despite minimal attention to economical driving.
CONCLUSIONS: Audi's A4 combines elegance and refinement with excellence in road manners and power delivery to make a first-class sports sedan.
2012 Audi A4
Base Price $ 33,300 Price As Tested $ 45,675 Engine Type DOHC 16-valve turbocharged and intercooled inline 4-cylinder with direct fuel injection, variable lift on exhaust valves Engine Size 2.0 liters / 121 cu. in. Horsepower 211 @ 4300 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 258 @ 1500 rpm Transmission 6-speed manual Wheelbase / Length 110.6 in. / 185.2 in. Curb Weight 3616 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 17.1 Fuel Capacity 16.9 gal. Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline Tires P255/35 ZR19 96Y Continental Conti SportContact 3 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 / 31 / 23 0 to 60 mph 6.5 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES A4 Prestige model -- includes: 18" 10-spoke alloy wheels, auto-dimming interior mirror w/compass, auto-dimming heated exterior mirrors, Convenience Package (iPodÂ® cable, HomeLinkÂ® garage door opener, prep for BluetoothÂ® mobile phone), Driver Information System w/trip computer, heated front seats w/driver memory, S-Line exterior package, split-folding rear seatback, adaptive xenon front lighting with LED DRLs, three-zone climate control, Audi advanced key, Audi side assist, Bang & Olufsen sound system, rear acoustic parking sensors, Audi MMI Navigation Plus $ 9,500 S Line Plus Package -- includes: 19" 5-arm rotor design wheels with summer tires, S-Line leather/AlcantaraÂ® sport seats, brushed aluminum inlays, black cloth headliner, black optic exterior trim package $ 1,250 Sport Package -- includes: Front sports seats w/4-way power lumbar, 3-spoke steering wheel, sport suspension $ 750 Destination charge $ 875