2009 Audi A4

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$30,700

starting MSRP

2009 Audi A4

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

The good:

  • Ride quality
  • Cabin materials
  • Trunk space
  • Well-executed folding backseat
  • Superb premium stereo option
  • Gas mileage

The bad:

  • Nose-heavy handling
  • Not as quick as some competitors
  • Some complicated controls
  • Automatic could be more responsive
  • No manual transmission with V-6
  • Wide turning circle

16 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Notable features

  • Redesigned for 2009
  • 211-hp turbo four-cylinder or 265-hp V-6
  • Front- or all-wheel drive
  • Available LED daytime running lamps
  • Manual or automatic
  • Sedan or wagon body styles
  • Convertible and S4 still based on previous generation

2009 Audi A4 review: Our expert's take

By Kelsey Mays

The verdict:

Versus the competiton:

For every S-Class that Mercedes sells, nearly four C-Class sedans head out the showroom door. Nearly half of BMW sales belong to the 3 Series. Talk all you want about six-figure flagships, but most luxury shoppers end up choosing entry-level sport sedans, so it’s no surprise the segment is jampacked with excellent choices. Audi’s contender is the A4, redesigned for 2009 with a raft of power and luxury upgrades. Performance purists might look the other way — even at its limits the A4 isn’t as entertaining as a 3 Series or Infiniti G35 — but I suspect most drivers will find it engaging enough. Add in a family-car level of everyday livability, and the new A4 merits serious consideration.

The sedan comes in 2.0T and 3.2 variants, respectively indicating a 211-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder or a 265-hp V-6. An Avant wagon comes only as a 2.0T. I drove the 3.2 with standard Quattro all-wheel drive on hilly roads around Elkhart Lake, Mich. My test car was a European version, but apart from a few cosmetic changes and features we won’t get, it’s the car that will arrive here this fall.

The 2009 versions of Audi’s A4 convertible and high-performance S4 sedan will be carryovers from the previous generation, which you can compare to the new A4 sedan here. Expect a redesigned convertible, S4 and range-topping RS 4 for 2010 or 2011.

How it Looks
At a glance, the A4’s styling changes seem modest, on par with the previous generation’s mid-2005 face-lift. The most dramatic changes are in the details: The scalloped headlights have been swapped for more streamlined ones with optional R8-style LEDs around the main bezels. The wide-mouth grille is larger and lower, and the taillights borrow the cleaner look of the platform-related A5 coupe.

Redesigns often bring growth spurts, and the A4’s puts it ahead of many competitors. Though still a compact car by EPA dimensions, the sedan has grown about 5 inches in length and 2 inches in width over its predecessor, putting its footprint between its German peers and some of the domestic and Japanese competition. Less competitive is the A4’s wide, 37.4-foot turning circle, which trails all but the all-wheel-drive 3 Series.

Dimensions Compared
  Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Turning circle (ft.)
2009 Cadillac CTS 191.6 72.5 58.0 35.0 – 36.0
2008 Infiniti G35 187.0 69.8 57.2 – 57.8 35.4 – 36.1
2009 Acura TSX 186.1 72.4 56.7 36.7
2009 Audi A4 185.2 71.9 56.2 37.4
2009 Mercedes C-Class 182.3 69.7 56.3 – 57.0 35.6 – 36.5
2008 Lexus IS 180.1 70.9 56.1 – 56.7 33.5 – 35.5
2008 BMW 3 Series 178.2 71.5 55.9 36.1 – 38.7
Source: Automaker data. AWD variants account for taller heights and larger turning circles. A4’s turning circle is with AWD or FWD.

The 2.0T’s grille comes in gray, while six-cylinder A4s wear a glossier black schnoz. In the basic Premium trim, the 2.0T lacks the LEDs, but you can add them by upgrading to a Premium Plus or Prestige edition. The 3.2 comes in Premium Plus or Prestige trims. An optional S-line package adds 19-inch alloy wheels and ground effects, which you can check out in the thumbnails on the right. Lesser A4s have 17- or 18-inch rims.

Cabin Quality
It’s difficult enough to differentiate the dashboards in the A5 coupe and A6 sedan. Now the A4 joins that ilk, which is certainly not a bad thing. A 6.5-inch center display sits beneath the same cowl as the gauges; with the optional navigation system, the display grows to 7 inches. Either way it’s controlled by Audi’s Multi-Media Interface. Characteristic of most Audis, materials quality is excellent: Most surfaces are soft to the touch, and just about every switch or knob has a low-gloss, well-crafted finish.

I can’t enthuse about how the things actually operate, however. I’ve dinged Audi and sibling brand Volkswagen for this before, but I like my controls to have consistently damped motions when I click or turn them, like those in most Lexus and Acura models. The A4’s don’t: The window switches and climate knobs operate with vague uncertainty, and some of the other buttons feel downright brittle.

I’m equally perplexed by some of the layouts. The outgoing A4’s moonroof dial, a standard-setter for its ease of use, has been replaced by a clumsy knob that isn’t nearly as intuitive. Last year’s seat-warmers were operated using simple thumbwheels below the temperature controls; now, like in other Audis of late, you can only adjust them after futzing through a submenu on the climate-control screen. The sun visors, like in many European luxury cars, don’t extend to cover the full side window. Lame.

As knob-based setups go, MMI is midpack. It’s easier to use than BMW’s iDrive, but not as intuitive as Mercedes’ Comand. The A4’s system follows the likes of Audi’s A5, A6 and A8. An array of shortcut buttons allow quick access to the major menus, and four directional keys help sort through the labyrinth of submenus. A well-marked “return” button — something most versions of iDrive still lack — brings you back to the previous screen, and zooming in or out on the navigation map requires just a quick crank of the knob. Not so easy is map scrolling: You have to dial coordinates on an X- or Y-axis, then spin the wheel feverishly to move the cursor east/west or north/south. That alone makes me yearn for the touch-screen setup Lexus and some Infinitis employ.

In other areas, though, versatility is a strong point. The center armrest raises and extends forward to support arms of all sizes, and the tilt/telescoping steering wheel has plenty of range. I found ample legroom and headroom up front, and the leather seats provided decent lateral support — impressive considering they’re the most basic offering. Sport seats with larger bolsters are optional, as are even shapelier S-Line seats with Alcantara inserts. Check out the photos at right to compare them.

The basic single-CD stereo boasts 180 watts, 10 speakers and an auxiliary MP3 jack. Premium Plus A4s add full iPod integration, while Prestige models have a 505-watt, 14-speaker surround-sound stereo from Danish pros Bang & Olufsen. My test car came thus equipped. For this class, the audio quality is stunning. I usually stop paying attention to a stereo after a few songs, but here I had to listen to all 10 tracks of “Dark Side of the Moon.” Twice. Competing Bose and Harman units just don’t come close.

The rear seat is a bit low to the ground, but two adults can fit comfortably. Cargo dimensions lead the segment, and a 60/40-split folding backseat, unavailable on the G35 and Lexus IS, is standard. The resulting opening is enormous and ledge-free, and the outboard seat belts sit within gutters to stay out of the way. The center belt mounts in the seatback rather than the rear shelf, so it stays out of the way when you fold the seat. Few family sedans have it this good.

Roominess Compared
  Headroom, front/rear (in.) Legroom, front/rear (in.) Trunk volume (cu. ft.) Folding backseat?
2009 Audi A4 40.0/37.5 41.7/35.2 16.9 Yes, on all models
2008 Infiniti G35 39.1/37.2 43.9/34.7 13.5 No
2009 Cadillac CTS 38.8/37.2 42.4/35.9 13.6 Yes, on some models
2008 BMW 3 Series 38.5/37.5 41.5/34.6 12.0 Yes, on some models
2009 Acura TSX 37.6/37.0 42.4/34.3 12.6 Yes, on all models
2008 Lexus IS 37.2/36.7 43.9/30.6 13.0 No
2009 Mercedes C-Class 37.1/36.9 41.7/33.4 12.4 Yes, on some models
Source: Manufacturer data. All but CTS have moonroofs; CTS specs w/moonroof are unavailable.
Editor’s note: The video linked to the right incorrectly states the A4 and C-Class have similar trunk volumes, as Mercedes originally listed 17.4 cubic feet for the C-Class. The correct volume is listed above.

Cargo room in the Avant totals 17.3 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 50.5 cubic feet with them down. That puts its cargo area slightly ahead of a 3 Series wagon (16.2 cubic feet), though the Bimmer comes out ahead in seats-down volume (60.9 cubic feet). The Avant comes standard with a panoramic moonroof, and a power tailgate is optional.

How it Moves
The majority of A4 sales will be 2.0T versions. Though Audi hasn’t published percentages, spokesman Chris Bokich said the 2.0T’s weight distribution should translate to better handling balance than the 3.2 sedan’s more nose-heavy setup. My test car wasn’t sloppy by any stretch, but for all-out fun, it gives up something to the rear-wheel-drive 335i or G35.

Audi has no immediate plans to offer the 3.2 with a manual transmission. Quattro all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic are standard. Both should prove adept partners for confident acceleration — not the sort of gut-flattening punch you get in the BMW or Infiniti, but enough to swap lanes with a direct-injection CTS. The automatic upshifts smoothly but sometimes holds stubbornly to higher gears when you need a lower one. A Sport mode solves much of this, but I’d prefer if it downshifted on deceleration a bit more aggressively. Brake hard coming into a corner, and it often sticks to third or fourth gear, leaving you flat-footed accelerating out.

Fortunately, Audi’s capable Tiptronic manual mode allows drivers to override this tendency. It hammers off quick shifts, complete with downshift rev-matching, and it won’t dally in the intermediary gear if you want to skip two gears at a time. Steering-wheel paddle shifters are optional, but the tiny gear indicator within the gauges is too small to see at a quick glance.

The 2.0T Quattro sedan also comes with a six-speed automatic, but in early 2009 there will also be a stick-shift option. Audi will also market a front-wheel-drive sedan with a continuously variable automatic transmission. The Avant wagon comes only as a Quattro automatic. Thanks to a number of upgrades, the four-cylinder actually delivers more torque across a lower rpm band than the V-6, and according to Audi’s acceleration figures it’s nearly as quick with the stick shift.

Drivetrains Compared
  2.0T sedan 2.0T wagon 3.2 sedan
Engine 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder 3.2-liter V-6
Horsepower @ rpm* 211 @ 5,300 – 6,000 211 @ 5,300 – 6,000 265 @ 6,500
Torque (lbs.-ft. @ rpm)* 258 @ 1,500 – 4,200 258 @ 1,500 – 4,200 243 @ 3,000 – 5,000
Drivelines AWD or FWD AWD AWD
Transmissions 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto (AWD); CVT auto (FWD) 6-speed auto 6-speed auto
0 – 60 mph (sec.) 6.5 (AWD manual); 6.7 (AWD auto); 7.1 (FWD CVT auto) 6.9 6.3
*With premium gasoline; regular diminishes output somewhat.
Source: Automaker data

The A4’s double wishbone front and multilink rear suspension comes in base or sport-tuned setups. There’s also an adaptive option with variably damped shock absorbers, which my test car had. The latter setup is a centerpiece to Audi Drive Select, an option with either engine that allows drivers to alter steering precision, automatic-shifting response, suspension settings and accelerator sensitivity between three possible settings. Audi isn’t the first to offer such a feature, but competitors often relegate it to their high-performance variants, so it’s nice to see the technology making its way to the (affluent) masses.

Dial ADS to its cushiest levels and the A4 is an easy driver, with light steering, a comfortable high-speed ride and modest body roll in quick maneuvers. At the other end, Dynamic mode, the steering becomes weightier at low speeds — though not as weighty as a 3 Series or G35 — and, thanks to variable steering assist and ratio, delivers noticeably sharper turn-in precision. The transmission engages Sport mode, and the car’s cornering is significantly flatter. Bumps bring more noise into the cabin, but ride quality stops short of outright brittleness.

Even then, the A4 never feels quite as balanced as some of its rivals. Throw it into a corkscrew turn, and the front wheels swing wide with understeer. Quattro defaults 60 percent of power to the rear wheels, but even with the electronic stability system off it’s nearly impossible to kick them wide. Not every all-wheel-drive system trades hang-the-tail-out fun for stability, and in any case the A4 feels nose-heavy — not as much as a front-wheel-drive Acura TSX, but certainly less balanced than the segment’s best rear-wheel-drive cars.

When active, Audi’s Electronic Stability Program can be rather intrusive. Coming hard into an uphill corner, the system abruptly cut my throttle and upshifted — not the sort of response I want in a performance-minded car. The brakes, in contrast, strike a nice balance between performance and daily driving. The pedal feels stronger than that of the C-Class; it isn’t as confident as the brakes in a 3 Series or G35, but its linear response makes theirs seem unnecessarily grabby. After a couple hours of hard driving, I noticed only slight brake fade.

Gas mileage with either engine is impressive. Another bonus: Audi, like Infiniti and Acura, merely recommends premium fuel. BMW, Mercedes and Lexus require it. Cadillac does one better, actually recommending regular fuel for the CTS.

Gas Mileage (city/highway, mpg)
  2WD AWD
Audi A4 2.0T 23/30 (auto) 21/27 (auto), 22/30 (manual)
Acura TSX 21/30 (auto), 20/28 (manual)
Lexus IS 250 21/29 (auto), 18/26 (manual) 20/26 (auto)
BMW 328 19/28 (auto), 18/28 (manual) 17/25 (auto and manual)
Cadillac CTS 3.6 18/26 (auto), 16/25 (manual) 17/25 (auto)
Mercedes-Benz C300 18/25 (auto), 18/26 (manual) 17/25 (auto)
Lexus IS 350 18/25 (auto)
Audi A4 3.2 17/26 (auto)
BMW 335 17/26 (auto and manual) 17/25 (auto), 16/25 (manual)
Cadillac CTS 3.6 DI 17/26 (auto), 16/25 (manual) 17/26 (auto)
Mercedes-Benz C350 17/25 (auto)
Infiniti G35 17/24 (auto), 17/25 (manual) 17/23 (auto)
Source: Manufacturer and EPA data for 2008 sedans; A4, CTS and TSX data are for 2009 sedans.

Safety
The new A4 has yet to be crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The car’s six standard airbags include the required frontal devices, side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for both rows. Traction control and an electronic stability system are also standard; side-impact airbags for the rear seats are optional.

Standard antilock disc brakes sit at all four wheels, and a brake drying feature keeps the discs dry in wet weather. An optional Dynamic Steering system can vary power assist and steering ratio, not unlike BMW’s Active Steering. It can also lend a hand to maintain stability: Get into a skid, and the stability system can direct Dynamic Steering to actively countersteer. Active Steering lends assistance in a similar fashion, though BMW says it won’t correctively steer if the driver does nothing. Audi’s system will.

Optional adaptive cruise control maintains a programmable distance behind the car ahead, and its radar system can sound a tone and tap the brakes to alert the driver if an obstruction looms. (Note that the warning system works even if a cruising speed hasn’t been set, but Audi says cruise control itself has to be switched on. Some drivers like that feature to be fully off when not in use.)

Features & Pricing
Excluding the destination charge, the 2.0T Premium with Quattro all-wheel drive and an automatic transmission comes nicely equipped at $32,700. Standard features include leather upholstery, power front seats, 17-inch wheels and a moonroof. Premium Plus and Prestige editions add ascending features, while the aggressive S-line sport package comes only on the Prestige. Expect a loaded 2.0T to run just over $50,000. In any edition, the 2.0T Avant commands a $1,800 premium.

The 3.2 sedan comes in Premium Plus and Prestige editions starting at $40,000. Expect a fully loaded 3.2 to run about $55,000; features at that level include a navigation system, a power rear sunshade, Bang & Olufsen audio and a backup camera.

The A4 goes on sale this fall. Audi has yet to announce pricing on the front-wheel-drive or stick-shift sedans, which arrive early next year, but you can expect both to undercut the current $32,700 sticker by a significant amount.

A4 in the Market
A fine line runs between dynamics and comfort. Stray too far to one side, and you’ll have a rip-snorting Sunday driver that runs you ragged by Wednesday’s commute. Run too far to the other, and you have — well, the new TSX. In many ways, Audi redefines the balance: It makes par for visceral driving enjoyment, and it comes out way ahead for the daily drive.

The idea behind a sport sedan has always been to package athletic moves with passenger-friendly confines — namely backseats, trunks and a few luxury goodies. In its redesign, the A4 sets the bar for just how far that concept extends. If you’re shopping the competition, think hard about Audi’s contender.

Send Kelsey an email  

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.7
  • Interior design 4.6
  • Performance 4.5
  • Value for the money 4.3
  • Exterior styling 4.8
  • Reliability 4.2

Most recent consumer reviews

4.9

Best bang for the buck

Put it in comfort mode it is like a luxury cruiser, put it in sport it turns into a beast. Even with enthusiastic driving the gas milage is good.

5.0

Great condition

This is a very nice car. It drive smoothly. Tires are nearly new. Oil has recently been changed. The car interior color is amazing. Seats have heating and are leather.

5.0

Very comfortable and fun to drive.

This is the best car I’ve owned. Drives smooth and has a very attractive and aggressive appearance. The first and only owner was a Florida resident who took excellent care of it so it’s been extremely reliable and well maintained. Ice cold A/C and top quality Audi Symphony sound system. All around awesome car.

See all 94 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Audi
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
5 model years or newer/less than 60,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
1 year/unlimited miles after expiration of new vehicle limited warranty or from date of sale if the new vehicle limited warranty has expired
Powertrain
N/A
Dealer certification required
300-plus-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

Compare the competitors

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2009

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