2012 Audi A4

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Change year or car

$32,500

starting MSRP

2012 Audi A4
2012 Audi A4

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

The good:

  • Torque-rich turbo engine
  • Interior materials quality, fit and finish
  • Comfortable front seats
  • Gas mileage

The bad:

  • Minimal steering feedback
  • Tight backseat for adults
  • Grabby brakes
  • Folding backseat not standard

5 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2012 Audi A4 trim comparison will help you decide.

Notable features

  • Available eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Sedan or Avant wagon
  • FWD or AWD
  • Available LED daytime running lights

2012 Audi A4 review: Our expert's take

By Mike Hanley

The verdict:

Versus the competiton:

Editor’s note: This review was written in March 2011 about the 2011 Audi A4. Little of substance has changed with this year’s model. To see what’s new for 2012, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

With sales more than double any of its brand siblings, the Audi A4 entry-luxury sedan is effectively Audi’s ambassador in the U.S. The R8 supercar might grab more publicity, but the A4 is the car that average customers are most likely to encounter.

After driving the sporty A4 with its refined interior, it’s clear that it’s not entry-level: it’s near the top of its class.

I tested an A4 sedan with Quattro all-wheel drive and the new-for-2011 eight-speed automatic transmission. This version starts at $34,500, but with options our as-tested price reached $43,220. To see a side-by-side comparison of the A4 and some of its competitors, click here.

Turbocharged Power
Audi has wrung quite a bit of performance from its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which powers all versions of the A4. Whether accelerating from a stoplight or merging on the highway, the engine feels bigger than it is, bringing you up to speed more quickly than its specs suggest. There’s even a little power in reserve on the highway when a burst is needed. All in all, it feels just as strong as the BMW 328i with its inline-six-cylinder engine. Credit the turbo four-cylinder’s healthy 258 pounds-feet of torque at a low 1,500 rpm.

Our test car had the newly optional eight-speed automatic transmission. Despite the high gear count, the transmission doesn’t seem overly busy, and that’s partly because of its relatively seamless shifts. However, one editor noted that the transmission had a tendency to hesitate under light acceleration.

Downshifts come quickly enough with a jab of the gas pedal. If it needs to, the transmission will skip a few gears to get to the one it needs, rather than step down one at a time. A Sport mode holds the transmission in lower gears longer, and there’s a clutchless-manual mode for driver-controlled shifts.

The A4 gets better gas mileage with the new transmission, which is especially welcome because the car requires premium gas. The all-wheel-drive A4 is rated at 21/29 mpg city/highway with the eight-speed automatic, which represents a 2 mpg improvement in highway fuel economy compared with the six-speed 2010 model. Meanwhile, the front-wheel-drive A4 with a continuously variable automatic transmission gets an EPA-estimated 22/30 mpg.

The A4’s four-wheel disc brakes quickly shed speed, but the brake pedal doesn’t offer the greatest feel. I thought the brakes were a little grabby, while another editor commented on the lack of pedal linearity when braking.

Ride & Handling
The A4’s regular suspension (a Sport suspension is optional) is stiff, which keeps body roll in check, but the tuning isn’t so firm that driving on rough pavement is jarring. There’s no question the emphasis is on sporty driving, but Audi wisely realizes that a car like the A4 also has to keep its occupants comfortable during daily commutes. With the regular suspension, it does.

It’s worth noting that our test car had winter tires. While appropriate for the conditions, they likely affected the car’s character compared with the all-season tires it normally wears. Winter tires have softer rubber compounds for better grip in cold weather — along with more aggressive tread patterns — which affects handling, acceleration and road-noise levels, among other things.

While the firm suspension tuning is common among German luxury cars, the steering feels like it’s been sourced from Lexus. At low and midrange speeds, the wheel turns easily and with little effort. Unfortunately, there’s also little feedback. However, a pronounced change occurs when you reach highway speeds, where the steering firms up and feels sharper.

The A4’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system features rear-biased torque distribution for improved dynamics. Even though it powers out of corners without feeling nose-heavy, it’s still not as engaging as a rear-wheel-drive BMW 3 Series or Infiniti G37.

A Classy Cabin
Audi cabin quality has long been among the best in the industry, and the A4’s interior continues that trend. What distinguishes Audi interiors isn’t just the use of high-quality materials, like real aluminum accents, but also the finish of the various trim pieces and the way they fit together well. Then you have the little touches, like a center armrest that not only slides forward and back, but also ratchets up and down.

In the past few years we’ve seen more attention to interior quality from brands like Cadillac (with its CTS) and Infiniti (with the G37), but the A4’s cabin remains one of the nicest spaces in the class.

The front bucket seats are finished in standard leather upholstery. By comparison, many competitors like the 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and CTS make do with simulated leather upholstery in base models. The A4’s firm seat cushions provide good support and comfort, and the front of the cabin is big enough for my 6-foot-1 frame.

The backseat, though, is a little cramped. Just getting into it is difficult for taller adults, because the door opening isn’t very large. Once seated, I didn’t have much room to spare with the driver’s seat adjusted for me, though indentations in the backs of the front seats provide some extra knee clearance. Taller people sit with their knees elevated some, which doesn’t bode well for long-drive comfort. Still, it’s more comfortable than the backseat of a 3 Series sedan.

The A4’s trunk measures 12 cubic feet, which is similar to what competitors offer. The trunk has a nice rectangular shape for fitting luggage, and the split-folding backseat — previously standard but now optional like it is on the 3 Series and C-Class — creates a sizable opening for carrying longer items. 

Safety
The A4 was recognized as a 2011 Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It received the highest possible overall score from IIHS — Good — in frontal-offset, side-impact, roof-strength and rear-impact testing.

Standard safety features include antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for both rows of seats, and an electronic stability system. Rear-seat side-impact airbags are optional.

For a full list of safety features, check out the Standard Equipment & Specs page.

A4 in the Market
One of the A4’s biggest strengths is that it appeals to luxury shoppers in a number of ways. If you’re concerned about gas mileage, it’s comparatively thrifty. If you like fine furnishings, the cabin will feel like home. Plus, there are a number of available high-end features to interest technophiles. It may not offer the pure driving experience of a 3 Series, but in the areas that matter most in this part of the luxury segment, the entry-level A4 stands tall.

Send Mike an email  

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.7
  • Interior design 4.7
  • Performance 4.7
  • Value for the money 4.4
  • Exterior styling 4.8
  • Reliability 4.5

Most recent consumer reviews

4.6

A very good car for its age and mileage

I’m a fan of the Audi vehicles in general and this older model hasn't let me down. The high mileage (120,000) is a concern but she has met most of my test so far. The body has some minor dings but overall in great shape. The interior is impeccable. The previous owners obviously took good care of this Audi as I can see as well as service records from Carfax.

5.0

Great car,very pleased with it

It's great,very sporty,and looks great,handles awesome, love everything about the car. Very comfortable and luxurious,love the color and the sporty wheels. The comfort of the inside is amazing

4.7

Best car I’ve owned. 105k and counting

I was not able to select A4 Avant wagon in the cars.com drop down list. This review is for the Audi A4 Avant wagon. I really love the wagon with Quattro. 2012 was the last year before it was rebranded as just the Allroad. Bought this car brand new after ordering it through Audi dealership. Premium Plus model specifically. Size works great for my family, but if I had a bigger family, we’d probably out grow this car. So for three people it works great. Turbo 2.0T mated to Quattro 8-speed drivetrain is purely a joy. Recently drove the San Juan Skyway in Colorado at altitudes to 12-14k ft. The car was at home at the high altitudes and mountain roads of Colorado. I have had A4 front wheel drive loaners. The fwd Audi’s are not near as good as the Quattro awd system. I have the Audi roof rack and have hauled mountain bikes and roof top cargo carrier. The roof rack can be a little tedious set up, and requires occasional fine tuning to adjust the roof clamp type brackets. The unscheduled maintenance has been few. Some type of crankcase relief valve failed and was serviced by a Volkswagen dealer due to proximity to an Audi dealer being too far. The valve cover leaked around 80k miles and required new seals and repair. When we moved to a different climate the fuel tank developed a leak above the gas tank. Not sure if it was due to change in climate-dryer air? More specifically, the fuel pump/tank sending unit seal failed resulting in strong petrol smell in the car. Well, the gas tank is below rear cabin bench seat. I don’t plan on selling this car. Can’t part with ease of a wagon for its storage and lift gate. Also love the turbo and Quattro. I have carried 8’ sheets of plywood when ripped down at the home store to narrower size. 8’ boards do fit when the bench seat is folded down but the 8’ boards will come up between the front seats.

See all 49 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?

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