As car journalists, we’re supposed to use hyperbole and humorous metaphor to describe cars. It’s a way of making a car review or story more interesting, more engaging. However, sometimes all of that has to go out the window and a car just needs to be called what it is — a damn good car. That’s exactly what the new B9-generation Audi A4 2.0T Quattro is. A damn good car.
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Recently, Audi let me borrow an A4 for a week and it was an interesting week for me to have a press car. I was finishing up moving out of my condo and it was a Murphy’s Law affair if there’d ever been one. Literally everything that could go wrong did go wrong; even something as simple as a fire-inspection, as my smoke detectors decided not to work properly.
So I was having a rough week of moving out, calling electricians, borrowing trucks from family members and just a lot of long nights, cramming work in between running back and forth between the new house, old house and storage unit. It was incredibly hectic to say the least. Yet, through all of it, the Audi A4 remained a bright spot.
Knowing that I was taking the A4 from point to point was something that always brightened my day, despite a shadowing fog that seemed to cast over the entire week. While it’s not the most exciting looking car, its Moonlight Blue Metallic paint was quite handsome looking and its interior was a welcome place after a long day of exhaustion and frustration, covered in lovely Nougat Brown leather and filled with life-easing technology.
No matter the day, no matter the circumstance, I knew the Audi A4 was going to be solid, dependable, comfortable and enjoyable. Regardless of what I needed from it, I knew it could provide. If I just wanted something comfortable and calm to move me from place to place, it could do that effortlessly, while also providing easy-to-use technology and a rich Bang & Olufsen sound. If I needed to blow off some steam and tackle some twisty roads, it could do that, too.
And that’s really what stuck out to me during my week with it; its impressive breadth of ability. Is it the most engaging car on the road? No. Is it the most luxurious? No. Is it the highest-tech, best-built or highest-performance? No, no and nope. But it’s a little bit of all of those things and it manages to blend them all together so well, so seamlessly that it becomes one of the best daily drivers I’ve ever driven.
The tester I was given was a loaded model, a 2018 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro Prestige with all of the bells and whistles. It wore the aforementioned blue paint and brown leather and just looked premium and expensive. Admittedly, it was expensive, wearing an as-tested sticker price of about $52,000. And out tester didn’t even have the Sport Package or adaptive dampers. So it can get even pricier.
Having said that, I’d spend it myself. It’s rare that us car journalists admit that we’d ever actually spend our own money on the cars we test. That’s because we understand the market well and understand which cars are worth the money and which aren’t. Maybe some journos might disagree with me but, in my humble opinion, the Audi A4 is worth every penny.
When you open the doors, get in and close them, you get this feeling of high-quality, this sense that you’re in something that is actually expensive. The doors close with a quality *whoomph* and the interior materials are nearly faultless. In higher-end models, you also get some of the coolest tech in the business, such as the ever-so-brilliant Virtual Cockpit. I’ve tested it a thousand times, it feels like, but it never ceases to amaze me. The ease with which you can switch between screens, bring up a massive Google Maps screen, make a phone call or change the radio station, all without taking your hands off the steering wheel and barely averting your eyes from the road, is always astonishing.
Then there’s the actual ride itself. Our car was on the standard suspension, with no adaptive dampers or even the Sport Suspension, which was fine, if I’m honest. The enthusiast in me shuns any car that lacks sporty suspension. However, the suspension felt composed, buttoned-down and sporty enough to tackle fast sweepers without issue. Sure, there was a bit more body roll than I would have liked and the ride height looked a bit too tall but it never felt floaty and always felt tight and composed.
The benefit of that standard suspension is comfort, though. Over New Jersey’s pitiful roads, the Audi A4 always felt supple and well damped, without ever lacking the sort of road feel that one wants in a German car. I’d even go as far as to say the standard suspension setup of the Audi A4 might be better than the standard setups of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Plus, I sort of like just having one suspension setup, without any adaptive dampers. It’s the way it used to be, with just one setup that worked well and you learned to drive it properly, rather than have a bunch of settings, none of which are just right. Honestly, I’d suggest buyers keep the standard setup and forgo the adaptive dampers. If you ever need something sportier, get a set of KW or Bilstein coilovers, as they will be more adjustable and sportier anyway.
As for the steering, it’s very typical of modern Audis. Its light in weight, but not overly light, and the weight loads up nicely as you add steering lock. On center, it’s accurate, with just a bit of a dead spot to keep it from feeling twitchy but off center, there’s a nice feel of weight building to give you a sense of what the front tires are doing. It’s lacking genuine steering feel but it’s accurate and responsive, doing exactly as it’s asked. Which, honestly, is all I look for in modern sports cars, as steering feel is all but dead nowadays, regardless of manufacturer.
The best part of the Audi A4 is its powertrain, though. Packing a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, making 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, the A4 is quick to 60 mph, doing the sprint in 5.6 seconds. That time is actually what Audi claims, we suspect it to be quicker than that. It’s a punchy little engine that delivers all of its power with silky-smoothness befitting a much larger engine. It’s up there with the best four-cylinder engines on the market.
However, the star of the powertrain is actually the transmission. Thanks to a seven-speed dual-clutch, S-Tronic gearbox, the A4 snaps off shifts like a mid-engine exotic. Pull the right paddle and the tach needle drops with the speed of a Porsche 911 and, bang, it’s in the next gear. It’s instantaneous and far more entertaining to use that the eight-speed auto you’ll find in other competitors, even though that eight-speed auto is brilliant. The A4’s dual-clutcher is also smooth, which is surprising. When setting off from a stop, there’s none of the jerkiness that can plague dual-clutch gearboxes. It’s not exactly as smooth as a traditional automatic but I never noticed myself wanting for one, either. If there’s a complaint, it’s the plastic steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters which are bland, boring and some of the least tactile paddles I’ve ever used. It’s a complaint I have on all non-RS Audis.
Though, when it’s time for the A4 to be a practical family car, it’s surprisingly capable of that as well. Most cars of its size struggle to fit my son’s child seat in the back without forcing my 5’6″ wife to scrape her knees against the dash as she gets in. While the A4’s front passenger seat did have to be moved forward to fit the car seat behind, it was better than in the equivalent rear-wheel drive German and my wife’s knees were left unscathed.
The trunk is also surprisingly capacious, as it was able to pack two backpacks, a diaper bag, a foldable play-pen and two strollers with room to spare.
After my week with the Audi A4, I was sad to see it go. Not because it thrilled me, not because it pampered me but because it was just so good at everything it did, and because it was such a faithful companion, that I wished it was mine. I wished that it was in my driveway permanently. It’s a Jack of All Trades, if you will and just a really good car.