Reviews

2013 Audi A4 Walk Around

The A4 is a stylish sedan and shows it; and the more and closer you look at it, the better it gets. It's clean but not dramatically dynamic. The freshened face for 2013 tries to keep the A4 from looking dated, as the basic styling has been with the car since its last redesign for the 2009 model year.

The grille on the 2013 model is downsized at the edges, backing away from its in-your-face attitude (that is so 2009). There's more apparent modernization at the headlamps for 2013, which are well done, sleek and small in the broad face of the car. In fact, they're smaller than the black air intakes at the bottom of the clean invisible bumper. The LED daytime running lights are thin lines around two-thirds of the perimeter of the lamps, and look very cool.

With such a large grille to deal with, a wide horizontal swath across it (part of the bumper) is solid, but it still seems like there are a lot of horizontal ribs in the face of the car. Black bars in the grille of the S4 help this.

The character lines on the sides of the car work, with body-colored door handles. A sharp ridge runs from the rocker behind the front wheel rising to a point at the middle of the rear wheel, and this rise affects motion and accentuates the length of the car. There's another higher line that flows slightly arced over the front fender, straight back under the windows, and tapers down a tiny bit to the taillight; use your imagination a lot, and it rolls like smoke over a car in a wind tunnel. You have to look to see it, and it's most visible from the front three-quarter view, but it can be lovely.

There are five wheel designs, some of them new. The standard 17-inch wheels are 10-spokes, and they look classy and terrific; ironically, the optional five-spoke 17s for wider tires are horrible. Both of the 10-spoke 18s, for all-season and summer tires, are unique, and that's hard to do nowadays. The 19s lack the distinction they should have. We're not a fan of the biggest wheels and tires anyhow. They stick well but don't ride so well, and both tires and wheels cost a lot to replace when you burn them up or break them. The 17-inch tires with taller sidewalls are better for rough roads.

The S4 turns heads, with a presence befitting its power. Its stance is low in front thanks to a sport suspension, and shows off an aluminum hood, black grille and air intakes, splitter below the front bumper, four exhaust pipes with rear diffuser, and more aggressive wheels and tires. It looks great in red from the front, with the black contrasts there.

Interior

It's quite busy in the cabin of an A4, but not in a bad way. There's just a lot that's available to control, and thankfully it's all fairly easy to reach. The console and center dash are angled toward the driver, and the center armrest top slides forward, enhancing ergonomic comfort.

The chrome-ringed speedometer and tachometer aren't cluttered by graphics, and the instrument lighting is easy on the eyes, but the gauges lack the pristine functional beauty of the BMWs; same for the three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, however there's an optional cool flat-bottomed Audi wheel. There are controls on the steering wheel, thumb wheels that spin and click through what you need, in particular on the display located between the speedo and tach. It can show the transmission gear, radio info, fuel range and economy, temperature and more. On the Prestige model, trip computer data, cruise control distances, and navigation data are added.

The seats are excellent, standard in black or dark gray Nappa leather; standard leather is not something that all the A4's competitors offer. And the S4 sport seats are even more excellent, for their bolstering, Alcantara inserts and embossed S4 logos. Contrasting stitching also highlights the seats, as well as the leather-covered shifter and flat-bottomed steering wheel. Standard interior trim is brushed aluminum; options include stainless steel, carbon fiber, or wood.

The A4 seats have standard driver lumbar adjustment, and the headrests raise and lower; the angle isn't adjustable, but not many are. Often we wish they were. The tilt-telescope steering wheel enables drivers to find a place that works for them.

New trim on the dash includes more chrome than before, and that's not so great, with inlays in aluminum, walnut, ash, or oak. But overall, it's unlikely you'll find a more appealing interior, at the A4's base price. Automatic climate control with manual ability is standard on the Premium model. On Premium Plus and Prestige models, there's three-zone climate control: both front seats and the rear. The standard audio system handles most inputs, while the optional Bang & Olufsen system offers 505 watts and 14 speakers. Even with so much packed into a small four-door, storage spaces still show up all over the place, from seatbacks to center armrests to a roomy glovebox.

We think the shift lever is awkward and bulky, it doesn't fit smoothly in your palm and feel good like the BMW; also, the gate for the manual mode on the automatic transmission shifter should be on the left, the driver's side, not the right.

We like that the optional MMI Navigation function has had the number of buttons reduced from eight to four, although the round control itself is big enough to block the view of the two buttons on its far side. We're getting used to Audi's Multi Media Interface, and it's getting easier, so this time we can say: no issues in getting the information on the 6.5-inch color screen, or setting the climate control. But, having driven BMWs with 10-inch screens that can display navigation and audio at the same time, we like screens bigger.

The rear seat is okay for two people, with 35.2 inches of legroom, about average against its competition: same as the BMW 3 Series, but two inches less than the Buick Regal (which makes it on a wheelbase that's three inches less than the Audi). The floor hump in the center will keep an adult from riding there, but kids can endure it. The rest of the time, a good center armrest folds down with cupholders and storage. A nice touch is LED footwell lights. The rear headrests don't get in the way of the driver's rear visibility in the mirror.

Trunk space is 12.4 cubic feet, about the same as the BMW 3 Series, but less than the Regal's 14.2 cubic feet, and way less than the Sonata's 16.4 cubic feet. But with the rear seats folded, you get a vast 34 cubic feet.

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