The 2014 Audi A4 may look a little different with its recently updated styling, but underneath it's essentially the same A4 that went on sale back in 2009. Well, there's one notable difference: Audi discontinued the optional V6 engine shortly after the current A4 debuted, so the 2014 A4 continues to offer just one engine, a turbocharged 4-cylinder.
Until recently, the 4-cylinder A4 was doing just fine, thank you very much. But now other luxury brands have hopped on the turbo 4-cylinder bandwagon, and the A4's engine may be outgunned. Even with an extra 9 horsepower for 2014, Audi's 2.0T motor trails rival turbo 4-cylinders from BMW and Cadillac, and its fuel economy isn't great, either. Also, Volkswagen's CC features a similar 2.0T engine at a steep discount.
Still, the A4 has a lot to offer. The optional quattro all-wheel-drive system makes the most of those 220 hp, and the A4 does outperform the 201-hp Mercedes C250. Moreover, Audi has worked wonders with the A4's handling, now close to class-leading in our estimation. And from its beautifully trimmed interior to its unusually spacious back seat, the A4 is an exceptionally pleasant car.
So despite the power shortage, we think the 2014 A4 is well worth a test drive. Between the A4's refreshed styling and impressive all-around talents, there's more than enough here to set it apart from the crowd.
What's New for 2014?
The A4 gets an extra 9 hp and standard iPod/Bluetooth connectivity. Also, keyless entry with push-button start is now standard on the Premium Plus trim level.
What We Like
Athletic handling; upscale interior; cool technology features; surprisingly roomy back seat
What We Don't
Mediocre engine, undesirable continuously variable automatic (CVT) in base model, standard front seats lack support
Every A4 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder rated at 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive and a CVT are standard, while the optional quattro all-wheel-drive system brings a choice of a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic.
Fuel economy is 24 miles per gallon city/32 mpg hwy with the CVT, 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy with the manual transmission and 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy with the automatic.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Audi A4 sedan is offered in three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige.
The Premium ($34,695) comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a sunroof, leather upholstery (an unusual standard luxury in this class), 12-way power front seats, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, single-zone automatic climate control, the Multi-Media Interface system with a dash-mounted control knob, Bluetooth connectivity and a 10-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input, an SD card reader, satellite radio and iPod integration.
The Premium Plus ($38,195) adds 18-in alloy wheels, xenon headlamps, LED taillights, auto-dimming mirrors, keyless entry with push-button ignition, driver memory functions, heated seats and tri-zone automatic climate control -- meaning the rear passengers get their own separate climate controls (another unusual feature).
The Prestige ($43,495) goes to town with adaptive xenon headlamps that include LED running lights, a blind spot warning system, rear parking sensors, MMI Plus with navigation and a console-mounted joystick knob, and a 14-speaker, 505-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system.
Many of the higher trims' features are available on lower trims as options. Among the other niceties, depending on the trim level, are adaptive cruise control and the Sport package, which adds sport front seats, a sport-tuned suspension, a 3-spoke steering wheel and shift paddles for automatic-transmission cars. Also included with the Sport package is the Drive Select system, which allows the driver to adjust settings for steering, transmission (automatic models only) and throttle response.
Standard with MMI Plus is Audi connect, which employs a 3G data connection to integrate Google Maps into MMI Plus. Additional Audi connect features include Google search with voice-command functionality, real-time weather and travel information and mobile Wi-Fi connectivity for up to eight devices.
The 2014 Audi A4 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes and six airbags (front, front side, full-length side curtain). Rear side airbags are optional on Premium Plus and Prestige.
In government crash-testing, the A4 received a perfect five stars overall, including five stars for both frontal and side impacts. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the A4 its highest rating of Good in every category except the new "small overlap front" test, which has been a struggle for most cars thus far.
Behind the Wheel
The A4 has a sprightlier character than the rival 3 Series -- the steering wheel rims have thinner diameters, and the car generally feels lighter on its feet, even though the scales say otherwise. The base suspension calibration is fairly conservative by sport-sedan standards, however, so we advise enthusiastic drivers to step up to the Sport package, which elevates the A4's handling to near class-leading status (and adds those superior sport seats) without compromising ride quality too much. On the highway, the A4 is a champ, tracking straight and true with nary a vibration at any speed. Particularly with the softening of the latest 3 Series, the A4 has emerged as one of the top driver's cars in this segment, though the Audi's power deficit holds it back.
The front-wheel-drive-only CVT is kind of the A4's dirty secret. We've found this transmission neither responsive nor particularly refined, and it seems to sap some of the engine's power. Although quattro will cost you another $1,000 to $3,000, it's well worth the upgrade, as both of the quattro models' transmissions are satisfying devices.
Other Cars to Consider
BMW 3 Series -- The recently redesigned 3 Series sedan boasts amazingly strong and efficient turbocharged engines, including both gas and diesel options.
Cadillac ATS -- Is there a new champion athlete in this segment? Cadillac thinks so with its Nurburgring-tuned ATS, but as an all-around package the A4 still gives the Caddy a run for its money.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class -- The C250 sedan's turbocharged 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder actually makes the A4's engine feel powerful, but the Mercedes also offers muscular V6 power if you want more urge.
We suggest avoiding the front-wheel-drive A4 with the CVT and targeting the Premium Plus quattro with the Sport package. It's the best mix of luxury, performance and value.