The 2012 Audi A4 continues as the German automaker’s best-selling car. The fourth-generation entry-luxury 4-door sedan is stylish, nicely equipped and roomy, with good road manners rivaling those of BMW’s 3 Series. A sport-wagon version of the fourth-generation A4, dubbed the Avant, is also available, upping the sedan’s modest 12 cu ft. of trunk capacity to an SUV-like 50.5 cu ft. with the rear seat folded down. Both sedan and wagon versions carry five passengers and offer a solid structure, a supple multilink suspension and autobahn-worthy brakes. The A4 convertible available in previous model years is now designated the A5. All A4s come with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine. The 3.2-liter V6 engine from previous years is no longer available. Buyers who want a V6 engine will need to upgrade to the S4 performance model.
Although front-wheel drive is offered in the base A4 sedan, the all-road, all-weather quattro all-wheel-drive feature sets Audi apart in the marketplace. The optional Audi drive select system allows the driver to tailor throttle response, transmission shifts, steering response and shock-absorber damping to Dynamic, Comfort or Winter modes, or adjust each individually.
New for 2012 is standard S-line exterior appearance with 10-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels on the Premium Plus and Prestige trims. See the 2012 Audi A4 models for sale near you
What We Like
Excellent quattro all-wheel drive; slick-shifting 8-speed automatic; good fit and finish; luxurious cabin; sporty ride and handling; good crash-test scores; solid feel; comfortable front seats
What We Don’t
Continuously variable automatic transmission in front-wheel-drive models; somewhat touchy Audi Multi Media Interface (MMI) infotainment system
Fuel Economy & Engine Specs
The sole A4 engine offering for 2012 is a direct-injected 2.0-liter 16-valve 4-cylinder turbo that develops 211 horsepower and a generous 255 lb-ft of torque. Premium unleaded fuel is recommended but not required. Front-wheel-drive versions work through a continuously variable automatic transmission that simulates eight gear ratios. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the front-wheel-drive 2.0T returns 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. With quattro all-wheel drive, the automatic switches to a newly available and more efficient 8-speed Tiptronic transmission that’s EPA-rated at 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy. There’s also a 2.0-liter quattro version with a 6-speed manual gearbox, rated at 21 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2012 Audi A4 is available in Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige trims.
The typical Premium trim includes such standard equipment as 17-in alloy wheels, leather seat trim, power front seats, driver’s-seat adjustable lumbar, aluminum interior trim, a power sunroof, fog lamps, automatic climate control, cruise control, a leather-wrapped shift lever, a tilt-telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote audio controls, remote keyless entry, a split-folding rear seat, a 10-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with a 6.5-in display, SiriusXM radio, Audi’s MMI system, a trip computer, stability and traction control, an anti-lock brake system, dual front and front-seat side-impact airbags, overhead airbags, power locks, power windows and power side mirrors.
Moving up to the Premium Plus trim brings the S-line exterior appearance, 18-in alloy wheels, the Bluetooth phone and iPod audio interface, the HomeLink system, a trip computer, rain-sensing wipers, automatic xenon self-leveling headlamps, heated front seats with driver’s-seat memory and auto-dimming mirrors.
Typically, the top-of-the-line Prestige adds the 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, an advanced key, side assist and a navigation system with a 7-in display.
Major options include the Audi drive select system, rear-seat side airbags, adaptive cruise control, dynamic steering, a sport suspension, sport seats and the S line package, which brings 19-in alloys, summer tires, leather/Alcantara seat trim, a flat-bottom steering wheel, shift paddles, a black headliner, headlight washers and ground-effects exterior trim.
The A4’s robust sales ensure a good supply of used examples. Demand is much higher for quattro all-wheel-drive examples, so expect to pay more for them than front-wheel-drive A4s. Because the cost of maintenance and repair for European vehicles tends to run higher than most, expect to pay a significant premium for lower-mileage used examples.
As of the writing of this report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued no safety recalls for the 2012 A4.
Recall repairs are required by law, even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and, if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.
Safety Ratings & Warranties
The NHTSA gave the 2012 A4 sedan and Avant wagon a 4-star overall rating, with four stars for frontal impacts and five for side impacts and rollover performance.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the 2012 A4 sedan a Top Safety Pick, with Good ratings for moderate-overlap front and side impacts, roof strength, head restraints and seats. However, tougher subsequent standards resulted in a Poor rating for the 2012 A4 in the small-overlap front crash test. The IIHS did not rate the 2012 A4 Avant wagon.
Audi of America sold the 2012 A4 with 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties and a 12-year/unlimited-distance corrosion-perforation warranty.
Audi certified pre-owned vehicles must be less than 5 years old and have no more than 60,000 miles on the odometer. Every certified pre-owned Audi A4 undergoes a 300-point inspection. Those that pass receive a 2-year/50,000-mile limited warranty (it doesn’t cover audio or navigation systems), which takes effect when the original new-car warranty expires. Also included is a Carfax vehicle-history report and 24-hour roadside assistance.
Other Cars to Consider
2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class — The C-Class may be the smallest Mercedes sedan, but it still carries the brand’s virtues of solidity, quality and comfort in a fun-to-drive package. It’s freshened for 2012, and engine choices include a new 201-hp 1.8-liter turbo 4-cylinder, plus the carryover 228-hp 3.0-liter V6 and 268-hp 3.5-liter V6, all hooked to a 7-speed automatic transmission. Both rear- and 4Matic all-wheel drive are available. For performance buffs, there’s an AMG C 63 version with a spine-tingling 451-hp 6.2-liter V8.
2012 Lexus IS — The Lexus IS is the luxury brand’s smallest and sportiest sedan, available with a weak 204-hp 2.5-liter V6 or a peppy 306-hp 3.5-liter V6. Both come with rear-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic, but the 2.5-liter can also be had with all-wheel drive or a 6-speed manual transmission. The back seat is a bit tight. Fit and finish are up to usual Lexus standards. A convertible version with a retractable roof is available, as well as a high-performance IS F sedan with a 416-hp 5.0-liter V8.
For an entry-luxury sport sedan with good all-around performance and a chassis that can handle all types of roads and weather, it’s hard to beat the A4 with quattro all-wheel drive. While more thrifty, the front-drive A4 is less popular due to the unusual drive characteristics of its continuously variable transmission. All 2012 A4s have the 211-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo, which, thanks to its ample 255 lb-ft of torque, delivers pleasing performance. If you’re looking for higher levels of driving fun, check out the S4 quattro model, with its 333-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V6.
Any A4 trim, from the Premium and Premium Plus to the Prestige, will do, as all are well-equipped. Much more important are condition and mileage, because European brands can prove more costly to maintain and repair. For that reason, look for a certified pre-owned A4 or, if not available, search for a lower-mileage example that has seen obvious care. If not certified, have a mechanic go over the A4 from nose to tail and get a car-history report to root out cars with serious accident repairs, flood damage or salvage titles. Make sure the Audi A4 you consider has had any applicable safety recalls performed by the factory-authorized dealer.