If you’re looking for information on a newer Audi A4, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Audi A4 Review
Right now, the 2018 Audi A4 is probably the top choice among premium compact sedans. Considering how good the competition is, that’s really saying something. And we say “right now” because when the 2019 model year rolls around and BMW introduces a new 3 Series, our opinions might change. Might. Not that the A4 is really so compact. The rear seats will accommodate adults with ease.
Audi’s design department has once again indulged in its taste for sparse elegance. Nothing looks out of proportion or out of place. It’s a subtle skill and deceptively difficult to pull off. That seems to be the A4’s defining characteristic — being undeniably classy without being ostentatious.
There’s also a more performance-oriented 2018 S4, reviewed separately.
What’s New for 2018?
After the debut of a new generation last year, not a great deal. But the basic model receives heated front seats as standard, the other trims also receive more standard equipment, and a Black Optic cosmetic package has been introduced. This includes some black/red bodywork, gloss-black 18-inch alloy wheels, red-painted brake calipers, black materials with red stitching in the cabin, and a flat-bottom steering wheel. See the 2018 Audi A4 models for sale near you
What We Like
Precise styling, fresh technology, adult-friendly space in the back, ride quality, cabin
What We Don’t
Not the sharpest handler in its class.
The A4 in Ultra form has a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine developing 190 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. It’s linked to a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual (think of it as an automatic) with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles and drives just the front wheels.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), estimates fuel consumption at a fairly impressive 27 miles per gallon in the city, 37 mpg on the highway and 31 mpg in combined driving.
The “regular” A4 has the same engine, with output boosted to 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. It also has the same automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard with this engine, and buyers may choose a 6-speed manual transmission for the same price.
The all-wheel-drive/automatic configuration achieves 24 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined. Swap in the manual transmission and the EPA puts fuel use at 24 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined.
Both versions of the engine have a stop/start function to save a little gas while idling.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Audi A4 2.0T comes in Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels. The economy-minded Ultra setup is available in all trims, and that’s where our starting prices are based. It costs an extra $4,500 for the more powerful engine, but that also brings all-wheel drive into the deal.
The Premium ($36,975) starts out with 17-in alloy wheels, push-button start, a sunroof, leather seating surfaces, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated/8-way power-adjustable front seats (plus 4-way lumbar adjustment in the driver’s seat), a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, power windows, ambient LED cabin lighting, drive-mode selection, automatic xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, rain-sensing wipers, a self-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, forward-collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, a 7-in display, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, two USB ports, two SD card slots and a 10-speaker sound system.
This trim level is eligible for an optional Convenience package that bundles together memory settings for the driver’s seat, a trip computer, an alarm, keyless entry/ignition, satellite radio and heated/self-dimming/power-folding side mirrors. This is pretty much an essential extra.
The Premium Plus ($40,175) has all the above as standard, plus LED headlights, a hands-free trunk-lid release, a Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker/755-watt “3D” sound system, parking sensors at both ends, Audi Side Assist (blind spot monitoring), Pre Sense Rear (rear-end collision mitigation) and 18-in alloy wheels.
At this point in the pecking order, the Virtual Cockpit — a configurable 12.3-in display taking the place of conventional dials — may be ordered, along with navigation, an 8.3-in upgraded center screen, voice control/handwriting recognition and Wi-Fi.
The Prestige ($46,475) enjoys everything mentioned so far, plus a 360-degree camera system, HD Radio, a head-up display, active lane assist, adaptive cruise control with automatic stop and go, traffic-sign recognition, automatic high beams, leatherette-covered center console/door armrests and dual-pane acoustic glass for the front side windows.
Other options include heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, rear side airbags, summer tires, an adaptive air suspension and all-wheel drive.
Trunk space is 13 cu ft. The A4’s compatriots offer the same amount, which is good for about three sets of golf clubs.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the A4 a full five stars overall. And the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has bestowed the accolade of Top Safety Pick+ after the A4 aced all major categories.
Standard safety equipment includes forward-collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, as well as the usual mandatory features such as antilock brakes, traction control and an array of airbags.
Behind the Wheel
The A4 feels neutral, responsive and sprightly. At least when it has 252 hp to play with.
The Virtual Cockpit can show regular information like road and engine speeds, but it can also bring the navigation feature right in front of the driver instead of keeping it over to one side. It’s easy to use and worth having if the budget allows. This full-color feature was a major factor in Autotrader’s decision to mention the A4 in our 2017 list of the 10 Best Car Interiors Under $50,000. The cabin space and quality of materials in all trim levels are impressive.
If there’s one gripe, it’s that the steering — although precise and substantial — isn’t quite as tactile as we’d like. But that’s only apparent because the rest of the car is so good, especially in its ability to blend comfort with control.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 BMW 3 Series — The archetypal premium sport sedan and the class benchmark. Comes with rear-wheel drive as standard and a well-balanced chassis. Due for replacement in 2019.
2018 Cadillac ATS — Overshadowed by its established German rivals yet still a top-tier machine.
2018 Jaguar XE — Glorious ride quality, arguably handsome styling. But let down by an unremarkable cabin.
2018 Lexus IS — Superb construction, calm ride, so-so interior, so-so handling abilities and arguably odd styling.
2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class — A best-seller for Mercedes-Benz, with plenty of luxury, equipment and performance available. The entry-level models receive a 9-speed automatic transmission for 2018, while the AMG C 43 is especially tempting.
Used Audi A6 — Not as tech-rich as a new A4, but comes with refined manners, a gorgeous and spacious interior and an exterior design that’s standing the test of time.
If possible, start by looking at the Premium Plus trim with the gutsier engine, all-wheel drive and the Virtual Cockpit. This combination hits a sweet spot in the price/equipment equation. If fuel consumption is an absolute priority, consider an Ultra version — but you’ll enjoy the others more.