The Audi A4 holds the distinction of single-handedly reviving the Audi brand after its big sales slump some two decades ago. Launched in the mid-'90s, the A4 quickly proved a favorite among luxury-car buyers thanks to its handsome, well-finished cabin, sharp handling and available Quattro all-wheel drive. Tight panel gaps, high-quality materials and firm, comfortable seating give the interior the proper European ambience, while a supple ride and willing performance make the Audi A4 a great road trip choice.
Although those core characteristics have been part of the A4's personality since day one, this Audi -- which has traditionally been available in sedan, wagon and convertible body styles -- has become increasingly polished with each successive generation. No matter what year you're looking at, the A4 will provide athletic performance and a comfortable and inviting cabin. Add in the appeal of all-wheel drive (a serious asset for those who live in inclement parts of the country) and it's easy to see why the A4 has become a prime choice for an entry-level luxury car.
Current Audi A4
The latest Audi A4 is available only in sedan and wagon (Avant) configurations. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder good for 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) are standard on the 2.0T Frontrak model, while the 2.0T Quattro gets all-wheel drive and a six-speed manual standard, with a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission available as an option. The Avant is only offered with both Quattro and the eight-speed auto.
The A4's standard features are clustered into three packages -- Premium, Premium Plus and top-of-the-line Prestige -- though the latter can only be had with Quattro. Despite the upgrades found on the upper packages, the base Premium still comes with items like leather seating, a sunroof, a 10-speaker stereo and Audi's MMI electronics interface. Notable upgrades include tri-zone climate control, Bluetooth, bi-xenon headlights, a Bang & Olufsen stereo, a navigation system and a Sport package that includes a firmer suspension, sport seats and high-performance tires.
In road tests, our editors have been impressed with the Audi A4's understated yet luxurious cabin, sharp handling and generous cargo space. Additionally, its available all-wheel drive makes it a compelling choice for those who frequently face rain or snow. However, we've also pointed out that since it no longer offers a six-cylinder engine option, the A4 doesn't give its customers as many choices as its competitors. Nonetheless, with its classy interior and European panache, the A4 remains a solid choice in the entry-level luxury car segment.
Used Audi A4 Models
The current A4 sedan and wagon represent the car's fourth generation that debuted for 2009. Compared to earlier A4s, this model boasts a roomier interior, new features and a revised mechanical layout for better handling balance. These used A4s are similar to the current model, though there have been a few changes. In that first year, the previous-generation A4 convertible was still sold; it was replaced by the A5 convertible. That first year was also the only time you could get an available 265-hp 3.2-liter V6, as it was discontinued for 2010. Also of note was the automatic transmission; it was a six-speed auto for 2009 and '10, compared to the newer eight-speed, which provides slightly better acceleration and fuel economy.
Audi's third-generation A4 sedan and wagon was produced from 2006-'08, while the cabriolet lasted an additional year. Relative to second-generation A4s, this generation offered refreshed styling, a revised chassis and more powerful engines, though this was really more of a revitalization rather than a redesign. The sedan and wagon got these upgrades in 2006 at the start of the generational cycle, but the cabriolet wasn't updated until the following year, in model year 2007. To make up for lost time, the cabriolet was endowed with a new acoustic soft top, which served to give it a quieter ride.
Two trims were available for third-generation A4s: the 2.0T and the 3.2. Base 2.0Ts offered standard features like a power driver seat and dual-zone climate control, while the 3.2 added heated leather seats and 17-inch wheels. Option packages included features like a navigation system and an upgraded sound system.
Under the hood, buyers had the choice of a 200-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 or a 255-horse 3.2-liter V6. All wagons were available only with Audi's Quattro system; sedans and convertibles came with either Quattro or front-wheel drive. As far as transmissions go, options varied by body type and trim, but the A4 was available with a six-speed manual, a six-speed automatic or a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
This generation of the Audi A4 impressed us with its impeccable cabin design and materials, as well as its nimble handling. Its host of body configurations and optional rough-weather-friendly all-wheel drive only added to its appeal. One blemish was that the A4's engines came up a bit short in the area of low-end torque.
The second-generation A4 was produced from 2002-'05. Compared to the first generation, it benefited from a new body structure and sheet metal, as well as changes that made it sportier. It was motivated by either a 170-hp 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a 220-hp 3.0-liter V6. Both could be mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. (The CVT first became available with this generation.) The A4 Cabriolet debuted in this era, bowing in model-year 2003. In reviews, we praised this A4's refined interior and sharp handling. As with third-generation models, one notable drawback was its lack of low-end torque.
The first-generation Audi A4 (1996-2001) was a huge success for Audi, helping to put the automaker in the same league as its respected German luxury-car competitors. This was due to the A4's handsome Teutonic looks, impressive performance and stylish, well-constructed interior that set a precedent for future Audi models. A five-speed manual was standard, with Audi's five-speed Tiptronic automatic offered as an option. The base engine was a turbocharged four-cylinder, while the upgraded model came with a naturally aspirated V6. Note that the original A4 was initially available only as a sedan; the Avant didn't join the lineup until 1998.
This generation offered all the usual A4 strengths, like good looks both inside and out and available all-wheel drive. Weaknesses included a lack of rear legroom and a somewhat confusing dash layout, as well as engine performance that lagged behind some rival offerings.
Read the most recent 2013 Audi A4 review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Audi A4 page.