What's New for 2008
For 2008, the Audi A4 receives only minor changes. Exterior features that were previously available as part of the sedan and wagon's optional S line sport package are now standard. This means that front and rear bumpers have been revised, as has the lower side door trim. An integrated trunk lid spoiler has been added, along with a new front grille and S line badging. To reflect this, the optional S line Sport Package has been trimmed to include just a sport-tuned suspension, sport three-spoke steering wheel, aluminum trim, 18-inch wheels and leather upholstery with unique stitching. On the A4 Cabriolet, heated front seats are now standard. An optional iPod interface is available on all 2008 Audi A4s.
Many of the world's major religions bear a similar theme: A messiah comes, bringing with him enlightenment and a path to a better way of living. Audi had its very own messiah of sorts with the A4. Bad press regarding unintended acceleration (based on reports that were later shown to be unfounded) tarnished the manufacturer's image in the late '80s and early '90s, sending sales into an unholy tailspin. Launched in the mid-'90s, the Audi A4 -- buoyed by crisp handling, superb road manners and elegant visage -- proved compelling enough to reinvigorate the brand. Now in its third generation, the Audi A4 is as enticing as ever -- and Edmunds.com's editors have voted it a top pick for several years running.
The 2008 Audi A4 is catnip for drivers who crave the finer things. One of the few entry-level luxury cars available as a sedan, convertible and wagon, the Audi A4 morphs to please everyone from bustling families to solitary singles. Slide inside and you'll find a cabin that takes the "entry" out of "entry-luxury." Gauges offer the sort of soothing lighting you'd find in a chic late-night bistro, and the car's interior materials and design would be right at home in the expensively outfitted lobby of a premier Hollywood talent agency. On the move, the A4 has a solid feel to it, an attribute no doubt helped by the car's commonly fitted Quattro all-wheel-drive system.
Compromises are few, but they do exist. Neither A4 engine is a powerhouse, for instance, as the turbocharged 2.0-liter is somewhat lacking when it comes to off-the-line torque and the 255-horsepower V6 is increasingly outclassed by competitors putting out more than 300 hp. Another potential negative is the rear seat, which isn't as roomy as the accommodations in some rivals. Hard-core enthusiasts might also criticize the A4's handling, which is softer and less responsive than the premier sport sedans in this price range. However, many buyers will find that the Audi's high level of feedback compensates for its somewhat slower reflexes.
That's not to say you shouldn't consider other models if you're shopping in this highly competitive class. The BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G35 and Lexus IS are all sportier in demeanor, for instance, while the new Cadillac CTS boasts more rear-seat room and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class benefits from a fresher, more stately design. And depending on your priorities, cars like the Acura TSX and Volvo C70/S40/V50 might be worth your attention as well. While all of these cars have their merits, if you end up with a 2008 Audi A4, we doubt you'll be dissatisfied. Thanks to its versatile yet fun-loving demeanor, range of body styles, reasonable price tag and best-in-class cabin, the A4 could well be the salvation for those searching for a great all-around entry-level luxury car.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Audi A4 comes built to satisfy in a plethora of body styles. A sedan, convertible (Cabriolet) and wagon (Avant) are offered. The trims are defined by the engines that power them: 2.0T and 3.2. The A4 2.0T sedan and wagon come standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, a power driver seat, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control and a 10-speaker, six-CD/MP3 changer. Pump up the swank quotient with a 3.2 model, which adds 17-inch wheels, wood flourishes, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a power front-passenger seat. A4 Cabriolets have an automatic soft top and equipment lists largely similar to those of the sedan and wagon.
Most of the 3.2's extra features can be added to the 2.0T as part of the Premium and Convenience Packages. The latter also includes adaptive bi-xenon headlights and auto-dimming mirrors. For both trim levels, Audi offers an S line sport package with 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension and specialized interior trim. A4 buyers can also opt for heated rear seats (via a cold weather package), a navigation system, an upgraded 10-speaker Bose sound system (which includes satellite radio), Bluetooth connectivity, a dedicated iPod interface and the "Titanium" styling package with 18-inch wheels and several wood and metallic embellishments. The 2.0T also offers a Special Edition package which adds 17-inch alloy wheels, leather seating and satellite radio. Available on the A4 3.2 only are driver-seat memory, rear park assist and premium-grade "Volterra" leather upholstery.
Powertrains and Performance
The A4 is available with one of two engines. A 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 produces 200 hp and 207 pound-feet of torque, and a 3.1-liter V6 drums up 255 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. A4 Avants are available only with Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive, but sedan and Cabriolet buyers may choose between front-wheel drive and Quattro. Quattro-equipped A4s give you the choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The same holds true for front-wheel-drive A4 3.2 models. Instead of the automatic, front-drive 2.0T models offer a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Equipped in this configuration, the A4 has a 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway fuel mileage estimate for 2008, which is sure to please if you've got an eye on the pump.
Standard features in this area include antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags (except on Cabriolets). Rear seat-mounted side airbags are available as an option for the sedan and wagon. In National Highway Transportation Safety Administration frontal crash tests, the A4 rated four stars out of five; in side impact testing, the car earned a perfect five stars for front occupants and four stars for those seated in rear. The 2008 Audi A4 attained a "Good" rating (the highest possible) for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal offset, side-impact and head restraint effectiveness tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The cherry on top of any Audi vehicle is usually its cabin, and the A4 maintains this standard. Design is above reproach, and build and materials quality is superlative. Some may find the seats overly firm, but most will agree that they provide welcome support when road-tripping. The navigation system takes some getting used to, but elsewhere, the controls are pleasantly intuitive. A4 sedans can haul up to 13.4 cubes of luggage in the trunk, while the Avant manages 27.8 cubes with the rear seats up and 59 cubes with the seats folded. The A4 Cabriolet's traditional soft top might seem a tad old-fashioned in this age of retractable hardtops, but it's reasonably quick in operation and compact enough to allow a maximum luggage capacity of 10.2 cubic feet.
The 2008 Audi A4 is truly a model of composure in the entry-luxury segment, with balanced ride and handling and a suspension that dispenses with ruts and potholes with unflappable German efficiency. As such, it's a sterling daily driver. A4s equipped with the S line Sport Package offer sharper, grippier handling. This Audi is no BMW 3 Series, but it's a more communicative driving partner than many other cars in this class and the extra traction afforded by the Quattro all-wheel-drive system is quite useful in Northern climates. Acceleration is certainly adequate on everything, with the possible exception of the Cabriolet 2.0T. In reviews, we've found the 2.0T a little light on torque down low, but once the tach sees 2,500 rpm, there's plenty of pull on tap. The V6 is smooth, but with only 255 hp, it lacks the motivation needed to keep pace with competitors' 300-plus-hp V6s.