What's New for 2009
Audi's entry-level sedan and companion Avant wagon get a complete redesign for 2009. The new A4 is longer and wider, resulting in more interior room and cargo space. The optional Drive Select system allows the driver to customize steering, suspension and transmission settings, and a rearrangement of the front axle has yielded a less-nose-heavy weight distribution. New technology features include direct injection for both engines, adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot warning system and a revised version of Audi's MMI systems controller. The convertible A4, however, carries over from last year.
Despite being a longtime top seller in Europe, the Audi A4 has historically trailed a distant 3rd behind those other German automakers' compact luxury sedans in the North American market. The folks in Ingolstadt are hoping to change all that with the newly redesigned 2009 Audi A4.
The new A4 sedan is nearly 5 inches longer and 2 inches wider than the previous model, which yields more headroom, more shoulder room and an additional 1.4 inches of rear knee room, as well as class-leading trunk space. Also new on the A4 this year is a pair of direct-injection engines -- the standard 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and an available 3.2-liter V6 (sedan only). The 2009 A4 additionally offers a plethora of techno-gadgets, including radar-based adaptive cruise control, a new park distance control system and revised controls for Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI) system.
Driving enthusiasts will appreciate that the drivetrain's AWD layout has been adjusted to improve weight balance for better handling. In addition, the optional Drive Select system permits the driver to adjust ride compliance, steering effort and shift response -- there are three different preset modes as well as a personalized mode where you can mix and match settings.
Of course, the 2009 Audi A4 faces stiff competition, such as the more engaging BMW 3 Series, the affordably priced Infiniti G37 and the solidly built Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Since the convertible A4 is a carry-over from the previous generation, we'd definitely hold out for the upcoming A4-based A5 and S5 convertibles. But for those in search of a good-looking and sharp-handling compact luxury sedan or wagon with AWD and the latest technology features, the 2009 Audi A4 is a solid choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Audi A4 is a four-door compact luxury vehicle available in three body styles: sedan, convertible (Cabriolet) and wagon (Avant). The base A4 trim level is the sedan-only 2.0T FrontTrak, which comes with front-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Next up is the AWD 2.0T Quattro, which is available in all three body styles. The 3.2 Quattro trim is limited to the sedan and convertible. Note that the convertible's standard and optional features are listed separately below due to its previous-generation platform and equipment roster.
Standard features on sedans and wagons are clustered into three packages -- Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige -- that can be specified across the lineup except for the base Premium package, which is unavailable with the 3.2-liter Quattro. Premium models include 17-inch wheels, foglamps, a sunroof, air-conditioning, power front seats, leather upholstery, cruise control, a split-folding rear seat, Audi's MMI system and a 10-speaker CD audio system with a subwoofer, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Premium Plus adds bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lights, auto-dimming side and rearview mirrors, Bluetooth phone connectivity, three-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, an iPod jack and a six-CD changer. The Prestige rolls on 18-inch wheels and adds rear park distance control, keyless ignition and entry, a lane-change warning system and an upgraded 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.
The optional Sport package firms up handling (the S-line package for Prestige models is essentially an upscale Sport package). Other options include a navigation system with a back-up camera, adaptive cruise control, the Drive Select adjustable suspension system, rear-seat side airbags and a choice of wood trims.
The 2009 Audi A4 Cabriolet 2.0T comes standard with 17-inch wheels, an automatic soft top, power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and a 10-speaker audio system with a six-CD/MP3 changer. The 3.2 model adds 18-inch wheels and heated front seats. Major options include adaptive bi-xenon headlights, a navigation system, the last-generation MMI system and upgraded Bose speakers.
Powertrains and Performance
Two updated engines make their debut in the 2009 Audi A4 sedans and convertibles. The turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 in 2.0T models makes 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The 3.2-liter V6 boosts output to 265 hp but cuts torque to 243 lb-ft. The corresponding engines in the Cabriolet make 200 hp/207 lb-ft and 255 hp/243 lb-ft, respectively. Front-wheel drive is standard on the base A4 2.0T sedan and Cabriolet 2.0T; both are equipped with a continuously variable transmission. The 2.0T Quattro sedan comes standard with a six-speed manual, and its optional six-speed conventional automatic with manual control is mandatory on all other A4 models.
At our test track, the A4 3.2 Quattro sedan made it from zero to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds -- not a competitive performance for this class. The news is better for the A4 2.0T Quattro sedan, which ran from zero to 60 mph in a respectable 6.5 seconds with the automatic. EPA estimated fuel economy for the automatic-equipped 2.0T Quattro sedan is 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. Going with the V6 drops those numbers to 17/26/20, but the base front-drive A4 2.0T manages an impressive 23/30/25. Convertible fuel economy is comparable.
All 2009 Audi A4s come standard with antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags (except Cabriolets). Rear-seat-mounted side airbags are available as an option for the sedan and wagon. In government crash testing, the A4 garnered perfect five-star scores for both front and side impacts. Likewise, in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the A4 without the optional rear-seat airbags nonetheless earned perfect ratings of "Good" in both frontal offset and side impact crash testing. The carry-over A4 Cabriolet received the best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset test, but the second-worst rating of "Marginal" in side impact testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The build quality of the new A4's cabin mostly lives up to Audi's enviable reputation in this area. Smooth leather surfaces and plentiful soft-touch dashboard material impart an upscale feel, though some peripheral plastics are a bit lackluster. Small touches, like ambient lighting for passengers underneath the driver seat, add to the premium feel.
For 2009, Audi has relocated its MMI controls aft of the gearshift on sedans and wagons equipped with the navigation system, which makes them easier to access. However, the controls remain on the dash for the Cabriolet and navigation-less sedans and wagons. Other controls, such as those on the center stack and steering wheel, are generally intuitive and well laid out, though accessing certain features can be an exercise in frustration -- adjusting something as simple as the fan speed, for example, is a two-step process. An electromechanical parking brake eliminates the need to yank up on a traditional lever and saves space on the center console. The convertible's aging interior looks outdated by comparison but is still well-constructed and boasts high-quality materials. Trunk space in the sedan is an impressive 16.9 cubic feet. The drop top's trunk is smaller but still remarkable for its class at 13.4 cubic feet.
The 2009 Audi A4's handling is remarkably neutral, a testament to its more balanced weight distribution compared to the previous model, as well as its available rear-biased Quattro AWD system. It won't win any drag races, however, even with the new direct-injection engines -- the V6's performance is particularly disappointing. That said, acceleration is smooth, and shifts from the six-speed automatic transmission are consistent.
The Audi Drive Select system -- which allows the driver to control ride compliance, steering effort and transmission responsiveness -- is an interesting concept, but it's pricy and can be finicky to use. Most shoppers will find the A4's standard (or Sport-packaged) suspension, steering and transmission calibrations perfectly adequate.
Read our Audi A4 Avant Long-Term 30,000-Mile Test