What's New for 2013
A mild styling refresh tops the list of changes for the 2013 Audi A4. Audi has also modified the A4's power steering (it's now electric-assist) and revised the MMI control interface for the electronics. The A4 wagon has been discontinued in favor of the new Allroad.
While the cars in the entry-level luxury segment lack the presence of their flagship brethren, there's plenty they offer in the way of comfort, features and performance. A case in point is the 2013 Audi A4.
Audi touts this latest A4 as an all-new model, but in reality, it's really more of a mild refresh. The nose receives the biggest change, with reworked headlights, grille and vents, giving the car what appears to be a more aggressive stance even though the dimensions remain unchanged. Mechanically, Audi has switched the A4's power steering from traditional hydraulic assist to electric assist. More revisions occur on the inside, as the MMI electronics interface has been slightly simplified with fewer buttons and proves a bit easier to operate as a result.
While these changes might seem trivial, it's not a disappointment in the least, as the A4 still shows all the admirable traits that have kept it a top pick in its class. The impeccably presented cabin, top-notch materials, available all-wheel drive and sporty drivetrain calibration should be enough to win over a broad spectrum of shoppers.
Noticeably absent, however, is the A4 wagon ("Avant") body style. Fortunately, those requiring more utility than the A4 sedan can provide will be well served by the new Allroad wagon, which is covered in a separate review.
As highly as we rate the A4, it's not the only game in town. The BMW 3 Series still defines the entry-level luxury class and offers similar sporty driving dynamics. The Infiniti G Sedan is also quite sporty, though it lacks some of the Audi's refinement. For those with more luxurious aspirations, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class will certainly satisfy. Overall, the 2013 Audi A4 offers a wider range of appeal than its competition where performance and luxury are concerned, and for that reason, we would suggest checking it out alongside any of its rivals.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Audi A4 is offered only as a sedan, though there is an A4 Allroad wagon that is covered in a separate review. Trim levels are broken into three tiers: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. Standard features for the Premium trim include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, a sunroof, automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats with four-way driver-seat lumbar, leather upholstery, a dash-mounted MMI electronics interface and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player and satellite radio.
An optional Convenience package can be added to the Premium trim that includes an upgraded music interface with iPod integration, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a trip computer. Also available is the Lighting package, which adds xenon headlights, LED running lights and taillights, and aluminum window trim.
Both of these packages are included as standard equipment on the Premium Plus trim. With Premium Plus, you also get 18-inch wheels, auto-dimming and heated mirrors, heated front seats, driver memory functions, tri-zone automatic climate control and split-folding rear seats. To that you can add the MMI Navigation package, which includes front and rear parking sensors, Audi's console-mounted MMI infotainment interface, a navigation system, a rearview camera, HD radio and Audi Connect (enhanced Web-based navigation, information and WiFi access).
The Prestige trim includes the MMI Navigation package and tacks on adaptive xenon headlights, keyless ignition/entry, a blind-spot warning system and a premium 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system. Optional on both the Prestige and Premium Plus trims is a Sport package that includes a lowered sport-tuned suspension, front sport seats and a three-spoke steering wheel (with shift paddles for automatic transmissions). Other stand-alone options include 18-inch wheels with performance tires and rear side airbags.
Options that are exclusive to the Prestige trim include the S line package (19-inch wheels with summer tires, sport-tuned suspension, headlight washers, faux suede and leather sport seats, a black headliner and brushed aluminum interior trim) and the Driver Assist package (adaptive cruise control, adaptive steering and Audi Drive Select, which provides adjustable settings for the steering and transmission). A power rear sunshade is also available.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2013 Audi A4 is a turbocharged 2.0-liter that produces 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard on the front-wheel-drive A4s. All-wheel-drive Quattro models come with a six-speed manual standard, and an eight-speed automatic transmission is an option.
In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped Quattro went from zero to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds -- that's very quick given this engine's output. Expect the Quattro automatic and front-wheel-drive models to be a few ticks slower.
EPA estimates for the front-drive A4 come to 24 city/31 highway and 26 mpg in combined driving. Quattro models with the manual transmission are rated at 22/32/26 mpg, while the automatics are estimated at 20/30/24 mpg.
Standard safety features for the 2013 Audi A4 include antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. Rear-seat side airbags and a blind-spot warning system are optional on upper trims, as is adaptive cruise control that includes an audible warning and brake priming in the event the system detects an impending frontal crash.
In Edmunds brake testing, an A4 S line with summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 108 feet. This is excellent, though typical of summer tires. All-season distances should be in the low 120-foot range.
Government crash test results for frontal impacts are not yet available, but the 2013 A4 scored a perfect five-out-of-five stars for overall side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the A4 earned a top rating of "Good" for its performance in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Despite Audi's assertion that the 2013 A4's interior is all-new, the changes are minimal and even the most eagle-eyed observer would struggle to find the differences. Fortunately, we regard the previous and present A4 as one of the best in its class. The interior's austere design lends an air of adult seriousness, while the top-notch materials send a message of sophisticated refinement. The use of real leather as standard equipment also gives the Audi an advantage over its competitors from BMW and Mercedes, which use vinyl leatherette.
Even though the A4 is considered a small entry-level luxury car, the interior space is more akin to a midsize sedan. Rear outboard seats provide enough head- and legroom to comfortably accommodate a typical adult. The 12.4-cubic-foot trunk is only average in size, but at least the rear seats fold flat to handle bulkier items.
Infotainment functions are controlled by Audi's Multi Media Interface, or MMI. This consists of a small knob surrounded by buttons that together control menus on a central screen. These MMI controls are situated around the shift lever on models equipped with the navigation system, but cars without navigation have MMI on the dash, which is unintuitive and far less convenient. The A4's other controls are generally intuitive and well laid out.
Behind the wheel of the 2013 Audi A4, drivers of all stripes will appreciate its balanced and secure feel. In a variety of road conditions, the A4 remains planted and well-behaved. Opting for all-wheel drive further enhances its capabilities and driver confidence.
When the road ahead begins to bend, the A4 exhibits a slight edge of athleticism that puts it on par with the BMW 3 Series. Likewise, it also maintains a high level of comfort. More performance-minded drivers may find the optional Sport package to their liking, as that type of pilot is generally fine with the slight harshness of the car's ride quality.
The Audi's turbocharged four-cylinder engine won't pin you back into the seat, but it is plenty powerful for the vast majority of drivers. Merging onto a highway won't labor the engine and there's enough torque to entertain. For the rare individual who desires more, the sport-focused Audi S4 (covered in a separate review) should more than suffice.