2009 Audi A4 Avant: Transmission Tuning By Buick?
December 18, 2008
Drive an Audi, praise an Audi. I've followed this mantra in this space many times, stroking the egos of the men behind our previous long-term Audi A4, our long-gone Audi Q7 and our present fleet favorite, our long-term Audi R8.
But there has been an exception to my compliments: Audi's lazy automatic transmissions. I've complained about the slow response of the slushboxes in both the Q7 and the R8, and now I must whine about the 6-speed automatic in our new long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant.
The tranny has three modes, Normal, Sport and Manual, but for me it only has one: Manual. It's the only way to get any response from the wagon's turbocharged 2.0-liter, which really comes alive above 3,000 rpm. Leave the shifting to the car's computer and the engine is never really allowed to spend any time in its sweet spot. In Normal the transmission is always two gears too high ( 5th when I want 3rd, 4th when I want 2nd, etc.) and in Sport it's always one gear too high. And getting it to downshift in either really requires a wack of the throttle.
Shameful really, as the transmission's refusal to play sucks much of the sporty feel from the A4.
I assume this lack of aggression in the transmission's mapping is to improve fuel economy, but it's out of sync with the rest of the car which is tuned for sharp response and driving enjoyment. Incredibly, the auto in my wife's Passat is more aggressive (I rarely use manual mode when I drive it) while the rest of her car is certainly less sporty.
Hey, Audi, I think it's time to fire ol' Wolfgang in the transmission tuning department. Send the struedel packing; maybe Skoda has an opening.
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 4,012 miles