published Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Test Drive: Audi A4 gets face-lift, mobile Internet

Our Audi A4 test car was equipped with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. 
Staff photo by Mark Kennedy
Our Audi A4 test car was equipped with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Staff photo by Mark Kennedy

FAST FACTS

Model: 2013 Audi A4 Quattro

Exterior color: Glacier White Metallic

Interior color: Velvet Beige and Black

Engine: 2.0 liter, turbo

Horsepower: 211

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 30 mpg highway, 20 mpg city

Dealer: Audi Chattanooga

Price (as tested): $45,110

Sitting behind the wheel of the 2013 Audi A4 is an almost bionic experience. Your body feels magically melded to the car.

The ample steering wheel fills your hands perfectly, and the precise electronic steering tracks as though you are telepathically willing the car left and right.

The direct-injected 2.0-liter turbocharged engine provides acceleration the instant your brain nudges your right foot forward. Meanwhile, the shifts in the eight-speed automatic transmission are as subtle as a baby's breath.

"Just keep it overnight," Audi Chattanooga sales manager Robert Wilson called out to me as I returned the A4's key fob to the store one day earlier this week.

I thanked him but passed, mainly because I was afraid of falling dangerously under this car's spell. Twenty-four hours in the new A4 and you'll be sitting at somebody's desk talking numbers.

STYLING

The 2013 A4 arrives with a mid-cycle exterior face-lift and some nifty new electronics, including Audi Connect, a 3G-style mobile Internet service that allows you to connect up to eight devices while the car is on the move. This is a subscription service that costs about $30 a month, Wilson said.

Outside, the A4 looks like Audi designers went back to the clay-mold stage for a few beauty tweaks. The front facia is bit more rounded than before and there are some nice new character lines in the hood. The corners of the A4 are soft and rounded, so any straight lines, like those in the hood, add a welcomed crispness to the sheet metal. Our test car's Glacier White Metallic exterior had a gorgeous luminescent quality.

Inside, upgraded materials have been uniformly praised by the automotive press, which had labeled the earlier A4 interior as a bit prosaic. Our test car came with Beige Velvet leather seats, which I found both handsome and comfortable. The door panels include fine-grain Ash inlays, which add to the upscale feel of the cabin.

Our test car was equipped with Audi's MMI Navigation system which deploys Google Earth to help you find your way home. The $3,050 navigation package includes parking assist features. A powerful Bang and Olufsen sound system is an $850 upgrade.

The leather seats, a power sunroof and a 12-way power driver's seat are standard on the well-equipped base A4.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

All A4s come with Audi's durable 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine. On front-wheel drive models the engine is mated to a continuously-variable transmission; while our test car, a Quattro all-wheel-drive version, was equipped with a whisper-quiet eight-speed automatic tranny.

The Quattro's grip is so strong that the A4 seems impervious to uneven pavement and wind gusts from 18-wheeler trucks. The cabin is wonderfully quiet, an odd quality in a car so fundamentally athletic. The little turbo, which makes 211 horsepower (256 lb.-ft. of torque), spools up quickly as the sedan zings through traffic.

BOTTOM LINE

This is clearly a driver's car. The interior is a little snug for back seat passenger, though. My two boys, who came along for the drive, said they could have used a bit more leg room.

Still, the A4 has many of the virtues of the more expensive BMW 3-series sedans. Our A4 Quattro came at a base price of $34,600, and topped out with a long list of options at $45,110.

What's not to love?

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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