By on April 20, 2009

Audi and BMW have been at each other’s throats since Audi tried to compete with the 2002 by fitting a juiced up Volkswagen engine into its Fox/80 in 1978 to create the GTI/GTE. Now that BWM has trotted out the 335d to supplicate the masses of Americans clamoring for an oil-burning wunder-mobile just like za Germans drive auf der autobahn, Audi has rumored they might bring over something to tempt image conscious yuppies (who still have a job). After sampling the cheapest of the diesels offered in the A4 platform, I can honestly tell Audi, don’t waste your time.

To most of the Americans I talk to, Audi leads BMW in one key area in their minds: price. Forget quattro, wonderful interiors, and all that other stuff. To most Americans, its all about the badge, and a lot are willing to take a smidge less snob appeal in order to save $35 on their monthly payment. An Audi will generally undercut its BMW competitor by a few thousand. For Audi to undercut the 335d and start cornering the emerging high-end diesel market, they will have to bring in their lower-powered 4-cylinder diesels, instead of the über-expensive 3.0 TDI bristling with the latest technology showcased by the R10 TDI Le Mans racer. Or they could just take a cut on their profit margins.

Which brings us back to my current car in the garage, the 2010 Audi A4 2.0 TDI with a manual. With only 147 bhp on tap, the A4 makes for a sprightly drive, perfect for around town and adequate for the autobahn. However, Americans (and, being one, I know) will hate it. Americans equate a German badge to speed and more speed. They want that image of being able to hurtle down the autobahn at speeds aircraft lift off the ground. The A4 fails to deliver on this most important of aspects. It’s slow. It’s noisy. It makes unpleasant noises and the shifter feels a bit vague.

You have to plan your merges and learn how to downshift at appropriate times in order to maximize the power you have, something Germans are taught to do, but Americans seem to not want to do, favoring automatics to do it for them. When this engine mates to the R-tronic automatic, it gets a bit smoother, but even slower, more expensive and less economical.

At least the A4 still boasts the best interior in its class, world-leading handling, flawless ergonomics and an MMI system that gets better with each evolution.

Verdict? Perfect for Deutschland. Miserable for America.

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39 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2010 Audi A4 2.0 TDI...”


  • avatar
    johnny ro

    I wish I could accuse Mr. Solowiow of sarcasm about American driving public, but I can’t. He is right.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Is that the same engine as in the stateside Jetta 2.0 TDI? That certainly doesn’t help the snob appeal factor.

  • avatar
    paris-dakar

    Sounds like the same issue GM ran into when they imported the Astra – people expect some degree of performance premium out of their German cars.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Is this engine coming stateside in the A4? I know it’s going to be available in the A3 next year, but my understanding is that it’ll be positioned as a high-mileage commuter similar to the HS250h(hhhH).

  • avatar
    Dr. No

    When it comes to the cost of an Audi, don’t forget depreciation. Audi’s upfront price advantage turns into a disadvantage because this brand holds value like a duck on ex-lax.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    This engine seems to be in every A4 in Germany, including the one one of my friends has, with the S-Line bodykit, CVT autobox and literally every option but the sunroof. What can I say… it moves adequately, and he loves it. Though he could have had a 3.0 quattro with the most vital options for the same money.
    The 143hp 2.0TDI is not the base engine however: They do make a 110hp version. And a 170hp version of the 4-cylinder too. And a 190hp 2.7 V6. There is a diesel for everyone.

    @Brian E :
    Is this engine coming stateside in the A4? I know it’s going to be available in the A3 next year, but my understanding is that it’ll be positioned as a high-mileage commuter similar to the HS250h(hhhH).

    For the A4 they want to import the 3.0 V6 TDI. The A3 with the 143hp TDI should be pretty good fun.
    The 3.0 V6 TDI is priced like a 330d, not like the 335d. Who wants a 335d anyway, when the manual transmission 330d is 0.1 seconds slower to 62 than the automatic 335d.

    Oh, I forgot about the love Americans tend to have for manual transmissions…

  • avatar
    Evan is a Robot

    Wouldn’t that be “auf dem Autobahn”?

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    Autobahn is female. “Auf der Autobahn” is correct.

  • avatar

    Another failing to lay at the door of the American driver: their refusal/inability to stay over except to pass. When I drove in Britain (not that hard a transition for me because my first manuals as a kid were right-hand drive cars) some years back, it was a *&^%% delight at how much better the drivers observed that, how much smoother the traffic flow was with no one playing shuffleboard in the passing lane.
    It recently occurred to me that Americans *do* drive like the Brits, exactly like….we hang out in the left land and pass on the right. The only difference being that we’re supposed to keep right not left…sigh…

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    Hmmm.

    Audi top of the range A4 (3.2 Quattro) has a US list price from the website of $43,750.

    BMW 335d $45,275.

    I think there is some room to bring in the 3.0 TDI at a price to come close to the 335s.

    As for performance, they aren’t all that far apart to make much of a real world difference :

    A4 3.0 – 0-60mph 6.8s / Max Speed 152mph
    335 – 0-62mph in 6.1sec, top speed 155mph

    And the Audi has the Quattro option and as you say, a really nice interior.

    Interestingly the test of the VW Jetta on TTAC with the 140hp version of the same engine had this to say about that power unit :

    …But the oil burner’s punch is smoother and more linear than its petrol-powered equivalent. There’s no slingshot effect. You just woooooosh from 30 to 60 mph without an indices of effort. Plowing through highway traffic, hammering around tight corners, and sprinting up a hill, it’s a thoroughly willing powerplant. You get a fairly quick-revving mill you want– without sacrificing the surging power you like. At any speed.

    So I kind of wonder why this one isn’t considered good enough ? The Jetta is smaller and lighter but that one had less power too – you can get the Jetta with the 170 engine in Europe as well as the Audi TT.

    The A4 2.0 TDI isn’t bad in performance terms at 0-60mph 8.3s / Max Speed 142mph – so its no Porsche but its not a Geo Metro either. If you are having a real struggle keeping up with that performance then maybe the problem lies between the wheel and the drivers seat ?

  • avatar

    @ taxed

    I’ve driven both, and they really are very different in feel. The Audi’s weight brings it down. It feels like an eternity, and at higher speeds, hills are your friend. There is no woosh, just more noise, but it is linear. The new Jetta TDI (and I had the previous version) feels just right, the Audi, for American tastes, does not. Its slow, and more slow compared to what people expect today. 10 years ago, it would have been great, as the 1.8T from 1998 ran the same 0-60 sprint. If its German, in the compact class, and doesn’t do less than a 7.0 second sprint, something is wrong… at least goes the “popular” opinon.

  • avatar
    ctoan

    Stewart Dean

    I think it’s that Americans don’t really get the idea of passing someone. They just pick a speed they want to go and get in whatever lane is convenient, and anyone that goes faster will either be pissed off behind them or find a [dangerous] way around them. Unfortunately, it’s a self-enforcing problem: any attempt to drive “properly” is either going to muck up the traffic patterns or cause an accident.

    Also a problem: highways with onramps, offramps, and new lanes on the left side, so there’s always someone in the left lane who either needs to be there or got on the highway in it and hasn’t moved. I don’t know how common this is, but it’s a pain in the ass on Pittsburgh’s I376, although now that I think about it it might be more efficient under heavy traffic.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @TaxedAndConfused :
    The A4 2.0 TDI isn’t bad in performance terms at 0-60mph 8.3s / Max Speed 142mph

    Not quite…. 0-62 in 9.4 seconds (for both the 6-speed manual and the CVT automatic) and a 134 mph top speed for the manual, 130 mph for the auto.
    Just see here:
    http://www.audi.de/de/brand/de/neuwagen/a4/a4_limousine/technische_daten_und.html

    The base 120hp TDI has a 0-62 time of 10.7 seconds. The base 1.8T gasser is barely quicker at 10.5 seconds.

    so its no Porsche but its not a Geo Metro either. If you are having a real struggle keeping up with that performance then maybe the problem lies between the wheel and the drivers seat ?

    I don’t think Mike has any problems keeping up with traffic in the A4 – didn’t he own a 105hp Jetta TDI?

  • avatar

    @ mirko,

    AND a 75bhp 1978 Audi Fox GTI, AND a 62bhp 1981 Mercedes-Benz 240D. 0-60 in 20 seconds… yikes!

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    Hey that’s quick. We got a 200D here.

    Many modern cars are not that much quicker though. The base Ford Fiesta does 0-62 in 16.9 seconds.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Its slow. Its noisy. It makes unpleasant noises, and the shifter feels a bit vague.

    So why would someone want to spend around $34K on this car? It’s not like the 2.0T is a gas hog.

  • avatar

    @ Mirko,

    I know, was stuck behind one on the L257 last weekend…

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @ajla :
    So why would someone want to spend around $34K on this car? It’s not like the 2.0T is a gas hog.

    1) It’s cheaper than the 2.0T, by a lot.

    2) The 2.0T does fall into the “gas hog” category. In Europe. And the 1.8T does too.

  • avatar
    ajla

    @Mirko:
    It’s cheaper than the 2.0T, by a lot.

    So what’s your best guess at what the price would be in the US if Audi did bring over the car?

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    @Mirko
    The 140 TDI has 0-62 in 9.4, the 170 is 8.3. I see he has the 140 – my bad.

    I’m still wondering about this “Americans are used to faster cars” nonsense though. I drove for a month in the States last summer, at pretty much average European motorway speeds and was passing for at least 95% of the time rather than being passed. My “ride” was a boggo standard, furry seated, 4 cylinder Camry and had no performance issues at all.

    Our hosts were shocked when we completed the journey from the airport to their house in 90 stress free minutes – it usually took them over 2 hours – and he is a big muscle car fan.

    @Stewart Dean
    Another failing to lay at the door of the American driver: their refusal/inability to stay over except to pass. When I drove in Britain (not that hard a transition for me because my first manuals as a kid were right-hand drive cars) some years back, it was a *&^%% delight at how much better the drivers observed that, how much smoother the traffic flow was with no one playing shuffleboard in the passing lane.

    A lot of British drivers do, unfortunately there is a growing number who assume they are allowed to occupy only the outside lanes even when not passing. I have lost total patience with them nowadays and just undertake.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    Best guess?

    Hm… from the German price list:
    211hp 2.0T, FWD, manual is 34,350€
    143hp 2.0TDI, FWD, manual is 31,150€
    170hp 2.0TDI, FWD, manual is 32,950€

    so the 143hp diesel Mike had is about 10% cheaper than a 2.0T, and even the 170hp version of the diesel undercuts the 2.0T.

    The V6 versions are similar:

    265hp 3.2FSI, quattro, manual is 40,900€
    190hp 2.7 TDI, FWD, manual is 35,500€
    240hp 3.0TDI, quattro, manual is 41,900€

  • avatar
    ConejoZing

    Lol! Slow Audi ^_^

    “You have to plan your merges and learn how to downshift at appropriate times in order to maximize the power you have, something Germans are taught to do, but Americans seem to not want to do, favoring automatics to do it for them.”

    Dang I absolutely loathe automatics! The only way I would ever drive an automatic is if : I become really old/crippled by arthritis OR it is a “sporty” DSG automatic. The other thing I cannot stand is a leather interior! So a gas guzzling, non-fun, oversized luxury SUV with an automatic and leather interior is a horror to me.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    This is a nice car! I’ve driven the earlier 1.9L TDi’s in Europe, and they were plenty fast.

    I’ve owned a 90hp VW Rabbit GTI, a 115hp Audi 4000Q, a 123hp VW GTI 16v, and a 170hp Integra GS-R. These cars were fast for their time and would still be fun to drive today. I’ve also owned 90s era 911s, and my conclusion is that you do not need 200hp+ to get to work, and the four cylinder cars were more fun to drive off track because you could use more of their performance envelope.

    I’ve been checking out used Audis and BMWs, but neither company brings over their smaller engines here (I’m looking for fuel economy also).

    @ paris-dakar, one primary reason for the Astra’s failure is that it was a small car without the small car fuel economy. These diesel Audis get great fuel mileage.

  • avatar

    One does not buy a Diesel for 0-60 sprints… ever.

    People buy Diesels for fuel economy and longevity. Given the former it puzzles me why manufacturers insist upon building Diesels with slushboxes.

    So what’s the real-world MPG of the 2.0 A4 TDI?

    –chuck

  • avatar
    golf4me

    My father had a Rabbit diesel with 48hp. It was more than adequate on our freeways. I just don’t see how 140hp and lots of torque is not adequate for everyday use. Then again, I like diesels, and I like wagons, so I guess I can’t really be objective here. I concur with others above about the TYPICAL American driver who doesn’t realize that enough is enough…

  • avatar
    sean362880

    golf4me –

    Yes, but just think how great MORE than enough will be.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Sounds like a good kid car. Less HP equals less trouble.

    Also, if they have any brains, they will put it into the avant. I have no data, but it seems to me that there is a good intersection among the diesel lovers and wagon lovers communities.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I think 0-60 in under 10 is fine.

    The wife would love to have an audi, but would kill me if I spent $34k on a car now.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @Landcrusher :
    Sounds like a good kid car. Less HP equals less trouble.

    That’s what people say about 60hp Fiestas in Europe.

    Also, if they have any brains, they will put it into the avant.

    In Europe, all drivetrains are available in the avant.

  • avatar
    StevenJJ

    @Stewart Dean
    it was a *&^%% delight at how much better the drivers observed that, how much smoother the traffic flow was with no one playing shuffleboard in the passing lane.

    @TaxedAndConfused
    A lot of British drivers do, unfortunately there is a growing number who assume they are allowed to occupy only the outside lanes even when not passing. I have lost total patience with them nowadays and just undertake.

    Yes, unfortunately MLM’s (Middle Lane Morons) are hindering the lawful and efficient progress of others by occupying the middle lane at their chosen speed regardless of conditions, turning adequate three-lane motorways into two-lane dual carriageways.

    Undertaking is on the increase and it’s only a matter of time before a major accident is caused by a MLM turning back in on an undertaker having been in the middle lane for several miles without reason. Undertaking is on the increase and front line Police are not staffed and funded to deal with the cause – MLM.

  • avatar
    DrivnEZ

    Americans buy horse power but drive torque. Very few people I observe will red line their gasoline engine in order to wring the last hp out of their engine.

    OTOH, diesels produce their torque at relative low rpms. The 2000 VW 1.9 TDi produced full torque at 1,900 rpm. The 2009 VW TDi available on this side of the pond produces its 236lb-ft torque at ~ 1750rpm.

    The TDI Jetta is, as the author states, “just right” Unless the Audi A4 is tuned to produce greater power than the Jetta, it will lack the fun driving feel obtained in the Vdub.

    (10 years of diesel driving and still counting)

    DEZ

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    “Undertaking is on the increase and front line Police are not staffed and funded to deal with the cause – MLM”

    Nonsense. Police are plenty staffed and funded, instead they only enforce speed limits because “speed kills”. The old excuse was that the radar detector gave an objective standard and was harder to fight, but now we have cheap and easy video in the patrol cars (well, cheap for smart forces, REALLY expensive for many).

    Almost every large force also has public affairs people who could easily be putting the word out and educating the public for free. THEY JUST DON’T CARE.

    BTW, I was waiting to pass a MLM the other day so that the guy in the passing lane would not have to slow for me when I did it. Meanwhile, I got passed by a cop with no lights, on my right, going easily 25 over the limit. Observation of said cop as he continued showed he had ZERO good judgement when it came to driving.

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    Even very powerful Diesels don’t do 0-60 quickly unless they are slushboxes – the need to change gear quickly due to the narrow power band. My first Turbo Diesel did 0-60 in 9 seconds and only had 68 hp but > 110 lb/ft. But it was like this:

    1st – set off, wheelspin, whoosh, limiter, hit nose on steering wheel.
    2nd – Repeat
    3rd – hit 60, 70 – repeat

    and so on. The tyres were 145-section, about the same as the average push bike these days. They would spin in 3rd gear in the dry.

    My current car is about the same size as a Polo (same floorplan in fact) and has ~160-170hp / 270-290 lb/ft (Chipped Skoda Fabia VRS). I would be shocked if 0-60 is < 8 seconds.

    On the other hand 30-50, 50-70 or 70-90 is quicker than thinking (and a BMW 330d), which makes passing – the real key to making progress – easier and safer. So quick I needed a new clutch to handle it all.

    I can count on the fingers of three fingers the number of times I have gone 0-60 flat out.

    @StevenJJ
    I am no saint, and I will be the one in the Armco I know…

  • avatar
    StevenJJ

    @Landcrusher
    Not interested in arguing the toss over anecdotes, sorry. Front-line resources (in this area) are stretched and have been for years. The overall factors involved are numerous; motorway driving not part of the practical driving test, increasing ignorance about how to use the motorway(‘the blind leading the blind’ so to speak) and no one actually there to enforce the MLM situation. The front -line forces do not dictate resource deployment anymore than the front-line people in your organisation do.

    @TaxedAndConfused
    I think most progressive motorists in the UK who otherwise drive to the Highway Code have undertaken with increasing frequency over the last few years.

    –Edit for fat fingers

  • avatar
    fgbrault

    As a former 1968 BMW 2002 owner (bought new in 1968 before most people in the USA had even heard of BMW) I have traded in my 2007 BMW 328 XI for a 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI sedan with DSG. I am extremely pleased with my decision.

    I don’t find the deisel particularly noisy (a little diesel sound when cold). It positively purrs out on the highway and certainly has adequate power and decent handling. It clearly is not as sporty as my 328 was, but it feels great (and I’m getting older now) on the road at anywhere near the speed limit, rides better and is giving me 45/54 MPG on the highway and well over 30 MPG in the city. Also, I actually like the steering feel more than the BMW. Still it has a more sedate personality than the BMW.

    I do agree that it does not make a lot of sense to put the same engine in an Audi A4, without modification, as it does not fit the “personality” one expects from the A4 (I have owned a 1999 2.8 A4 and a 2001 S4). Maybe a version of the modified engine used by VW in Jetta TDI Cup challenge would be more suitable.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @fgbrault :
    Maybe a version of the modified engine used by VW in Jetta TDI Cup challenge would be more suitable.

    The 170hp engine is available, and in Europe at a few 100 € cheaper than the 2.0T.

    @DrivnEZ :
    The TDI Jetta is, as the author states, “just right”

    I won’t argue that – I drive a car with about the same power/weight ratio (BMW 118d) and it feels “just right” too. In an A4-sized car, I’d go for the 170hp diesel engine. Which Audi, BMW, Mercedes all offer. (Lexus too, but that engine is crap)

  • avatar
    Jeff G

    The power of the early Rabbit diesels may have been adequate on flat land at sea level. But I followed my uncle as he passed through Wyoming on Interstate 80. He was forced to shift into second gear at 40 mph as semis whooshed by going 75-80 mph. His previous rig was a Mazda rotary truck. Great power, lousy fuel economy.

    I think with direct injection and turbocharging todays gasoline motors are taking on the diesel traits of high efficency. Unfortunately for diesels, they are struggling with emissions and high priced low-sulfur fuel.

  • avatar
    russification

    crucial mistake, no eyeliner head lamps….very hokey

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    @StevenJJ
    I did undertake this very morning unfortunately. Volvo Coffinmobile (aka V50), outside lane of the A720, nobody on his left for 1/2 a mile and no response to a 3 second cop-style headlight flash – I suspect he was also on the phone. I watched as a very large van proceded to bully him out of the lane with some major style tailgating which I would suggest is more dangerous than the undertake.

    @Landcrusher and StevenJJ
    The problem with traffic cops in the UK is that, well, when was the last time you saw one ?

    I regulalry do a 600 mile round trip to see the family in England and sometimes never ever see an actual real police car the whole time.

    I do see the speed camera on the M6 in Cumbria on EVERY trip though.


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