2009 Audi A4 3.2 Quattro Review

2009 audi a4 3 2 quattro review

Over the last few years, the last generation Audi A4 was growing increasingly stale. Updated offerings from BMW, Lexus, Infiniti, everyone but Volvo have overtaken Ingolstadt’s brot und butter model. To keep the faith– or at least the faithful– Audi’s engineers initiated a massive redesign of the A4. Obviously, it’s a better car. Vorsprung and all that. But can the new A4 leapfrog the luxury brat pack? Or is it more of the same? Yes.

If the new A4’s front end looks vaguely familiar, it’s because you’ve already seen it (essentially) on the A5. I’ve never been a fan of the A4’s slightly bulbous looks (too much like a fancy-schmancy Passat). The new version is a cheeky twist on the old one, like a sci-fi cinematic remake that acknowledges its predecessor even as it blows it away. The new car’s wider track gives the A4 a more menacing look than before, and the rest of the design returns Audi to its recent understated aggression remit. Now, if they only modified Billy the Big Mouth Bass for U.S. license plates…

Inside, the A4’s impresses at one of the most important touch points: the steering wheel. Granted, the fat helm isn’t as ergasmic as the GTI’s tiller, but I’ll have what she’s having. Unfortunately, the rest of the Audi driver’s zone has been afflicted with the same button-itis infecting Acura’s offerings (paging Steve Jobs). Learning to master the farrago of functions puts drivers on a learning curve on par with differential equations. Fortunately, the A4’s fit and finish maintain Audi’s unique selling point. And thanks to a longer wheelbase, the A4’s rear compartment finally offers what Americans call “legroom.”

As before, the A4’s engine bay packs either a 2.0T four or a 3.2 V6. Despite making a class trailing 265 horsepower, the six-pot’s been tuned to deliver more of what pistonheads like at lower rpms. Combined with direct injection, both fuel efficiency and driveability are improved; there’s none of that nasty lag commonly associated with drive-by-wire throttles. Not even when you’re trying to recreate the official zero to sixty sprint of six point nothing seconds.

The A4’s automatic transmission is a very fine thing indeed. The six-speeds come and go with such ease that you’d be forgiven for thinking the A4 was packing a DSG instead of ye olde Tiptronic. Better yet, the slushbox rev-matches downshifts so smoothly they’re literally imperceptible. So, wafting.

The A4 sits on the model’s first new platform since the Manic Street Preacher’s singer walked away from his Vauxhall Cavalier (1995). There’s a better balanced body and a new Quattro all-wheel-drive system. The latter now splits torque 40 percent front/60 percent rear, making the A4 feel more like a rear wheel-drive car. While understeer isn’t banished entirely, it’s no longer the A4’s defining dynamic response.

And then there’s “Audi Drive Select.” At the touch of a button you can modify the vehicle’s throttle response, shift points, suspension, power steering boost and steering ratio. Switching between ‘comfort’ and ‘dynamic/sport’ changes the A4 from comfortable cruiser to corner carver. No really. You can also let the car decide: automatic mode reads your inputs and tightens or loosens all those variables as the car sees fit. Or, you can customize all your settings (good luck with that).

Audi brags that they adapted the A4’s steering system from the NASA moon rover program. On the dark side, you’re good to go. At speed, the ECU reduces the steering ratio such that barely a half turn of the wheel is required to follow even the tightest of hairpins. In “dumb down mode,” on long straight stretches of road, the A4’s steering wil leave you craving the slightest hint of gravity. Yes, the system eliminates the over-correction some sports-oriented sedans experience during an ‘OHSHIT’ situation. But Quattro or no Quattro, on-center feel is something Audi should, finally, fix.

It’s really too bad that you can’t buy/lease a BMW 335xi for the same amount of money as the A4 3.2 and have the fist of an angry God under-hood. But you can’t, so there. Besides, who needs all that power (other than you and me)? And the Lexus, Infiniti and the Caddy equivalents lack Audi’s Germanic, uh, stolidity. Anyway, the Audi A4 still has a big question mark over its reliability, but it’s a fine steer. And it no longer carries the stigma of offering less for more. It is, once again, a sensible choice for sensible people who want to appear slightly sporty in a sensible way and might, on the rare occasion, in bad weather, be late for a dentist appointment.

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  • Majed Al Nasser Majed Al Nasser on Jul 22, 2009

    I am planning to buy the A4 3.2 Quattro S line Is it reliable enough? I want to keep it for almost 5-6 years. I have to mention that i would be driving the car in weekends only, since i would be owning 2 cars. if there are any problems that this car presistantly suffers please let me know. AND if you can think of any other GERMAN car that has a price tag of around $53K plz tell me cause that is what am paying for a fully equiped A4 3.2 Quattro S Line with exclusive leather (brand new from the agency), A BMW 3 series sedan is just to ugly for me, and the mercedes C350 sedan has bad interior in my opinion.

  • MrSatoV MrSatoV on Apr 13, 2010

    Hotly debated for a year and a half! Not surprising. I bought (leased) the 2.0T Premium Plus in October 2008 and 100% loved it... at first. I still think it looks great, drives 2nd best to the 3 series, and still love the look and intuitiveness of the interior. I traded in an '01 BMW 530i (loaded) when I got this car. That was my 3rd BMW in a row. I test drove the 328, C300, and IS250 before deciding on the A4. Technically, the A4 2.0T quattro is faster than all of those. 0-60 is .2 sec faster than the BMW 320 w/auto trans. The BMW is 2nd fastest, the IS250 the slowest. The A4 is also bigger and more fuel efficient than all the rest. I really don't think the 3.2 makes sense for this car, considering the price, for a marginal gain in performance and pretty big loss in efficiency. My only problem with this car, aside from price (it was cheaper than the BMW and Mercedes, and I just couldn't deal with the IS250), is reliability. It hasn't left me stranded yet, but has come close. First the fuel pump started going, which the dealer replaced at no cost, and even gave me a loaner car. Then I took off around a corner to merge with traffic and the transmission freaked out - put me in the twilight zone gear and gave me a message that there was a malfunction with it, and I could continue to drive it, but with reduced power and performance (not those exact words). It just felt like I was in about 4th gear and the clutch slipped fairly easily. I pulled over, shut off the car, and restarted it and the problem went away. I'm an IT guy, so it makes sense to me, sort of. It did that one other time. Now there's a clunk that happens when I gun it. It actually feels like something is getting out of the way because there is a slight gain in power when it happens. Very strange. I'll be taking it in soon. Bottom line, I'm not buying the car out like I thought I might at the end of the lease. I'm probably going to end up going back to BMW, only back to used mode. I think that's where the value is.

  • Islander800 That is the best 20-year-on update of the Honda Element that I've ever seen. Strip out the extraneous modern electronic crap that adds tens of thousands to the price and the completely unnecessary 400 pd/ft torque and horse power, and you have a 2022 Honda Element - right down to the neoprene interior "elements" of the Element - minus the very useful rear-hinged rear doors. The proportions and dimensions are identical.Call me biased, but I still drive my west coast 2004 Element, at 65K miles. Properly maintained, it will last another 20 years....Great job, Range Rover!
  • Dennis Howerton Nice article, Cory. Makes me wish I had bought Festivas when they were being produced. Kia made them until the line was discontinued, but Kia evidently used some of the technology to make the Rio. Pictures of the interior look a lot like my Rio's interior, and the 1.5 liter engine is from Mazda while Ford made the automatic transmission in the used 2002 Rio I've been driving since 2006. I might add the Rio is also an excellent subcompact people mover.
  • Sgeffe Bronco looks with JLR “reliability!”What’s not to like?!
  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.