Ace of Base: 2018 Audi A4 Premium
Young Mr. Baruth gave us his verdict of a base model Q3 yesterday, railing against its interior and infotainment system but admiring its grip and lateral stability. He made good points about Audi’s naming scheme, too: the Premium trim is an entry-level model, reminding me of VW recently putting the Limited badge on last year’s Tiguan. Remember when the Ford Explorer Limited was a prestige trim with a distinctive grille?
Given yesterday’s Q3 ministrations, let’s see what’s on offer from Audi in their least expensive A4.
“But, Matt!” you cry, hurling produce and expired Vachon cakes in my direction, “The A3, not the A4, is Audi’s smallest car!” It behooves one to remember that the A3 is not a big sedan. Measuring just 175.5 inches from nose to tail, Audi’s littlest is very nearly seven inches shorter than the current Honda Civic. Too small for this lad. The much larger and arguably much more satisfying A4 is less than a $4,000 walk from the diminutive A3 sedan, so we will focus on that model today.
Let’s get the powertrain details out of the way: A4s are fitted with Audi’s turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four but, to paraphrase, some turbocharged inline-fours are more equal than others. An extra $4,500 unlocks some extra engine fettling and the privilege of selecting a manual transmission. Power is boosted from 190 horsepower to 252 horses. Torque jumps from 236 ft-lb to 273. In a machine sized like the A4, that’s more than enough to make a difference. Quattro appears for your money, too.
On the $36,000 base Premium A4, a premium sound system is AWOL, as is any form of navigation save for the phone in your pocket. These features are available on the Premium Plus package, a trim level which constantly reminds me of a tasty soup cracker (in Canada, available trim levels are a much more Teutonic-sounding Komfort, Progressiv, & Technik). The Premium Plus trim adds $3,200 to the base Monroney. Notably, tri-zone climate control is standard on the base A4. Nice.
Xenon headlamps take up residence on either side of the four-ringed grille, and the heated side mirrors have integrated turn signals. Given Audi’s current predilection for deploying a “different lengths of sausage” styling language, it is entirely possible that some buyers – and the neighbors they’re trying to impress – would fail to see the difference between this and a swanky A6. For a few, having those four rings in the driveway is all that matters.
Inside the Audi A4, passengers will find heated leather seats with power adjustments for both the driver and passenger. A standard equipment sunroof allows for unhindered viewing of the next total solar eclipse. The standard fare of safety equipment such as stability control and brake assist work to keep this sedan out of the ditch.
If pressed to make a decision, I would take the walk to get the more powerful engine and Quattro. Are there other cars at this price point better equipped (or larger but equally equipped) than a base model A4? Certainly. Do they carry the cachet of those four rings on the grille? Probably not. Which priority wins? That’s up to you.
Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selection.
The model above is shown in American dollars with American options and trim, absent of destination charges and available rebates. As always, your dealer may sell for less.
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Is half the story missing? How does it drive ?
From my experience shopping for an Audi A4 earlier this year, the base car shares these features with the rest of the A4 line: - A noticeable increase in size compared to the previous generation of this model. In size, It's pretty close to what the A6 used to be. Previous A4s were kind of cramped inside, this one isn't. - Really solid perceived build quality, including Lexus like levels of quietness inside. - A really nice interior. - Handling that's surprisingly good, especially considering the engine size out in front of the front axle. - The very good 3-zone climate control system. - An infotainment system that features both Apple Carply and Android auto. With these features you gain navigation through your phone integrated into the system, and so don't necessarily need the car to have navigation. What you're missing compared to higher trim levels: - Performance. The Ultra engine is designed to sip fuel and so really lacks grunt compares to the higher end loader of the same displacement. - Any hint of RWD performance dynamics. If you don't get the Quattro system then you've got a front wheel dtive sedan, whereas most of its natural competitors are RWD. - The ability to get Audi's technology package, which includes the virtual cockpit. You have to move up to the mid-grade trim for that to become an available option. I ended up purchasing the mid grade ("premium plus") trim model with Quattro. At first I dismissed the virtual cockpit as a gimmick, assuming I'd prefer physical dials. After driving both, the virtual cockpit became a very desirable feature. It's really well done. Regarding price, I found that all Audi dealers in my area save one immediately dropped to invoice (6% below MSRP) with no negotiation required. So figure your actual transaction price will be no more than 94% of MSRP, and spending some time negotiating will probably get lower than that. I'd say target price for the base car should be right around $33,000 USD, and that's without getting into a death match.