2007 Audi A4 Review
Refined sedans, wagons and convertibles.
The Audi A4 looks like a premium-grade car. It's classy and assertive, just short of overtly aggressive, with a tidy, well-planted stance that oozes presence. That presence is strong enough to disguise the A4's dimensions.
This is a relatively small car: considerably smaller than competitors like the Cadillac CTS or Infiniti G35, and very close in most measures to the compact Honda Civic.
The eye immediately settles on the A4's big, tall grille, of which opinions vary. The only consensus seems to be that it's different, and it immediately identifies the A4 as an Audi.
The headlights give the front-end an assertive look, with lenses that angle upward as they wrap around the fenders. Laterally split intakes below the body-colored bumper and outboard of the grille do double duty, housing fog lamps and channeling air toward the front disc brakes. A modest hood swell, which designers call a power bulge, carries the grille's vertical outlines back to the roof pillars. On the ultra-high performance RS4, the hood and fenders are fabricated from aluminum to reduce weight.
The A4's profile shows a sharply creased shoulder line running the length of the car, from the trailing corner of the headlights to the leading edge of the tail lights. The side windows are nicely proportioned to the body mass, atop a relatively high beltline. A bump strip breaks up the expanse of the lower door panels. The painted door handles look great, but they are hard to grab and can snap away from your fingers when you're in a hurry.
The A4 Cabriolets look good with the convertible top up and much better with it down, which is probably the way it should be. The fully automatic, electro-hydraulic roof will open or close at speeds up to 19 mph. That's handy if a rain squall sneaks up while profiling through town. The soft top is thickly insulated, with a glass rear window and defroster, so it shouldn't be too big a detriment in cold climates.
The premium-grade look outside the Audi A4 carries through inside, thanks to clean, elegant design, generally rich-looking materials and good finish work. Colors combinations tend to be muted, and a choice of wood trims or aluminum inserts complement the leather, cloth and plastics.
The standard A4 seats are well bolstered, with plenty of lumbar support. We found them comfortable. The sports seats in S and RS models have big side bolsters that are harder to slide over, but the payback is Velcro-like grip on a driver's backside and torso. The standard cloth upholstery feels durable and provides a bit of grip itself. The optional leather surfaces are elegantly stitched and fit our posteriors well. The seats, mirrors, steering column and other features adjust in every conceivable direction, helping drivers find a comfortable seating position.
Interior space, however, is not one of the A4's strengths, even compared to some sedans with similar exterior dimensions. To be sure, there is more than adequate space for average-sized adults to adjust, move and stretch in front, without pangs of claustrophobia. But the A4 may not be a car for the truly full-figured, or people who rise taller than six feet, two inches. On a regular basis, the smaller space in the back seat is best reserved for children and pre-teens.
All of the A4's controls are focused on the driver; with few exceptions, they're ergonomically configured and intuitively located. The steering wheel hub repeats the grille's trapezoidal outline. A minimalist set of secondary controls on the wheel spokes manages audio and other functions. Column-mounted stalks operate the usual array of features and are clearly marked, except for the rear wiper/washer switch on the Avant, which is controlled by the right-hand lever. We like Audi's lane-change signal feature, which delivers three turn-signal blinks with a tap on the lever. It works much better than some other manufacturers' efforts to re-invent the turn signal, most particularly BMW's.
The A4's gauges are shaded by a hooded panel and easily viewed through the top half of the steering wheel, regardless of how the wheel is adjusted. The TFT information display, reporting such data as radio frequency, trip mileage and service interval warning, separates the tachometer and speedometer, with fuel and coolant gauges tucked down in the corners.
Knobs and buttons for the audio and climate controls are clustered in the center stack, all easily deciphered and within easy reach. The climate system is easy to operate, but the air conditioning struggled to keep up on a 95-degree day driving through the desert. It was about then that we noticed that, at certain angles, the sun reflected up off of the silver trim surrounding the shifter on an A4 2.0T sedan.
When the navigation system is ordered, the stereo panel gives way to the map display, which then doubles as stereo controls. The display is one of the best available, and system controls are readily understood. It's easy to orient the cursor and shift the map scale, while on-screen telltales steal very little real estate from the map. The map offers both a flat, two-dimensional and a bird's-eye perspective, the latter with a distant horizon visible across top of the screen.
The premium stereo has MP3 capability and a pair of slots for Secure Digital memory cards. Unfortunately, only volume and pre-set radio stations can be changed without first pressing Accept on the opening menu every time the car is started. We find it annoying to sign the electronic equivalent of a liability waiver just to turn on the radio. Also, the stereo is on all the time the navigational system is active, and it's annoying. You don't turn it off, you just turn it down.
There are other minor annoyances with the A4. We wish the beep confirming the remote lock would sound more promptly, as we constantly found ourselves pausing for a moment to be sure the doors had in fact locked. And while we're strong believers in seat belts, we found the warning chime annoying because it would urgently sound immediately after starting the car, before we started driving. In other words, you're not allowed to just sit there with the engine running without buckling up.
As for unusual positive impressions, we like the one-piece wiper blades for their sleek looks, slicker aerodynamics and solid seating against the glass at autobahn speeds. And we were thankful for the red Stop button on the driver's memory settings panel whenever we pressed the wrong memory setting button.
There's a lot more useful storage spots in the A4 than there were in Audis or recent past. It starts with an impressively big glove box, though the box gives up space to the CD changer if the navigation system is ordered. There's a neat drawer the size of a credit card above the in-dash CD changer. The front doors have fixed map pockets, and the front seatbacks have net pouches to hold magazines, snacks and other sundries. A power point in the center console bin augments the cigar lighter in the front ashtray. A flip-down armrest in the rear seat contains two cup holders.
The A4's fold-down, height-adjustable front center armrest can align with the driver door armrest, encouraging a restful, upright driver posture, but it also can interfere with operating the handbrake. Pulling the brake lever requires contorting the wrist or raising the armrest. Some of us loved the center armrest; others found it a pain and immediately raised it upon getting in the car.
With 13.4 cubic feet of trunk space, the A4 sedan falls slightly above the mean in this class. Moreover, the space in the trunk is made as useful as possible. The trunk lid flips out of the way for easy access. There are cubbies in the trunk side panels that take advantage of space around the wheel wells, and several tie-down points.
The Avant features a two-way cargo cover that includes a pull-up, vertical net to restrain stacked objects, or maybe a dog, behind the rear seat. It could be important in an accident. Pull-down grips inside the liftgate spare your hands from any road grime accumulated on the outside.
The A4 Cabriolet gives up a seat-belt (and therefore a seat) in back, but if you were the person relegated to middle-rear in the sedan, you might not consider that any great loss. The convertible also gives up some trunk space to make room for the top mechanism, reducing maximum capacity to 10.2 cubic feet. There's still plenty of room for luggage.
The standard soft top is well insulated against cold air, and to a lesser extent, noise. Audi also offers an acoustic roof, which uses more expensive fabrics with a greater material density. The company claims this top reduces interior noise levels to those in the A4 sedan, even at highway speeds.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2007 Audi A4, click here: 2007 Audi A4.