|Positives: Simply thrilling but still easy to drive, crisp steering and handling, excellent manual transmission, peerless driver gauges and physical controls, sequential turn signals are chic and functional
|Negatives: Styling is a bit vanilla, options can send the price too far north, suede seat inserts welcome stains
|Bottom Line: The A4 is an absolute delight despite its rather low-key exterior styling. Not only does it deliver great comfort and superior technology, it's just wonderful to drive. Faster than its power output would indicate, it also handles, brakes, and steers like a champ. There's not much this small sedan can't handle.
It's hard to overstate how well the A4 drives. It seems to perfectly toe the line between an everyday comfortable sedan to a thrilling street carver that never feels out of sorts. It's one of our favorite cars to drive so far this year.
Ride Quality: Smooth and compliant with the right touch of firmness to make it feel connected to the road. The optional adaptive suspension works like a charm.
Acceleration: The 2.0-liter four is a potent one the exhibits very little lag. 0-60 happens in just a little over five seconds, which is right-quick. The 6-speed manual isn't as precise as, say, a Miata's, but it's very good with pretty short throws for a luxury sedan.
Braking: Braking is strong, and the pedal is progressive.
Steering: There's a good amount of heft and feedback to keep enthusiasts happy in sport mode and in the turns, but it feels light at higher speeds.
Handling: The all-wheel drive system helps manage some of the front-weighted heft (since the engine sits in front of the axle). Handling is crisp, despite the understeer that is palpable but not dramatic in spirited turns.
Doing in-car tech right, including infotainment, is an art few carmakers have mastered. Audi is at the top of its game here, and drivers are the beneficiaries. The optional Virtual Cockpit in our tester is a great system that puts all data and nav in front of the driver. We'd like to see setups like this more in the industry.
Infotainment System: The MMI system is the best system in a German vehicle but also one of the best in the industry. Menus are easy to navigate, and the screen is vivid and crisp. We experienced no hiccups in pairing or usage during our review.
Controls: From great steering wheel controls to one of the best climate control systems around (physical knobs and metal-finish toggle switches), as well as the center console MMI control knob, everything looks and works wonderfully.
The A4 has never been a serious attention-grabber, but it's also never been overstyled, either. We happen to like its conservative looks but would like to see a bit more flair along the lines of the the current Q5 crossover.
Front: The only dramatic aspect of the front fascia are the light bars within the headlight housings. They match the angularity of the grille nicely, but there's not much else here to draw your attention.
Rear: We think the tail section is more dramatic thanks to the tapering thinnness of the taillights, and the sequential turn signals that aren't just functionally smart but beautiful to look at in action.
Profile: The short front and rear overhangs give the A4 a sporty look, and it's well-proportioned, but there's not much else in terms of drama from the side view. Only a full-length body crease and thin chrome window trim.
Cabin: The interior is nicely German, in that it makes use of blacks, greys, and silvers very well. Materials are excellent, as is quality. The S-line trim makes it extra sporty. We're still not sure we like the lumpy suede seat inserts, though. We prefer regular leather, despite the suede's extra grippiness.
The A4 is Germanically comfortable because it aims less at opulent looks and more on actual functional comfort. There's ample room for four (five is tight), and everything is ergonomically efficient.
Front Seats: The seats are supportive and well-bolstered, and the grippy suede inserts are soft, but they still look like cloth.
Rear Seats: The outboard seats provide good comfort, and there's shoulder, head, and legroom for 6-footers. As in most sedans of this size, the middle position is only for shorter trips.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The A4 is quiet and vibration and squeak free.
Visibility: Visibility all around is excellent with manageable pillar width, and a rear deck that doesn't get in the way.
Climate: The system functions incredibly well, but we would've like a bit more power from the air conditioning during 90+ degree heat.
The A4 does really well in terms of safety and also has excellent standard and optional safety features and technology. It's a car anyone should feel peace of mind when driving.
IIHS Rating: It just misses the top score and attains a Top Safety Pick because of just an "acceptable" score for headlights.
NHTSA Rating: The 2018 A4 gets top marks, earning 5-stars in crash testing.
Standard Tech: The A4 gets Audi pre-sense basic, Audi pre-sense city, both of which can issue warnings and apply braking, LED daytime running lights, a rearview camera, and tire pressure monitoring
Optional Tech: Our tester came with Parking system plus and Audi side assist with pre-sense rear, which senses and visually warns the driver of fast approaching traffic from the rear or blind spot traffic from the side when changing lanes.
This is one area in the cabin where the A4 could do better. The cabin storage options are limited, but the trunk space is quite good.
Storage Space: There's just a dual cupholder in front of the shifter and a small, shallow slot next to the MMI control knob. The armrest isn't very big, either.
Cargo Room: The sedan has 13 cubic feet of trunk space, the equivalent of the BMW 3-Series and a tad more than the Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan.
Though we weren't completely surprised that our mileage numbers weren't better, we were hoping the efficiency of a 2-liter turbo four would rear its head at some point.
Observed: 21.5 mpg
Distance Driven: 266 miles
Driving Factors: We drove the A4 in Dynamic mode the entire time issuing spirited sprints and pushing the car pretty hard. More conservative driving will net much better numbers.
The premium Bang & Olufsen sound system with 3D sound is excellent, delivering clean, full sound whenever called upon. It's a system upgrade that costs $3,200 for the Premium Plus package, but it's one that you'll enjoy every day, in addition to the other package items.