2009 Audi A4
2009 Audi A4. Click image to enlarge


Review by Tony Whitney, Photos courtesy Audi

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2009 Audi A4

Sardinia, Italy – Every now and again, a new vehicle comes along which prompts the question, “Do we really need a new one of these when the one we can buy right now is about as good as it can possibly be?”

So it is with the latest incarnation of the popular Audi A4, which was introduced to the world’s media recently. Despite widespread owner satisfaction with the current model, Audi has completely re-worked its sports sedan, inside and out.

There will be a certain amount of controversy among Audi-philes when the new A4 arrives here during the fall of 2008 as a 2009 model, most of which will almost certainly revolve around the car’s size: the new car is larger than the old one in most dimensions.

Quite possibly, the buzz around the A4 will split aficionados into two camps – those who like their sports sedans as compact as possible and appreciated the trimness of the old car, and those who appreciate the 2009 version’s greater shoulder and leg room, achieved without any loss of agility or “feel”. Even so, the A4 has edged a little closer to its A6 sibling in size and also boasts a level of luxury and convenience which is more A6-like. As an example, trunk capacity is 480-litres – larger than anything offered by its direct competitors.

2009 Audi A4
2009 Audi A4. Click image to enlarge

In its presentations to the media, Audi proudly touted the car’s larger size and roominess. The new A4 is 117 mm (4.6 in.) longer and 50 mm (2.0 in.) wider, but the height is just about unchanged. The wheelbase has been upped to 2808 mm, longer than its competitors. Front overhang has been reduced, giving the car a nice aggressive stance on the road.

The new A4 is longer than its two main rivals – the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class – and slightly lower. Under the skin, the new A4 is related to two other Audi products of recent vintage – the S5 and A5 coupes.

It’s certainly a handsome automobile and has lots of interesting detailing around the bodywork – including the now-familiar massive black Audi grille, spoiled to some extent by the need for a front license plate in most provinces (and in its German homeland).

2009 Audi A4
2009 Audi A4
2009 Audi A4. Click image to enlarge

You’ll spot an A4 in your rear-view mirror by its “necklace” of LEDs arrayed across each headlight unit that serve as daytime running lights. This is a very distinctive feature – at first glance this Audi has the look of some kind of predatory beast bearing down on you. The rear of the car is especially well done with its faired-in trunk spoiler and slimmer taillights.

In Europe, where the car has already been launched, buyers have a choice of five engines, two gasoline and three diesel. A 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine has 160 horsepower and a 3.2-litre gasoline V6 boasts 265 horsepower. The three oil-burners include a 3.0-litre TDI, a 2.7-litre TDI and a 2.0-litre TDI. Horsepower ratings are 240, 190 and 143 respectively. I managed to get one of the diesels to try – the 3.0-litre unit – and the amount of torque available when booting it out of a tight corner on a mountain road made it a more enjoyable drive than its nearest gasoline equivalent. The 3.0-litre TDI has a whopping 500 nm (369 ft-lb) of torque on tap and will tag the speedo at 100 km/h in just a shade over six seconds. Some of this diesel’s prowess comes from a new turbocharger design with variable turbine geometry. According to Audi engineers, this makes for a turbocharger that builds up power freely and spontaneously.

Indications are that, initially, we’ll only get the 3.2-litre V6 in Canada, but the 2.0-litre TDI may follow later.

In Europe, of course, if you don’t have diesel variants, you don’t have a proper vehicle range – and to have a choice of three must be a delight to drivers who prefer this type of power unit. If only our U.S. friends would stop thinking of diesels as smokey, noisy, truck-like powerplants, maybe we’d get a choice of three diesels for our new Audi too. In some European countries, diesel vehicle sales are now topping 70 per cent and rising.

2009 Audi A4
2009 Audi A4. Click image to enlarge

Across the range, there are several transmissions available in Europe – including (truly outstanding!) new six-speed manual boxes, six-speed Tiptronics, and a Multitronic continuously variable unit. Naturally, Audi’s legendary Quattro four-wheel drive system is available; in Europe, it’s optional on entry-level models and standard with the larger engines. North American A4s will all be Quattro-equipped, at least initially. As before, station wagon and high-performance RS versions of the new A4 will reach us at some time or another.

As with any Audi regardless of sticker price, the interior is right up there in the benchmark class with superb fit and finish, intelligent design and placement of controls, and a general feeling of well being for driver and passengers. Looking around the cockpit of the new A4, it’s hard to believe that cars like this owe their origin to the good old BMW 2002 of the 1970s, which is now almost crude by comparison.

2009 Audi A4
2009 Audi A4
2009 Audi A4. Click image to enlarge

The driving position couldn’t be faulted, but as with some other Audi products, the sound system needed a bit of manual-perusal before it could be safely operated on the go. This is a widespread fault around the auto business, though some makers are tackling it by coming up with audio control screens that re-create proper dial-and-pointer radios of old.

On the road this new Audi proved to be an assured, confidence-inspiring drive with exceptional handling given its increase in size. Impressive throttle response and very accurate steering added to a rewarding experience behind the wheel. The freeway ride seemed almost as refined as that of the car’s large A8 sibling – even at very high speeds.

Whether the A4’s increased size and higher level of sophistication hints at a new Audi small sedan for some time in the future remains to be seen. No prices will be announced for quite a while, but think in the 30’s somewhere and you’ll be in the ballpark for an entry-level A4.


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