Quick Road Trip Review: 2011 Audi A4 2.0 T quattro; Better Than A BMW 328i?

 

I recently made a trip up to NY for the 2011 NY International Auto Show, and I was able to borrow a 2011 Audi A4 2.0 T quattro to drive. I then learned it has no rivals. Read on to see what I mean.

A call to Audi for a test drive of one of their newer cars proved difficult, as usual, for me. You see, I live in North Carolina, not the center most area for press cars in this country. I know, I don’t get why this great state doesn’t have more of an impact either. Anyway, Audi had agreed to send me a new A4 2.0 T, and I was happy. RawAutos had not yet tested one of their cars formally, so I was relieved I could give you guys info on this car.

There was one problem, however. Audi wanted to send me the car while I would be driving the 2011 Porsche Panamera V6. This proved troubling to me, since I had never tested a Porsche for you guys either, I felt as though I needed to not have any interference while testing a very important car for Porsche. Or they could send it to me the following week, except I was going to be in NYC for the auto show. Needless to say, I was rather saddened that I would not be able to take delivery of a new Audi to review until closer to the summer. But then Audi recommended I take their car up to New York for the auto show. A splendid idea, this was. And so all was great in the world again.

I drove up to Maryland from my home in North Carolina Monday, the 18th of April, in the early afternoon hours to pick up the Audi, and stay overnight for my drive to NYC the following morning. I’m originally from Baltimore, so this is a rather familiar trip for me, as I’m up there a few times each year. I pulled my car into the press lot to see a beautiful array of Audis, BMWs and the like gracing the parking spaces awaiting their own deliveries to their respective writers. But then, away from the pack sat an eye-catchingly red Audi A4 gleaming in the spring sun. Every other car on the lot was beautiful, but they were all in the typical drab colors of silver, black, beige-style, etc. This Audi A4 was hellfire red, and since it had the Titanium Sport package -a $2,000 option- it didn’t have an ounce of chrome, but instead black accents everywhere; which is something I loved about the car, as it set it apart from the other BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, Lexus ISs and Audi A4s I saw on my trip. Not once did I see any other Audi with the same package.

The Audi A4 I had was a 2.0 TFSI (a direct-injected turbo 4-cylinder) quattro all-wheel drive model that has a base MSRP of $34,140, but was optioned with Premium Plus packaging for $3,400, as well as the Titanium Sport package for $2,000, and $130 for polished exhaust tips.

With the Premium Plus package you get xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights with LED taillights, heated front seats and three zone climate control, bluetooth, Audi MI (a navigation like screen with controls for radio, satellite, iPod, etc.), auto-dimming mirror with┬á compass, trip computer, rain sensor, universal garage door opener, folding rear seats, and had it not been equipped with the sport package, 17″ wheels with all-season tires.

Checking the Titanium Sport package box allows you sexy 19″ wheels with 255/35 summer tires all-round, plus black exterior elements with piano black interior accents and a black headliner. As you’d expect, sports seats and suspension help this package shine.

This all makes for an as-tested price of just $40,545.

Engine:

The engine is, like I said, a direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 211 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It’s the range of that power and torque that make you feel very connected to this engine, because the torque is available to you from 1500 RPM all the way up to 4200 RPM, and the maximum power comes in at 4300 RPM and carries you up to 6000 RPM uninterrupted. Redline is around 6700 RPM… This is all mated to an 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox on my press car. I would have preferred a manual, but hey, it’s a free car… you take what you can get.

Styling:


Audi were the first to really start stylizing their cars with LED accented headlights. They were also the first to blend this to the actual design of the body shape, which in turn makes the Audi A4 one breathtakingly good looking car. It’s not necessarily the most sporty or agile of its class, but it is without a doubt the most unique. How do you make people think you spent $60,000 when you only spent $40,000? Buy an Audi A4. It’s smart styling in a modern package that doesn’t over-wow anyone. Its especially true on the streets of NYC, where the shape and elegance of the A4 prove to be the perfect blend of sexy and smart. And I love those graphite 5 spoke 19″ sport wheels. They’re undoubtedly my favorite part about the look of this car. They make it complete and unique.

Driving:


When driving the Audi A4 with their impeccable quattro all-wheel drive system, you get a sense of invincibility about you. Like, nothing can hurt you. Nothing can actually affect you on the road. The feeling is true, it seems. However, I found one thing that didn’t make me feel so safe and comfortable: the sensitivity in the steering wheel -maybe because it’s so light- that leads to an overactive chassis. What am I talking about? Well, say you’re on the highway, if you rapidly jerk the steering wheel back and forth quickly to see how the steering reacts, you’ll notice that the car is very fidgety. When making emergency lane changes, the car feels as though it will get a little squirrelly.

With that said, though, the Audi A4 is quite good on the road. The sport suspension feels tight, but not so tight it’s going to break you, as well as quick to react to whatever you throw at it. The steering is way too light for my personal taste. Even on the highway I could go for a bit more stiffness, but especially at lower speeds up to 60 mph. But, if you throw the A4 into a turn, it’s going to stick. The extra wide 255 tires front and rear make this car go around corners like a proper sports sedan, even if it does weigh 3,715 lbs.

Comfortability and effortlessness are the keywords that’ll best describe your drive in an Audi A4. And there’s no place better to test these abilities than in New Jersey and New York City. You see, the NJ Turnpike is like the N├╝rburgring of highways; forcing you to sometimes put both hands on the wheel to control the car on the pothole and terrible driver ridden roads. And NYC gives you the situational awareness of Peyton Manning. You’re calling audibles on every street, never actually staying in a straight line. I was dodging bread trucks and taxis like I was Sugar Rey Leonard ducking and dodging punches. What’s the speed limit inside the city? Uhm, can I phone a friend? I know it’s 35 mph, but the moment you start driving in the city there’s no such thing as a speed limit sign. They might as well just have a white circle with 4 black lines through it. But this is all where the assuredness of the A4 is your friend. You are the champion each time you drive this car.

Interior:


Inside the Audi A4 you’ll find nothing but premium features all around. The leather seats are of the finest fit and finish, and they look great. They feel fantastic on any driving surface and at whatever speed. I do wish there was a bit more side bolstering, though, because sporty driving sometimes calls for you to brace your body with your left foot on the dead pedal. That being said, the knee bolsters are the best I’ve ever felt on any car. BMW started doing this long ago on their sport seats, and Audi’s done it better. They fill the back of your knee with the softest and most comfortable of leather.

I mentioned earlier about the steering being too light, and another gripe I have with that is the wheel itself; it’s too big. It’s rather large, I tell ya. In a world where steering wheels are getting smaller with more buttons, Audi’s found a way to make a bigger steering wheel with very few buttons. They’re always trying to do it the opposite, aren’t they? I mean, if it’s not the wrong way to up and downshift with the gear leaver, it’s an odd wheel.

As for all else, the interior on the Audi A4 is very well thought out and put together. The buttons on the center stack are rather confusing the first couple of days, but you do get used to where they are and what they do. But they can be confusing once you’ve pushed them. The climate control buttons just work stupidly as to how they should. You have one knob that does everything from your heated seat to your actual temperature and fan speed. What happened to a button being pushed a few times, huh, Audi? I mean, when I first got into the car the heated seat was on and it took me five minutes to remember how to turn it off (my father had a 2011 S5, so I used to play around with that from time to time). For instance, if you’d like to turn on or off your heated seat, push the corresponding button and turn the knob either way to set the hotness of said seat. Wanna change the temperature of the air conditioning? Again, push the button that has the picture you’re looking for and then turn the same knob in whichever direction to set your controls. It seems easy once you’ve explained it. But do it on the highway when you forgot about that and see how it works for you.

One very refreshing thing inside an Audi A4 is a navigation-like screen that shoes you everything you want to know. It displays all between the radio to vehicle settings. Instead of a small, nonsense screen, you get a standard 7-inch one that allows you view everything in full, but the colors used for the menus and such are a bit childish.

For a standard sound system, Audi’s 180 watt system isn’t too bad. I could go for some midrange controls, though. Sometimes there’s just too much bass or treble you can’t quite get out of the speakers. But it’s still a good audio system for a car of this price range.

Transmission:

The optional 8-speed Tiptronic transmission replaces all of the 6-speed autoboxes Audi used to use, and with good reason. The 8-speed box allows for much better manual control, but also provides great gas mileage. My Audi A4 was rated at 21 mpg city and 29 highway. You can definitely do better than that, but no matter what, you’ll still have an easily attainable range of 450 miles or more.

As for the manual duties, this Tiptronic gearbox isn’t too shabby. It’s not a dual-clutch unit, so I didn’t expect it to be quick, but it was still pretty good, though. The speeds could be faster, I think, but it wasn’t terrible. And while I was a little disappointed by its speed and performance, I enjoyed knowing the fact that my gas mileage was superb because of the extra cogs. The paddles felt pretty good and were right where you’d expect them to be.

Luggage Space:


I’m one of those people that carries everything but the kitchen sink. Thanks, mom! And on my trip to the Big Apple I felt no differently. I had to have plenty of clothes for those just in case moments, which never actually arrived, of course. My other horrible habit is that I usually pack at the last minute. Which means, if I’m driving, it’s usually just thrown into bags or a smaller Ferrari suitcase I love to use. I always carry a big backpack that holds my 18.4 Toshiba laptop, as well as all other electronics I need, a garment style bag, and a standard shopping bag for whatever I didn’t fit in the rest of my luggage. I know, I’m a slob…

On the way up I also had to stop and pick up a rather large bin full of radio equipment for the main host of my RoundelTable Radio show I do live on Tuesday nights at 8 PM ET. An Audi A4 carrying me and all of our radio gear up to NY for our live BMW radio show? Why yes, I quite like that irony.

In the end, the Audi swallowed up every bit of luggage and miscellaneous crap I could carry. Not one thing unsettled its cargo room. Even with all of the load, the handling and driving was still very good. Better than I could say about most cars.

In The End:


At the end of the auto show week, I drove the Audi back to Maryland on Friday afternoon and dropped it back off to Audi on Saturday around noon. All-in, I had a fantastic time in the Audi A4. I don’t believe that there’s a better car in this segment for this much money. Granted, I think any car priced at $40,000 or more that isn’t a stripped out sports car should have navigation as standard. Driving into New York City I had to switch between my Garmin GPS and my iPhone’s Google maps. Inside of the city it’s hard to get any handheld navigation system to work because of the tall buildings. My phone helped me out with some things, but since the Sirius satellite had no real issues, I’m sure Audi’s MMI navigation would have helped me out when I kept getting lost around the streets of NYC.

Like I said, I’m convinced this is the best car in its class at this price. I’d like to have the BMW 328i’s more rigid and sporty chassis, but the A4 2.0 T quattro is much better in terms of luxury and maturity. The styling is to die for, especially at this level of pricing.

The Good: Safer feeling than any other car in its class; top notch knee bolsters; 8-speed automatic allows for good fuel economy; perfectly sized trunk; Styling is killer

The Bad: 8-speed automatic not as well suited for sportier driving; seats have very limited side bolsters; non-attractive colors used for infotainment screen; steering wheel is BIG

The Ugly: $40,000 is a bit much to spend on any car without navigation, especially in this day and age; unsure all-wheel drive chassis during emergency highway maneuvers; steering too sensitive and light

The Truth: The Audi A4 is a good bit of kit for the under 50-grand luxury crowd; Damn near perfect balance of luxury, sport and mpg in one package; styling is UHMAZING!

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I'm a car, music, and Howard Stern aficionado. I also love planes, trains, anything to do with science and engineering, as well as politics. I'm working on my screenplays, TV shows, and a book or two. Stay tuned to when I'm really famous and even more awesome.

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  • Fred Foster

    I’ve been looking at buying a C300 Sport for the past few weeks. Should I
    buy that or this? I looked at the Audis but didn’t see one nearly as awesome looking as this car. I haven’t decided on getting navigation or not either. What should I do?

  • Anonymous

    Fred, I would definitely take a look at the A4 over the C300. The C-Class is a good car, but I think the style and quattro system in the Audi make it a clear winner. I do like the C, though. But I’m not much of a fan of them until you get into the C63 AMG, now that’s a kick ass car. But if you’re looking for something in the low-40,000 dollar range, the A4 is for you. I even think it’s more comfortable than the C300, too. But that’s just me. You need to drive both in order to get a truly accurate feel.

  • JBsC5

    Excellent and interesting review. I have enjoyed many of your roundeltable podcasts and I found your audi review quite fair.

    JB