Posted: January 18, 2010
Executive wheels: Pretty, sure—but this baby’s got some issues
And those cool options aren't cheap, eitherBy Jeff Rundles
2010 AUDI A4 2.0 TFSI QUATTRO TIPTRONIC SEDAN
Remember that advertisement for Audi you probably saw, oh, about a 100 times over the Christmas season about having the best lights on the block? The gag was that a whole block of suburbanites were doing their best Clark Griswold yuletide lights display, but the best lights in the neighborhood were at the house with no Christmas lights, but rather two Audis in the driveway. Well, they are way-cool lights, both front and back. Audi has gone to Xenon, like a lot of luxury carmakers, but they utilize a series of little tiny beads of light inside the headlight and taillight housings - from the outside they look very progressive, and from the driver's position they deliver in spades.
Unfortunately, that may be the best thing about the 2010 Audi A4. Oh, don't get me wrong, the Audi is a beautiful car, inside and out, and it drives very well indeed, with the added assurance of the quattro all-wheel-drive system that I got to test out in real-world slippery conditions (it works wonderfully). And there are many plusses in this car. But a couple of negative, too.
On the plus side is the new interior. It is class all around, with a better-than-average-for-a-German-car operating system for the sound system, climate control, navigation and all the on-board systems. Everyone who got into the back seat remarked at how much more room, especially legroom, there was than they remembered from past Audi A4s - and this came from some of my co-workers who are Audi aficionados. And I like that Audi has dropped the "we're-different" red lights for all the dash dials and such in favor of a very classy look, feel and utilitarian value. As I said in a review of last year's A4, which is essentially the same car, the new A4 is the old A6 - larger more refined.
On the negative side I noticed two things this time around that bugged me.
First, the engine. In this model it is the 2.0-liter I4, turbocharged, putting out some 211 horsepower. I have said many times I prefer a regularly aspirated, but larger engine, because I think these small powerplants have to work too hard, at too high RPMs, and that can't be good over the long haul. But what really got me this time was how underwhelmed I was with the power. The turbo kicks in and all, but this engine - which for 2010 is in all A4 trims; they apparently have dropped the 3.2-liter V6 with 265 hp in the A4, which is a shame - is a bit sluggish. I was expecting some more punch and it didn't deliver. Oh, it's fast and all, and it handles the highways and byways just fine, but I was expecting more.
Then there are the doors. This is a very nice ride, don't get me wrong, and it is quiet inside, luxurious and all. But every time I got out of the vehicle and shut the driver's door it seemed to fly out of my hand; it's a very lightweight door, not at all what I expected, and it seemed flimsy.
I really like Audi. It is a very innovative car line, and I am a huge advocate of AWD and Audi has been doing it, and doing it well, for longer than just about anyone. They have made their cars beautiful, distinctive and they have really taken their place alongside of Mercedes, BMW and Lexus in the pantheon of luxury and near-luxury cars.
I do, however, have a further beef and it has to do with price. The base price on the 2010 A4 is a respectable $33,550. For anywhere near that price, this is as competitive as it gets, and that price includes the quattro AWD, so in many respects the A4, at base, is one of the best choices you could make.
However, the bottom line on the test-drive model I drove is $47,030 - quick math, less the $825 destination charge, will show that there are $12,655 worth of options thrown in here - more than one-third of the base price in options alone. Yeah, you get some pretty cool stuff, but man, that's expensive.
What all those options are: $8,700 for the Prestige package, with 18" 5-spoke wheels, Ban & Olufsen Premium (very nice) sound, advance key keyless start/stop, the aforementioned headlamps, the nav system, voice control for the radio/nav/telephone, Bluetooth interface, three zone climate control, heated front seats, Homelink garage door openers, exterior chrome window trim, auto dimming mirrors with compass, Audi music interface (replaces aux-input), memory seats and mirrors, a trip computer system, and rain/light sensors for the headlamps and windshield wipers. For another $2,950 you get an Audi drive select system, with adaptive suspension and dynamic steering. Then there $400 for dark walnut wood inlays and $130 for exhaust tips.
The question is, can you get this car stripped down, or choose some of the features and not the others, and get a more reasonable price. In some cases yes, and in some cases no. As we all know, there's plenty of margin in the extras, so you'd probably have to special order and wait, and wait.
RATING: THREE WHEELS (OUT OF FOUR).
Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.