2004 Audi A4 Reviews and Ratings

Sedan 4D 1.8T Quattro

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2004 Audi A4
Jeffrey P. Vettraino and Mitch McCullough

Introduction
The Audi A4 represents a line of fantastic sports sedans. They deliver crisp handling, a firm ride, and a well-controlled suspension that make for a precise, high-quality driving experience. The A4 feels like it's on rails around fast sweepers, especially when equipped with Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system, one of the world's best. Beautifully finished interiors exude quality and ergonomic excellence.

Performance and driveability vary by model. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine that comes on 1.8T models delivers excellent performance when paired with a manual gearbox and it's attractively priced, but the 1.8-liter engine doesn't work as well with the available automatic transmission. The V6 engine that comes on 3.0 models is wonderfully smooth and quite strong, and it works very well when paired with the optional automatic. The V8-powered S4 delivers awesome performance and serious enthusiasts love it, but its suspension may be too firm for most drivers.

The A4 was completely redesigned for 2002. Last year, the Cabriolet (convertible) and Avant (wagon) models joined the lineup. For 2004, Audi further expands the A4 family with the V8-powered S4, plus Audi's first Cabriolet quattros, available in both A4 3.0 and S4 trim, combining high performance with top-down exhilaration.

A host of active and passive safety features help keep drivers on the road and protect passengers in an accident. Model Lineup
A4 1.8T models are powered by a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. The A4 1.8T sedan ($25,250) comes standard with cloth upholstery, a five-speed manual gearbox, and front-wheel drive. Standard amenities include dual-zone climate control and a 150-watt, 10-speaker stereo with six-CD in-dash changer. The 1.8T is also available with front-wheel drive and a Continuously Variable Transmission, a stepless automatic transmission ($26,400). The 1.8T quattro is available with a six-speed manual ($27,450) or a five-speed Tiptronic automatic ($28,500). The A4 1.8T Avant quattro comes with the six-speed manual ($28,450) or the Tiptronic automatic ($29,500). The Avant adds four-way power seats with adjustable lumbar support to the sedan's list of standard equipment. A4 1.8T Cabriolet ($35,250) shares the wagon's power seats and is available only with the CVT and front-wheel drive. It also comes with a more powerful 180-watt stereo.

The A4 3.0 features a 3.0-liter V6. The A4 3.0 front-drive sedan ($31,150) comes standard with the CVT, 12-way power driver's seat, leather upholstery, an upgraded stereo, driver information display, and other luxury and trim items, in addition to the V6 engine. Quattro sedans add a 12-way power passenger's seat and are offered with a choice of six-speed manual ($32,940) or Tiptronic ($33,990). The A4 3.0 Avant comes only with quattro, and with the six-speed manual ($33,940) or Tiptronic ($34,990). The A4 3.0 Cabriolet is offered with either the CVT and front-wheel drive ($41,800), or quattro and Tiptronic ($43,550).

The S4 is a high-performance variant that shares the same three bodies, but is powered by a 4.2-liter V8 rated at 340 horsepower. The S4 is available as a sedan with six-speed manual ($45,650) or six-speed Tiptronic ($46,800) transmission; Avant with six-speed manual ($46,650) or six-speed Tiptronic ($47,800); or as Cabriolet with the same transmission choices.

Options include a 215-watt Bose sound system for front-drive sedans ($900), the same system with a choice of Sirius or XM satellite radio for Quattro models ($1,000), a navigation system for 3.0 and S4 ($1,350), and OnStar ($750). Walkaround
The Audi A4 is a handsome car, shaped in the signature Bauhaus style established by the larger A6. The A4 takes styling cues from both the TT roadster and the A6, including its high beltline, prominent chrome-trimmed grille, and notched-in flush taillights. Headlights, bumpers, and door handles are integrated into the body. Few adornments detract from the A4's basic shape, and there is little chrome. On sedans, antennae for the radio, telematics and navigation systems are embedded into the rear glass.

The Avant is sporty looking wagon with a steeply sloped rear hatch that sacrifices some cargo room for a slick, up-market profile. Overall, the Avant is the same length as the sedan. Its rear hatch can open at two different heights, to allow extra clearance for taller owners. It also features a dual-loading cargo floor, a rakish roof-mounted antenna and unique window trim: black on 1.8T, brushed aluminum on 3.0 and S4.

Cabriolet models share the sedan's basic lines and clean, taut surfaces in a two-door convertible body style. The wide arc of the soft top accentuates the A4's pure proportions and subtle wedge shape. Cabriolets come with unique features. Among them: brushed aluminum trim around the windscreen and waist. The cabrio's body-colored air dam, especially in the lighter paint colors, accentuates the openings under the front bumper more than the dark-colored air dam on the sedan and Avant.

S4 models are distinguished by fully painted bumpers, xenon headlights with contrasting titanium-colored inner housings, aluminum-finish exterior mirrors, and a trunk-mounted rear spoiler. The S4 Avant is further distinguished by its aluminum-colored roof rails.

Safety features that come standard on all A4/S4 models include antilock brakes, Brake Assist, and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD); an electronic stability program (ESP); dual front airbags that deploy at different rates depending on the severity of a crash, front side-impact airbags, and three-point seat belts at all five locations with pre-tensioners and force limiters in front. Sedans and Avants also have curtain-style head-protection airbags for front and rear-seat passengers, while the Cabriolet's seat-mounted side-impact airbags are designed to provide head protection. The Cabriolet features an active rollover protection system located in the double rear bulkhead. Should the car roll, electronic sensors trigger two protective hoops that pop up from behind the rear seats in less than a second. Together with the extremely rigid windscreen frame, these hoops help to maintain an intact survival zone designed to protect all occupants. Rear side-impact airbags are optional ($350) on all models except the Cabriolet. Interior
The interior theme of the Audi A4 is cool and efficient, as it is in Audi's other sedans, and not deliberately snazzy in the fashion of the TT. Materials look and feel richer than those in many other cars in this price range, and the trim matches flawlessly. The cabin beltline is trimmed with aluminum in the 1.8T and real wood in the 3.0. The light-colored wood is used to good effect. It's a handsome interior. The interior of the S4 is handsome. Our seats were trimmed in a gray that was almost white, with black (or nearly black) trim, and dark-gray birch trim adds distinction.

The front seats adjust to accommodate people in the six-foot five-inch range. The seats are comfortable and supportive in nearly all circumstances. We thought more side bolstering would have been an improvement, though, to hold driver and passenger firmly when cornering. Leather upholstery is available on the 1.8T sedan and Avant as part of a Premium Package ($2000) that also includes a power moonroof, power seats, HomeLink transmitter and driver information display. A thick, grippy, leather-covered steering wheel and shift lever are standard. The S4 comes with 12-way power Recaro sport seats that are firm, supportive, and comfortable. The S4's leather-wrapped, three-spoke sport steering wheel features shift paddles on Tiptronic models; a four-spoke, wheel with multi-function controls is optional ($150).

The driver's view is nearly unobstructed in every direction. The small, sculpted side mirrors are stylish and aerodynamic, but from the driver's seat they offer a limited viewing range. We would sacrifice the look for wider coverage.

Some of the switches could be larger, yet those most frequently adjusted, including stereo volume, are large enough. After a bit of familiarization, everything in the A4 is easy to find with minimal distraction. The radial sunroof switch works well; turn it a quarter, half or full turn and the roof opens a corresponding distance. With the Premium Package for 3.0 models ($1,525-$2,300), nearly all temperature, ventilation and stereo adjustments can be made using buttons on the steering wheel hub.

Audi's red and white gauge lighting, its warning lights and LEDs, are among the sharpest, most readable going. Flow-control switches on each dash vent are illuminated. In the S4, gray-faced gauges feature the S4 logo.

Attention to detail and thoughtful features are everywhere. The wipers make another final sweep several seconds after the washer is used, cleaning those remaining droplets that were blown up the windshield. We love the lock buttons with the little red LED to signal when the doors are locked. Power central locking is executed well, with a central switch to lock all doors. Dealers can program the doors to lock automatically at 8 mph. Turn the key in the driver's door and hold it there and you can raise or lower all windows and sunroof at once. The remote fob is designed to operate at up to 150 feet away.

Rear passengers should find adequate legroom in the sedan or Avant, as the A4's design makes great use of the floor space. There's room in back for three, with three-point harnesses at all positions, but it's comfortable with two.

Trunk space in the A4 sedan is among the largest in the class (13.4 cubic feet, compared to just 10.7 in the BMW 3 Series and 12.2 in the Mercedes C-Class). Moreover, the lid swings high and back for easy access. Four tie-down hooks in the carpeted floor and a removable grocery net are designed to keep things in place. The rear seat is split 60/40 and folds down for carrying even more stuff. The Cold Weather Package ($625) includes heated front seats a nylon ski sack that allows snow skis to slide through the trunk and into the cabin without leaving a damp mess.

The Avant provides a nice, flat cargo area that holds twice as much as the sedan with the seats in place (27.8 cubic feet), and it comes with a retractable luggage cover and a partition net. Fold down the rear seats and you have 60.6 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

The Cabriolet offers just 11.1 cubic feet of cargo space with the top up, less when the top is folded into the trunk, and the rear seat doesn't fold. The ski sack comes standard.

The Cabriolet features a padded convertible top that's triple-layered and has a heated glass rear window with electric defrost. (The word "cabriolet" is a European coach building term for a convertible with an all-weather top.) Audi says its engineers used a special process to seal the top's three layers for precise fit and finish. Horizontal crossbars keep the top stiff to preventing ballooning at speed, and there's a distinct absence of tent ridges. Press a button and the fully automatic top drops in just 24 seconds, and a cover closes over it for a flush fit. All cares are quickly whisked away.

Like most German cars, the A4 offers few places to stash stuff up front. The glovebox provides some space along with a couple of small door pockets. A pair of tiny bins in the center console can hold a cell phone. A tiny drawer on the center stack can hold change or you can use the ashtray. There's one cup holder on the center stack, which works okay, and a couple of cup holders on the fold-down armrest that are placed too far to the rear for the driver to conveniently access. Driving Impressions
The Audi A4 3.0 runs among the more powerful cars in its class with its aluminum 3.0-liter V6. It's rated 220 horsepower at 6300 rpm with 221 pounds-feet of torque. By comparison, the BMW 330i and Mercedes C320 make 225 horsepower, 214 pounds-feet of torque, and 215 horsepower, 221 pounds-feet, respectively. Audi remains the only luxury carmaker with advanced five-valve-per-cylinder technology across its product line, a setup that allows the engine to breathe freely. Both the A4 3.0 and A4 1.8T earn California's Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) certification.

Like everything else about the A4 3.0, the V6 engine is very smooth. Press down on the throttle and power comes on linearly, evenly. It does not paste you to the back of the seat, but it delivers solid torque throughout the rev range. Variably phased intake and exhaust camshafts and variable-length intake runners optimize air/fuel delivery, boosting horsepower and maintaining 90 percent of peak torque from 2200-5200 rpm. So there's a deep well of power available whether you're winding up a country road or just cruising along. Jab the gas pedal in any situation, and the A4 responds immediately.

With the six-speed manual, the A4 3.0 is a match for BMW's 330i, long the performance benchmark in this class. The six gear ratios are nicely matched if you want to shift frequently and really work the engine. Yet the V6 is flexible enough that you can shift less frequently, allowing the engine torque pull the car along. But only rarely will you fall into the passive mode at the wheel of an A4. More often than not you'll want to stretch it. The six-speed itself is a nice gearbox, though not the easiest to coordinate with the clutch for smoothness. An A4 3.0 quattro with the six-speed manual can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds and can turn the standing quarter-mile in 15.2 seconds. That's comparable to the performance of a BMW 330i.

If you prefer an automatic transmission, you have two options: an A4 quattro (all-wheel drive) with a more traditional five-speed Tiptronic automatic, or a front-drive A4 with Audi's Multitronic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The CVT was designed to handle the high torque load of the 3.0-liter V6. It's lighter than conventional automatics, has fewer moving parts, and theoretically fewer things to go wrong. And, theoretically speaking, it always provides the optimum ratio, at any engine speed, any vehicle speed. In terms of real-world performance, an A4 3.0 FronTrak with the CVT accelerates as quickly as an A4 3.0 Quattro with the six-speed, according to Audi, and gets about the same mileage as an A4 with a manual transmission. The CVT takes some getting used to, however. Its internal clutch can take a moment to engage and respond. To the driver, this can feel like sloppiness in the drivetrain. Depending on circumstances, you get rolling too slowly, or with a jerk, and working the throttle can require some practice. It's really a matter of getting used to the CVT's different behavior. Audi has programmed its CVT with six pre-defined ranges that act like gears. The CVT can be managed by a Tiptronic-style sequential selector, so drivers can operate it like a conventional automatic with a sport shifter. We recommend driving the CVT before buying it. Having said all that, it works great and is one of the best CVTs available.

We can recommend the five-speed Tiptronic automatic for the A4 3.0 quattro with no caveats. Put it in Drive and leave it there. It offers responsive performance and communicates well with the V6. Fuel economy for the A4 3.0 Tiptronic (18/25 mpg EPA City/Highway) is comparable to that of the A4 3.0 six-speed manual (17/28). Enthusiast drivers can slide the Tiptronic shifter to the right and shift manually. Pull the handle back to downshift, push it forward to upshift. The automatic offers less acceleration performance when compared with either the CVT or manual gearbox (slower by a half-second in the quarter-mile). Still, the five-speed automatic with Tiptronic is a nice companion to the A4 3.0 quattro, making for a terrific car that we thoroughly enjoyed. There's plenty of punch here. We never tapped the steering wheel impatiently, waiting for the acceleration to build. We were never anxious when we pulled into an opposing lane to pass. And around town it shifted very smoothly.

We do not enjoy the Tiptronic as much with the A4 1.8T, however. The turbo and automatic do not seem to always work as a team. At low speeds around town, the turbo seems to confuse the transmission, resulting in reduced response, then a surging sensation. We found this alternating behavior annoying. In stop-and-go L.A. traffic the automatic sometimes seemed surprised when we suddenly stood on the throttle to change lanes; the car hesitated before taking off, not good when other cars are barreling up behind. At higher speeds, however, the automatic shifted very smoothly and we wondered whether we were being overly critical. Fuel economy with the 1.8T and Tiptronic suffers by 1 mpg around town, 2 mpg on the highway.

The 1.8T with front-wheel drive and the five-speed manual transmission is the best bargain in the A4 line. The turbocharged four-cylinder lacks the smooth, quiet operation of the V6, but it's strong enough to deliver good acceleration with the manual gearbox. The A4 1.8T is about 200 pounds lighter than an A4 3.0, and seems quicker to respond. It may be the spriest of the bunch.

Regardless of model, an Audi A4 offers responsive, precise handling. The steering is quick enough that a lane change requires only a small turn of the wheel, yet it isn't twitchy to the point where every slight movement on the steering wheel jerks the car left or right, requiring correction in the opposite direction. The A4 turns into corners with authority, but not abruptly. Rarely will you find yourself correcting your trajectory once you've committed to a curve. When driving an A4 Avant, you'll need to look in the rearview mirror to confirm you're at the wheel of a wagon. It's the only way to tell.

The A4 suspension features a newly developed multi-link arrangement in the rear. This sophisticated suspension keeps the rear tires in contact with the pavement, particularly on bumpy roads, and it delivers an even better balance of crisp handling and ride comfort. The optional Sport Package ($750-$900) includes stiffer shocks, springs, and anti-roll bars, plus 17-inch wheels and P235/45YR17 ultra-high performance summer tires.

The A4's ride is firm, even without the sport suspension; if you prefer soft and willowy, this is not the car for you. But we found the ride just about perfect: soft enough to soak up the bumps, never jarring, yet not so soft that the car seemed to float over the surface like a Toyota Camry. Take a curve at a brisk clip and you'll feel firmly planted to the road, without the excessive lean that takes the fun out of driving some sedans.

The high-performance Audi S4 boasts a lightweight, 4.2-liter V8 producing 340 horsepower at 7000 rpm and 302 pounds-feet of torque at 3500 rpm. The strong low-end torque of this V8 gives the S4 excellent throttle response at all engine speeds. Stand on it any time and it takes off. Audi claims 0-60 mph acceleration in just 5.3 seconds with the six-speed manual transmission. (The S4 Cabriolet is just a tick slower than the sedan, at 5.9 seconds.) A specially tuned exhaust announces the S4's added power.

The S4's optional six-speed Tiptronic transmission automatically selects from over 200 shift patterns to match any driver's particular style. Shift paddles located on the steering wheel can be used to shift gears without taking a hand off the steering wheel. Or, if you prefer, you can use the Tiptronic gate on the shifter console, as in other A4 models. The S4 works well with the manual gearbox and is amazingly tractable: You can creep along in first gear slower than walking pace without lurching or having to push in the clutch, and you can shift up very early when cruising sedately around town.

We wouldn't call it harsh, but the S4's ride is quite firm, maybe too firm for all but the most dedicated handling enthusiast. The S4 jostled us on a bumpy I-405 in Los Angeles and on rough neighborhood streets. Try to drink a cappuccino on the way to work and it'll end up sloshing on your hands. You feel and hear manhole covers. At times, the S4 feels like a car in search of a race track. Having said that, it feels very refined overall. It's very quiet with the windows up. Upgraded brakes and 18-inch wheels aid stopping and steering.

Quattro is a full-time all-wheel drive system that automatically shifts power to the tires with the best grip. If the front wheels are slipping, quattro delivers more engine power to the rear, more effectively turning that power into forward momentum. Quattro does more than improve traction on wet, slippery surfaces, however. It improves handling in all conditions, including dry pavement, because it distributes torque loads evenly among all four tires. Thus, neither the front or rear tires are too overworked to grip in a corner.

All A4 models come with an electronic stability program (ESP), a computer-managed system that gently applies the brake at any one of the four wheels to help counter skids. All told, these systems make the A4 one of the most secure handling, confidence-inspiring small sedans in production.

The Audi A4 has excellent brakes. We gave the brakes a good workout on the road up and down Vermont's Mount Equinox, where sports car clubs run organized hill climb competitions. This road is a series of tight hairpin turns connected by straightaways, and you'd better be able to count on your brakes. The A4 slowed itself with authority, and we didn't experience a hint of brake fade, even after repeated full-on stops with little recovery time in between. That's reassuring. The A4's ABS programming with Brake Assist senses panic-stop situations, and applies maximum braking even if the driver hasn't fully pressed the pedal. Quattro, ESP, and automatic brake proportioning are seamlessly integrated and usually transparent to the driver. Summary
Audi A4 combines high quality, thoughtful design, and invigorating performance at a compelling price. The A4 is one of the most respected cars in a class that includes some of the best cars in the world. It delivers good performance in a practical package. It offers amenities and safety features found in large luxury sedans at a much lower price of entry. And it offers the option of quattro all-wheel drive.

There are at least 14 sedans in this class. Sales are strong yet the competition is brutal, and today's hot ticket can quickly become tomorrow's has-been. It's no fluke that the A4 has remained near the top in sales since its introduction seven years ago, and this latest-generation A4 is a much better car than its predecessor.

The A4 3.0 is an outstanding small luxury sport sedan. The Avant wagon is a great choice for families of two or three and a dog, offering big cargo capacity and sport-sedan handling. Cabriolet models add the excitement of open-top driving at the expense of some practicality. The V8-powered S4 takes performance to a significantly higher level; while the A4 1.8T delivers the luxury and performance of a true European sports sedan at a price that puts it in reach of many new-car buyers. Anyone shopping this class should take a long look at Audi.

In short, the Audi A4 is a well-balanced machine that will hold your interest. It's exciting enough to grab your attention in the short term and substantial enough to grow more attractive with time.

Model as tested
Audi A4 3.0 quattro Tiptronic ($33,990)
Basic Warranty
4 years/50,000 miles includes scheduled maintenance
Assembled in
Ingolstadt, Germany
Destination charge
690
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
25250
Price as tested
39805
Options as tested
Sport Package ($750) includes lowered sports suspension, P235/45YR17 high-performance tires on 17-inch aluminum wheels, brushed aluminum trim; Infotainment Package ($1000) includes 215-watt Bose premium sound system and satellite radio; Premium Package ($2300) includes power glass sunroof, multi-function steering wheel, xenon headlamps, HomeLink universal garage-door operator, auto-dimming power folding exterior mirrors, auto-dimming interior mirror with compass, memory for driver's seat and mirror adjustments; metallic pearl paint ($450); Cold Weather Package ($625) includes heated front seats, ski sack

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Audi A4 1.8T sedan 5-speed ($25,250); A4 1.8T sedan CVT ($26,400); A4 1.8 T sedan Quattro six-speed ($27,450); A4 1.8T sedan Quattro Tiptronic ($28,500); A4 1.8 T Avant Quattro six-speed ($28,450); A4 1.8T Avant Quattro Tiptronic ($29,500); A4 1.8T Cabriolet CVT ($35,250); A4 3.0 sedan CVT ($31,150): A4 3.0 sedan Quattro six-speed ($32,940); A4 3.0 sedan Quattro Tiptronic ($33,990); A4 3.0 Avant Quattro six-speed ($33,940); A4 3.0 Avant Quattro Tiptronic ($34,990); A4 3.0 Cabriolet CVT ($41,800); A4 3.0 Cabriolet Quattro Tiptronic ($43,550); S4 sedan Quattro six-speed ($45,650); S4 sedan Quattro Tiptronic ($46,800); S4 Avant Quattro six-speed ($46,650), S4 Avant Quattro Tiptronic ($47,800); S4 Cabriolet Quattro six-speed; S4 Cabriolet Quattro Tiptronic
Safety equipment (standard)
ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, traction control, ESP; dual frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, curtain-style head-protection airbags; three-point seat belts for all five positions with pre-tensioners and force limiters in front
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
3.0-liter dohc 30-valve V6
Transmissions
5-speed automatic with Tiptronic

Specifications as Tested
dual-zone automatic climate control with air filters and smog-sensing auto-recirculation, fog lamps, central locking with remote operation, power windows with one-touch operation front and rear, cruise control, concealed headlight washers, heated windshield washer nozzles, 150-watt 10-speaker stereo with six-CD in-dash changer, 12-volt power outlets in trunk and center console, comprehensive first-aid kit, 12-way power front seats, leather seating inserts

Engine & Transmission
Engine
3.0-liter dohc 30-valve V6
Drivetrain type
all-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
220 @ 6300
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
18/25
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/solid disc with ABS, EBD, and Brake Assist
Suspension, front
independent, upper and lower control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Tires
P235/45YR17
Suspension, rear
independent, trapezoidal links, coil springs, anti-roll bar

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
37.3/NA/41.3
Head/hip/leg room, rear
37.1/NA/34.2

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
13.4
Wheelbase
104.3
Length/width/height
179.0/69.5/55.4
Turning circle
36.4
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
N/A
Track, front/rear
60.2/60.1
Ground clearance
4.2
Curb weight
3627


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