2010 Audi A4

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First Drive: 2009 Audi A4

This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2014.

Sardinia, Italy — Coming to U.S. shores this fall, priced between $28K-$38K, is Audi's fourth-generation 2009 A4. We had a chance to drive this all-new sedan on some wonderfully twisty roads and were thoroughly impressed with the improvements that Audi managed to squeeze out of an already stellar design.

Just like Baskin-Robbins minus 30 flavors, the first A4s will be 3.2-liter FSI V-6s with 6-speed automatic transmissions. Don't take this to mean there isn't a deliciously more powerful, more fuel-efficient 2.0-liter turbocharged FSI engine en route — it just means your mitts will have to wait a little longer for it. For those who favor displacement over forced induction, the V-6 has received its share of technological improvements that have upped horsepower by 10 to 265 bhp, extended the peak torque range to 3000-5000 rpm at 243 lb-ft., while increasing fuel efficiency by approximately 12 percent.

A most significant addition is AVS, or Audi Valve-lift System. This relatively simple technology uses electronically activated pins that deploy into spiral grooves within the intake camshaft and displace it 7 mm laterally, allowing the high-lift cam lobes to come into play. This changes intake valve lift from 2.0 and 5.7 mm to 11 mm and can be triggered anywhere between 7004000 rpm when full load is realized. The changeover is seamless, resulting in a smooth, linear power curve.

The Tiptronic-controlled 6-speed automatic transmission, which transmits power to a new asymmetric Quattro all-wheel-drive system (40/60 torque split front to rear), has been redesigned with improved lock-up characteristics and quicker gear-changing abilities. We also sampled Audi's wonderful 6-speed manual transmission, but unfortunately it won't be offered in the U.S. because of previously low V-6 manual sales — we've only ourselves to blame for this!

Audi has taken great measures to reduce unsprung weight in the new A4, which now benefits from lightweight aluminum suspension components. The engine subframe is also of aluminum, and the battery has been relocated to the trunk, further aiding an even-weight-distribution effort set forth by the revised drivetrain configuration. As in the new Audi A5, the front differential and axles have moved forward 6.1 in., placing them ahead of the clutch and transmission. This layout effectively reduces front overhang and lengthens the wheelbase by 6.6 in. The result is less understeer-inducing nose weight and a smoother, more compliant ride.

An optional package called Audi Drive Select adds Continuous Damping Control (CDC) suspension and Dynamic Steering, which can operate in four different modes. The CDC suspension lowers overall ride height by 0.8 in. and electronically alters the damping in each shock, while Dynamic Steering can vary both steering ratio (up to double the quickness) and resistance depending on road speed needs. The system can also control engine and transmission response and pairs parameters for each, depending on the driver's selected mode (Comfort, Auto or Dynamic). Should you prefer to mix and match settings of Dynamic-level engine, transmission and steering with, say, a Comfort-level suspension, you can do so using the Multimedia Interface (MMI) system to program your Individual-mode preferences.

The MMI system stays user-friendly but undergoes some changes in the layout to benefit cockpit ergonomics. The controls now are located aft of the gearshift, eliminating the need to reach up to the dash for on-the-go navigation control. The rest of the interior stays recognizably Audi, though the seats receive a dramatic increase in lateral support from the previous-generation A4.

Exterior styling, obviously a more subjective parameter, dips from the R8's gorgeous gene pool and outlines the A4's xenon projector-style headlamps with 14 bright-as-day LEDs. Distinct bodyline creases follow contours set off by the front fascia and wide-open-mouth grille, terminating at the taillights, which seem to carry an essence of Bangled-BMWness. Although you won't ever mistake this car for its Bavarian competitor, it's nice to know they share similar state-of-the-art safety technologies such as brake disc drying (when it's wet out) via the latest Bosch 8.1 ESP system and active steering correction (with the Dynamic Steering option), the last reducing both oversteer and understeer. It's also nice to know Audi understands driving excitement enough to allow you to shut these darn systems off.

Content provided by Road & Track.

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BB04 - 4/18/2014 5:23:11 PM