by Zach Taylor
The little A4 sedan and wagon (avant in audispeak) are Audi’s brot und butter, providing more than fifty percent of the company’s American sales. No surprise then that the Germans just spent $1 billion and change on the A4’s redo. Though the dollar buys far less these days, the new 2009 Audi A4 proves that a billion large still snags a sexy, track-worthy hauler.
Meaner. The redesigned A4 is longer and wider, but its roofline remains the same height. Combine this more planted stance with stronger hiplines and Audi’s new signature cat-eye LED daytime running lights, and the A4 now rides low and mean.
Greener. Although the A4 remains a red-blooded German sedan, its muscle now is easier on the environment. A new, 2.0-liter turbo four makes 211 hp, while a returning 3.2-liter V-6 produces 265 hp. Despite increased horsepower relative to the outgoing A4, these engines consume ten percent less than fuel than the previous A4 plants, according to Audi.
But just as nice. Inside, the A4 is decked with Audi’s customary surfeit of supple leather, high-quality synthetics, and accents of brushed aluminum and polished wood. The design is crisp, intuitive, and luxurious all at once, with a driver-oriented center console and added comforts such as increased legroom and an optional Bang & Olufsen audio system that pumps 505 watts through 14 speakers.
Recently, on a sunny northern California day, Audi’s handlers fed shiny A4 after shiny A4 onto the blind curves and eight-story drops of Infineon Raceway. When my turn arrived, my 3.2-liter A4 shot off with a low, long rumble from the tuned exhaust system. In the hooks, Teutonically precise handling locked me to the line. On the straight bits, the A4 opened up and cruised as if eating a freshly paved stretch of autobahn. And when I pulled into the paddock, sweaty and amped on adrenaline, the smell of burning brake pads and shredded rubber hung over the track.
As I slid my crash helmet off, I thought if this A4 is a bread-and-butter sedan, maybe it’s time to rethink the whole low-carb thing. Then I chugged some water, pulled my helmet back on, and jumped into a waiting A4.
Audi is a gay-friendly company.
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