Audi has one of the most expansive line-ups of niche luxury models in the industry, but when it comes right down to it, nearly one out of every two Audis sold is the comparatively “bread and butter” model known as the A4 sedan. But don’t think we’re likening Audi’s hottest worldwide seller to a piece of stale toast and unsavory buttery topping that just refuses to melt or spread properly. If there’s one thing we’re sure of around here, it’s that no Audi is anywhere near the equivalent of automotive prison food.
You see, just because Audi also makes technological and engineering marvels like the R8 sports coupe and A8 aluminum space frame full-size luxury sedan doesn’t mean that they don’t have a similarly obsessive development process on the A4. The most recent update of the Audi A4 came this past year for 2013, when the exterior got an important nip and tuck to the lights and also solidified its role as the benchmark for entry-level luxury car interior quality.
Even on basic models, Audi plastics and leathers and chrome trims feel solid, with expert precision in the overall interior assembly. As you’d also expect from any Audi product, the 2013 A4 has been named a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Not that you would ever want to harm one body panel of your 2013 Audi A4, because we truly mourned the loss of our six-speed manual transmission tester after its short, week-long stay with us. Maybe that was because we tested a Toyota Yaris the week after.
Truly a gem in the world of turbocharged, direct-injected engines, the 2.0-liter,. four-cylinder that is the heartbeat of the 2013 A4 2.0T pumps out a remarkably potent 211 horsepower/258 ft-lbs of torque with few aural reminders that this lump is only a four banger. Yes, the A4 was the trailblazer in the luxury sedan market that made it okay for BMW and Mercedes to install more fuel efficient four-cylinder engines in their 3-Series and C-Class sedans. But neither BMW nor Mercedes has managed to invent a smoother, more pleasant sounding four-cylinder luxury powertrain than Audi’s excellent motor.
While the 2.0 liter motor works just fine with the optional eight-speed automatic, the whole vehicle comes alive thanks to an expertly judged clutch pedal that accompanies one of the sweetest-shifting six-speed manuals in this segment. The A4 is never a burden to shift, even in heavy traffic, and once you let loose on your favorite backroad, this gearbox will help you maximize the Quattro’s handling prowess and the dynamically communicative steering. This sedan is a leather-lined thrill ride for those who love to drive.
Brake-pedal feel is firm at first, but once you get used to it, the driver will find it very easy to achieve very short stopping distances. And even at less-than-legal speeds on less-than-pleasant tarmac, the 2013 Audi A4 proved to be a calm, solid, serene cruiser, even if it wasn’t quite the silent driving tomb some Lexus owners seem to look for in their cars. We’re odd in that we like to hear the engine growl when we rev it, but we appreciate it when the noises of the outside world know when to go away. Such is the true meaning of a sedan designed for both luxury and sportiness.
Our tester was a 2013 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro manual in Premium Plus trim with the optional Sport Package, which meant our MSRP started at $33,400 but ended up at a still-reasonable $39,385. All A4 models come with leather seating, a power moonroof, automatic climate control, a power driver’s and passenger seat, halogen headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, and more. Adding the Premium Plus trim adds $4,200, but nets you 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, USB/i-Pod integration, heated front seats, Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, and three-zone climate controls for both front- and rear-seat passengers.
That might be plenty for most drivers, but if you’re ordering your A4 with the driving enthusiast’s delight known as its six-speed manual gearbox, then you will want to tick the $750 Sport Package box, which adds a sport suspension, front sport seats with aggressive lumbar support, and a deliciously tactile, grippy, three-spoke steering wheel. As for fuel economy, the EPA estimates 22 city/32 highway on premium, and we averaged a healthy 26.4 miles per gallon — not too shabby, given how aggressively we drove this capable sport sedan.
First off, we’d forget the latest Mercedes C-Class, which is overpriced and underpowered, while the latest Lexus IS sedan may be priced in higher trims but is definitely worth a look. More directly, however, we find the 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD and 2013 Acura TL SH-AWD with the six-speed manual as true kindred spirits in regards to what the Audi A4 2.0T Quattro sets out to do as a luxury sport sedan. And never, ever forget the ultimate driving machine: the BMW 328i, which is available with all-wheel drive but can get astronomically expensive. We say stick to Audi, Volvo, and Acura if you’re on a budget.
Unless you despise the notion of piloting a precision-engineered, somewhat affordable luxury sport sedan that you can take out in all weather conditions, we most certainly recommend the A4 as a place to spend your hard-earned income. But if your income is made by ill-gotten means, then absolutely we think the Hyundai Equus is the equal of this Audi — at least from an interior quality perspective*. Apologies, we don’t mean to turn the new 2013 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro into some arbiter of divine “Carma” for your good life deeds but we can find no other explanation for anyone deserving this fine luxury automobile.
* Note: Hyundai is not a gay-friendly automaker.