The Burlapp Audi A4 test drive

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The model I am driving here is the FWD 2.0 Liter Turbo with a CVT.
I was surprised by the CVT because I thought Audi replaced them by their 6 speed auto a few years ago.
I guess I was wrong.

My first impression (and I also heard it from others) is that the car does look expensive. It is also very well finished outside.
But it is basically the same shape Audi has used for decades now.
Nothing new, but somehow, it does still work for those who aren’t looking for something too stylish.

It looks very well made. Although there is a good amount of hard plastics. But they look good.
Overall, the interior isn’t a match for the new Passat I drove a couple of weeks ago. The VW has pretty much the same quality, but looks much better and more modern.
Plus, it is way roomier than the Audi.

So… Let’s drive.

The only way I can describe the sound of the engine is: Diesel.
I know, it is the same engine I drove in the Passat, but somehow, in this car, if feels much rougher and even noisier. Just like a diesel, and not a very smooth one.
Plus, there is an unacceptable lag that wasn’t present in the VW.
Where does that come from???
I think the CVT and the Turbo engine just don’t work well together.
You would think they’d figure that one out before production…

When you start going, there is almost no power for a couple of seconds, then a rush of speed that is actually hard to control the first time.
The brakes are also way to touchy. Making it almost impossible to stop smoothly.
The steering felt like a video game.
More like a Jetta than a Passat. I didn’t notice that in the Passat at all.
And it requires constant adjustment on the freeway.
It seems way too sensitive.

The radio in this “base” model is OK, but again, not better than the Passat or even the new Beetle.
The dials all look the same, and I am not a big fan of the all red night lighting. (But that’s just me…)

Talking about the new Beetle, here is the same armrest, and almost the exact same console.
People slam Lexus and Infiniti for using Toyota and Nissan bits, but Audi isn’t above that practice either.

The back seat isn’t that roomy, but not worse than other European premium compact cars.

I was actually very surprised by the A4.
To me, this car lags far behind its competition in almost every way.
The engine/transmission combo is terrible. Worse than any other car at the same price.
A car that looks that expensive shouldn’t drive or sound like a cheap econobox. There is really no excuse for that.
And on top of that, you have to facture the very poor reliability record and horrible resale value.

The A4 I drove is priced at $30 200. You could compare it with:

-BMW 3 series. The BMW is so superior it isn’t even funny. ($34 400)
-Acura TSX. The Acura has a much more refined powertrain, is more reliable and loaded for less money.($28 000)
-Infiniti G35. Roomier, faster, quieter, more reliable, and more attractive. ($31 400)
-Lexus IS 250. Much better interior, engine, transmission, resale etc… ($31 400)

The list could go on for ever.
I even liked the Fusion V6 better. At least a far as how it drives.

But I thing the A4 ‘s biggest challenge is the Passat.
A better looking, roomier, quieter car with a smoother ride and superior transmission, for about $5000 less.
The Audi has no advantage over the Passat.

They need to rethink pretty much everything for the next one…

By the way. I have to apoligize for the bad pictures.
My trusty Pentax SLR is being exchanged for a newer one as we speak.
So these are “bad” cell phoe photos….
(My Camcorder is still in ths shop)

Conversation 12 comments

  1. Good review, Vince. I don’t know why people bother with Audi and VW when Toyota/Lexus, Honda/Acura, Nissan/Infiniti, BMW, etc. are better and priced the same or less.

    The car you tested doesn’t appear to be as good as a Honda Accord that costs much less and has a far better service record.

  2. True.
    But to be fair, the Accord doesn’t have the bank vault feel of the Audi.
    It does feel more substential than the Honda.
    But then again, so does the Passat.

  3. Why are you suprised that a car which was launched in 2000 isn’t up there with the competition in 2007?? I know it was facelifted in 2004, but it’s still essentially the same car.

  4. You tore the interior apart in your review! I thought that was the only thing going for the Audi was the high quality interior. Styling is subjective but I do agree that for the same price there are MUCH better alternatives… They need to stick a better engine in the new one! Thanks for the review!

  5. Well… I would still say the Audi does have a high quality interior.
    But the competition has improved so much in the past years. Audi has not.
    I think the IS 250 has a much nicer interior, with similar or better quality.

  6. I’m a huge fan of Audis, but I have to agree with your take on the engine/transmission combo of this particular model. I’ve never met a CVT that I’ve liked and I’m glad that automakers are moving away from this fad. The turbo-four is an amazing engine, but this transmission makes it strain. Frankly, with the A3 as the new entry level Audi, there is no reason for the A4 to even be offered with a FWD/CVT configuration any longer. They should stick with their fantastic Quattro and a real manual or automatic transmission for this model. As a follow-up to this review, you should drive the A4 with the manual transmission and Quattro. Even with the same engine, it’s an entirely different car with a real transmission. And if you really want to be impressed, drive the S4. Of the many A4 variations available, this particular version reviewed here is the most entry level and least impressive. If you want to get an early sense of what to expect in the upcoming A4, look at the current A5 and just add two rear doors.

  7. Too funny … Car & Driver did a comparison that included the Audi A4 2.0T Convertable and the comments included “best CVT going” and “elegant interior decor” … I guess they decided not to comment on the unpleasing engine sound. That thing idling in a parking garage sounds absolutly dreadful!

  8. I had one of these as a rental i was really unimpressed by the cvt and the engine noise, my jetta 2.0T is 10 times quieter than this which makes it feel more luxurious, but i also drove one with a manual and it feels like a whole different car, these cvt’s should not even exist!

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