The A4 competes with the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C Class, as well as the new Cadillac ATS. It lands right in the thick of that pack, with an economical base engine, available quattro all-wheel drive, performance-oriented options, and a top S4 performance version.
To some, it's the best looking four-door in that group. The rakish, sleek shape is mostly carried over this year, but new details give it a fresh look. The headlamps are trimmer. The big grille has been toned down, and angled at its corners for a crisper look, and wider fog lamps give it more muscle. The S4 wears its own body kit and metallic trim, but it's largely a lookalike to the standard four-door.
Inside, the A4 now has wood or aluminum trim that warms up the cockpit, whether you choose metal, ash, or walnut. The controls have been rearranged a bit, and that makes the optional tech features function a bit easier. In the S4, a new piano-black and steel trim option coordinates in a hot way with red-stitched sport seats.
The A4 comes with a single engine for the 2013 model year. It's a 211-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, with a responsive feel and some turbo lag. It's teamed with one of three transmissions. Front-drive cars get a continuously variable transmission, and good gas mileage, but CVTs aren't known for quick responses. All-wheel drive is an option.
Those with quattro all-wheel drive can also have either a six-speed manual shifter, or an excellent eight-speed automatic with a sport shift mode, which only lacks paddle-shift controls. On either of these versions, the ones we recommend, acceleration is strong, and fuel economy on the highway is best, with the automatic rated at 31 mpg highway.
The S4 is quattro-only. The powerplant is a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, with 333 horsepower and a 0-60 mph time of about 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph. It delivers loads of torque almost evenly up the rev band, with a somewhat snarling soundtrack to match an otherwise smooth personality, and it's hooked up to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters. It's nearly, but not quite, as fast as a BMW M3 or a Benz C63. And surprisingly, gas mileage is rather good for such a high-performance car—up to 18 mpg city, 28 highway.