What it Is
2009 Audi A4 Preview – Frankfurt Auto Show: Audi’s bestselling model, the A4, is completely redesigned for the 2009 model year. The untrained eye wouldn’t know it at first glance of course, but every panel is different, the wheelbase is stretched, the cabin is larger, and there are a host of new technologies under the skin. If it looks like a four-door A5, that’s not by accident, as both are based on Audi’s newest platform, and are basically the same car under the skin. Audi claims significant dynamic improvements for the A4, upping its stature against the likes of European luxury stalwarts Mercedes-Benz and especially BMW.Why it Matters
Audi is hungry, and it wants to play with the big boys in a bad way. Having been the second tier in the luxury game for too long, it is spending copious amounts of money to overcome customer’s negative perceptions of its brand while not alienating those attracted to Audi’s traditional strengths of understated style and, of course, quattro all-wheel drive. The new A4 advances this philosophy in an elegant way, subtly changing the appearance of the smallest sedan while dramatically altering its behavior.
What’s Under the Hood
Engine choices are about the only mechanical thing that’s familiar to current A4 fans. European versions will get five choices, including a couple of diesels. U.S. A4s will likely soldier on with a choice between a turbocharged four-cylinder and naturally aspirated V-6, likely the European version’s 1.8-liter turbo (probably punched up to 2.0-liters for us) and the new 3.2-liter V-6, both with direct fuel injection, and either connected to a six-speed automatic or Audi’s multitronic continuously variable transmission. Audi also introduces “drive select,” which varies the engine, automatic transmission, steering and suspension damping to suit the driver’s preferences.
What it Looks Like
It’s hard to tell at first glance, but every panel on the new A4 is different. Not surprisingly, the headlights and taillights look pulled directly from the A5. The stretched wheelbase helps give the new A4 an exceptionally short front overhang, and also puts the engine behind the centerline of the front wheels. This is thanks to clever packaging of the front differential, which is now placed ahead of the clutch (or torque converter) as in the A8 and the A5. Throw in the newly sculpted sides and it’s obvious that Audi has been cribbing from BMW’s styling playbook.
If the A4 resembles the A5 on the outside, it’s a dead ringer for it inside. The instrument panel is nearly identical, as is the center console. The A4’s steering wheel has four spokes to the A5’s three, and the seats look a little less aggressive than the coupes, but otherwise they are the same. We haven’t had an up-close with the A5 yet, but Audi has wowed us with its interior trim, fit and finish before, and we suspect the same will be true here.
What Audi Says
About the styling, Audi says that, “In its design, the new A4 reveals its sporty, progressive character: taut and dynamic in its outlines, it speaks the language of technical perfection.” No lack of hubris here. It goes on to say: “…the [sedan] has a substantial, powerful road stance and offers its occupants ample space in an interior full of light. The interior is typical of an Audi – quality with no compromises.” We think that Audi is trying in its oh-so-subtle way to tell us that the new A4 is going to be good.
What We Think
We agree that the A4 will likely be very good. We like Audis generally, and with improved weight balance, a new interior that looks nothing like a Volkswagen, and proportions that are suitably aggressive, we think we’ll continue liking Audis for some time to come. Now, just get that S4 – and RS4 – to us quickly, please.
By Keith Buglewicz
MyRide Road Test Editor
Photo Credit: Audi