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#10

in 2011 Upscale Midsize Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $18,730 - $25,657
Original MSRP: $32,300 - $34,500
MPG: 23 City / 30 Hwy
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2011 Audi A4 Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Audi engineered the 2011 A4 for precise handling and balance, not pure speed. The A4 has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, making it a bit less powerful than rivals. However, reviewers tend to focus on two pieces of optional equipment that pull the A4 into the top rank of performance sedans -- its available Quattro all-wheel-drive system and Audi Drive Select, which allows the driver to choose from three performance profiles that change the car's responsiveness. With them, the A4 is among the finest sport sedans available at this price point.

For 2011, Audi also offers a new eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission for the A4 Quattro. Reviewers haven’t tested it yet, but it’s optional on all trim levels. Shoppers who opt for the Tiptronic pay an extra $900. A4 models without the Tiptronic transmission receive good reviews, so there may be no need for this upgrade. The $900 might be better spent on wood inlays, an iPod interface or heated front seats, all of which cost more on the A4.

  • "Excellent handling because of Quattro, Audi Drive Select, and a new rear differential marks the Audi A4 3.2 Quattro all-wheel-drive came standard on our 3.2-liter V-6 model, and is also now standard on the 2-liter turbo-charged version. We also had the Audi Drive Select option, which gives the car a dual personality as a sport driver and commute car." -- CNET
  • "Audi's Drive Select system stands in stark contrast to the majority of dynamic suspension setups on the market. Toggle between the three modes and you'll actually feel the difference through the steering wheel, accelerator and suspension." -- Autoblog
  • "The vehicle's mass and slightly nose-heavy layout conspire to keep it a step behind BMW's 3 Series in terms of ultimate performance, but the A4's AWD provides added security and traction in wet weather conditions." -- Edmunds
  • "The new model has a planted, sportier stance and holds the road with a new sense of confidence and enthusiasm." -- Motor Trend
  • "The Audi feels typically solid and composed, even in a driving rain. The car is a tad less nose-heavy than before, since more of the engine's weight is tucked behind the front axle." -- New York Times
  • "[The A4] features several systems that are virtually brand new, including the trick Audi Drive Select -- a system to incrementally sharpen the car's sporting responses (steering, transmission shift points, suspension stiffness). Other hot-off-the-workbench technologies: dynamic steering (providing small degrees of counter-steering correction as the car reaches the limits of handling)...a longer wheelbase means a smoother ride. It's all good." -- Los Angeles Times

Acceleration and Power

Unlike previous years, the Audi A4 only offers one power plant: a 2.0 liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine that makes 211 horsepower. Unfortunately, the V6 engine is no longer available, making it tough for the 2011 Audi A4 to compete with rivals.

With the downgrade, some reviewers are neutral on the A4’s power. The 2011 A4 still accelerates well, but the four-cylinder doesn’t purr like the V6 it replaced, and it transmits vibrations through the steering wheel. Although the 2.0-liter isn’t as strong, the automotive press says the engine can still carry the  Audi A4’s weight.

The 2011 Audi A4 has three transmission options, a manual, a Tiptronic and a Multitronic, which have similar fuel economies: 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway, 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway, and 21 mpg city/31 mpg highway, respectively.

Tiptronics are automatic transmissions that have a manual-shifting feature. Audi’s Multitronic is a continuously variable transmission, meaning that it has an infinite number of gear ratios, but when you drive it, it feels like an automatic. The Multitronic is a good option because it has better acceleration, saves gasoline and provides a more comfortable ride. This transmission is offered with the base trim. The Tiptronic starts at $34,140. If you want to save money and don’t care about extra frills, the Multitronic will suit your needs just fine.

  • "The A4 isn't the fastest car in its class (that would be General Motors' new Cadillac CTS-V), but it's quick enough for most people. Top speed is governed at 130 mph, and in my test car the turbocharger kicked in with no discernible lag when I punched the gas." -- BusinessWeek
  • "The A4 isn't going to win any drag races. That said, acceleration is smooth, and the shifts from the six-speed automatic transmission are consistent." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

Audis have a long standing reputation for strong performance on twisting roads, and the 2011 A4 is the most advanced Audi sedan yet. Even stripped-down models boast respectable handling. But with the available Quattro AWD system and Audi's new Driver Select adjustable suspension, this A4 is one of the most balanced and enthusiastic handlers available. One or two reviewers, however, complain that the Driver Select system isn’t perfect. On test tracks, the press falls in love with the A4’s precise cornering and handling.

  • "The biggest single surprise was the new dynamic steering, which works much better than the black-and-white active steering offered by BMW...it's neither too quick in town nor too heavy and slow on the autostrada." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The new all-wheel-drive system controls traction better near the car's limits, reducing the need for the stability control hardware to intervene with braking. But what may be the most impressive innovation of the new sedan is Audi drive select." -- Motor Trend
  • "Also of note is the optional Audi Drive Select system, which allows the driver to choose among three modes for ride compliance, steering effort and transmission responsiveness -- or enjoy custom settings via a fourth "Individual" mode. It's an interesting but pricey idea, and in testing we've noted it creates more drawbacks than solutions. Most shoppers should find the A4's standard suspension, steering and transmission calibrations perfectly adequate." -- Edmunds
  • "The Quattro system proved itself on this wet and winding road. The car didn't flinch from its line in the turns as the tires retained grip, but coming into one turn a little hot, we steered in too hard, and felt just a touch of front wheel drag as the car tried to go along its inertial line, rather than the way we pointed it. But this slip lasted for less than a second as the car got itself back together and carried us around the turn. " -- CNET
  • The Drive Select system "actually makes a difference in the handling of the car. In some cars -- the Porsche 911, for instance -- the adjustable suspension buttons don't seem like they are connected to anything...but with the system on Comfort, the A4 (with the optional 18-inch wheels and summer tires) practically floats, recovering from road imperfections in buoyant gentle swells... Put the system on Sport, however, and the ride gets hard and leathery. Get thee to a snaky country road, and quick." -- Los Angeles Times
  • "It feels more balanced and solid on the road than the previous A4, and the optional Drive Select system, which allows the driver to choose among 'comfort,' 'automatic' and 'dynamic' settings, works surprisingly well. I tried it many times on the fly and switching to the 'dynamic' setting  always instantly and noticeably hardened the suspension." -- BusinessWeek
  • "The A4's handling was innately clean enough even in "comfort" mode that tightening things up is more or less unnecessary. Enthusiasts like us will find the "dynamic" setting preferable, but it's a hair-splitting difference really." -- Car and Driver