Classic. What makes a car a classic? Often times, it takes years, or even decades to bestow a title like that. Or an ad on Craigslist for some clapped-out conveyance you should never consider buying. Let’s ignore the latter, and concentrate on the former.
And we’re here to tell you that the 2018 Audi A4 is a classic.
Even though the A4 was all-new last year, you might not have noticed. Audi is a founding member of the Evolution, not Revolution design club. And besides, the previous model was pretty sweet. The new model looks a little crisper, a little more athletic, but still has the tasteful lines that seem to age effortlessly through the years.
There’s the massive Single frame grille – of all the carmakers, Audi does the big grille best to our eyes. The LED headlights have what Audi calls a “progressive undercut” design, we’ll just say that they’re instantly recognizable as Audi, and fit snugly and aggressively under the clamshell hood. Oh, and let’s not forget, Audi was the first to start the LED craze. Kudos.
The optional 18-inch, 5-spoke rims look sporty, but there’s plenty of room for something larger – the thought of the available 19-inch Audi Sport 10-V spoke design wheels had our mouths watering. Out back there are LED taillights, a sporty integrated rear spoiler lip, and fat dual exhaust pipes. Finished in Daytona Gray Pearl Effect, our tester was beautifully turned out – it looked expensive, tasteful, and elegant – but never showy.
Classic Driver’s Environment
If you come to the A4 expecting LED speaker rims that change color to the beat of the music, you’re going to be disappointed. Audi figures driving is the entertainment to get your heart thumping.
Audi interiors are almost always best in class, and they’re not stopping here. The design is modern, clean, architectural. Every single switch looks designed, not just for looks, but for feel, function, and working as part of the whole. It’s a pleasure to just sit back, and take it all in.
Even more so, with our tester’s front sport seats that are perfectly-shaped, with a blend of leather and grippy sport cloth. The pull-out seat bottom extension makes this a perfect place to sit for drivers of any height. The rear seat is also generous for adults, and we were also impressed by the large cargo hold created when you fold them down.
We’d prefer to be up front, behind the gloriously fat, leather-rimmed, D-shaped S-line sport wheel that you’d expect to find in an R8 supercar. There’s also wonderful clear and precise gauges – oops we better explain that.
Our tester was equipped with the available Audi Virtual Cockpit that features a large, 12.3-inch display where you’d expect the gauges to be. So, what looks to be a nicely-sized speedo and tach are just incredibly life-like virtual simulations. Where the virtual cockpit really earns its money is by viewing and navigating via the large Google Map images. Very high-tech and cool.
If you prefer to have your navi in the traditional space, the available 8.3-inch tablet display in the center of the dash gives a lovely picture as well. There’s also Audi’s familiar MMI-all-in-touch info-tainment system, with large scroll wheel and small flipper levers on the center console, giving you easy access to well thought-out menus, recently redesigned for even quicker access.
Speaking of access, for those of us who are addicted to our iPhones, the Apple CarPlay kept us connected easily. There’s also Android Auto, Bluetooth, two handy USB ports in the center console, and available Wi-Fi. Of course, anything is going to sound good when you have the optional Bang & Olufsen 3D audio system, with no less than 19 speakers, 755 watts, and a 16-channel Class D amplifier.
In the middle of the center console was something we hadn’t seen in a long time – especially not in a European sport sedan…
A Classic Manual Transmission!
We had to think back a bit, when was the last manual we’d driven? There’s the Civic Type R (manual only), The Civic Si (manual only), the Miata of course…but really, in a true European sport sedan, it’s been a looong time.
And it’s going to be an even longer time – Audi just announced no manual for A4 or A5 starting with the 2019 model. So that made driving this A4 one to savor.
The appreciation starts under the hood, with a revised 2.0-liter, turbo 4-cylinder that bowed last year, pumping out a strong 252 horsepower, and a massive 273 lb-ft of torque at just 1,600 rpm. It’s a stellar motor on its own – smooth, lag-free, with a sweet, throaty tone – but it’s especially nice with the 6-speed manual. And it hauls – this is a seriously fast sedan. You constantly feel tapped into that tsunami of torque. It’s effortless, yet invigorating, capable and confident. This is what a fine European sedan is all about.
If you’re seduced like we were, you’ll manage around 22 mpg. But go light on the gas, and you should do much better. We wish you luck in that pursuit.
We weren’t just seduced with power. Everything is perfectly-matched – this is what an Audi is all about. The clutch take-up is silky smooth and light enough for commuting, the shifter feels Teflon-slick and well-defined, meshing with the input levels of steering and braking. It feels like someone sweated making everything feel perfect. And they succeeded.
Our tester had the optional dynamic steering and sport adjustable suspension damping. In Comfort mode it was creamy smooth, yet still devastatingly fast on any winding road. Where most cars have us reaching for the sportiest setting, the Audi’s perfectly balanced blend in Comfort was our favorite.
Part of the credit for that turn of speed has to go to Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive. Like the LED’s, Audi also was one of the first to show the world the value of high-performance AWD systems. And to our minds, it’s still one of the best; the confidence, the grip, rock-steady freeway stability, and all-weather capabilities make this a true 4-season sport sedan.
Audi, like most luxury makers is strong on safety tech, and it’s loaded with features that detect cornering and stationary vehicles as well pedestrians and initiate full braking. Nice. There’s also Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and optional Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go and Traffic Jam Assist (Stop & Go is not available on manual transmissions, so we didn’t get. Bummer).
There are also cool features like Traffic Sign Recognition which serves up speed limit info – very useful in our speedy tester. Vehicle Exist Assist that can help prevent accidents with a side assist warning light, which blinks and notifies the driver when vehicles or cyclists are approaching from behind as the vehicle doors are opened. Cool. And Turn Assist which can detect the approach of oncoming traffic, when making a left-hand turn at an intersection. Smart.
Well, yes, in the sense that like most European cars, they start with an attractive base price, but can easily get expensive when you load ‘em up.
Your most basic A4 front wheel drive S tronic starts at just $36,000. Our Quattro manual started at $40,500. So far so good.
Add in the Sport Plus Package ($3,400), The Premium Plus Package ($3,200) and Navigation and Telematics Package ($3,000) plus Destination ($975) and we range the bell at $51,650. It wasn’t lost on us that the super-fast S4 sedan starts at $51,400. Hmmmm
Still, it is an excellent value. Building up a BMW 330i X Drive sedan got us close to $54,000. A Mercedes C300 4Matic was a bit over $52,000. Neither of these, we should note, come with a manual transmission.
The Audi A4 2.0T Quattro is everything we’ve always loved about European Sport Sedans. The quality, the performance, the style. And the cherry on that German Chocolate Cake has to be Audi’s sweet-shifting 6-speed manual transmission. Gone for 2019, that makes models like our tester even more special.
The 2018 Audi A4.
A Classic in every sense of the word.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.