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The vast majority of A4s are sold with quattro. Quattro A4s with 4 cyl and automatic transmission feel slightly underpowered. Manual-transmission quattro 1.8Ts are lively enough, while manual-transmission V6 quattros are satisfyingly quick. Lighter front-drive models feel spry with any transmission, though CVT versions are lazy from a stop. Test 1.8T CVT sedan did 8.6 sec 0-60 mph; test V6 CVT Cabriolet did 7.8. Seamless CVT acts much like conventional automatic, but requires use of manual mode for best performance. Manual transmissions controlled by precise shifters. S4's V8 strong at all speeds; test sedan did 5.6 sec 0-60.
Averages for manual-transmission test models: 1.8T sedan, 24.8 mpg; 1.8T Avant, 21.5; V6 quattro sedans,18.3-21; S4 sedan, 15.6; S4 Avant, 15.9; S4 Cabriolet, 14.1. Audi says CVT is 10 percent more fuel efficient than conventional automatic transmission. With CVT, test 1.8T sedans averaged 20.9-23.9 mpg, test Cabriolets 19.8-20.7. Test V6 CVT sedan averaged 25.6 mpg. No opportunity to test with conventional automatic transmission. Audi recommends premium-grade fuel for all A4s.
Standard suspension furnishes firm control, good bump absorption on most any surface. Stiffer Sport Package setup with low-profile 17-inch tires somewhat less forgiving on broken pavement. S4 quite stiff, but not harsh; impressive high-speed stabiity.
All models a joy to drive quickly, and S4, Sport Package versions shine on challenging roads. Quattro gives all-weather advantage over A4's 2WD rivals. Steering nicely weighted, direct. Brakes very capable, with outstanding pedal modulation. Convertible suffer impressively little body quivering on bumps.
Firm, comfortable seats; S4s have special sport buckets with pronounced side bolsters that hold passengers in place during fast cornering. Ample head and leg room, though wide central console cuts into knee space enough to annoy taller drivers. Visibility good to all corners; rear-obstacle-warning system a rare nicety in near-luxury class.
The A4 matches or beats most any class rival for refinement, performance, features, and variety of body styles. BMW, Infiniti, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo feature AWD models, but no competitor offers AWD in a convertible, and none counters Audi's impressive CVT.