Audi has launched five models from its 2013 B8 platform – the A4, S4, A5, S5 and Allroad. The B8 is a mild mid-cycle freshening of Audi’s line of compact sport sedans. But first to the awards…
Audi A4 Wins AutoPacific 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award: Over one-third of new car and light truck buyers are influenced by awards their vehicle has won. Owner-based awards are more valuable than most. For the 2012 model year – the B7 platform – Audi swept AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Awards for the Aspirational Luxury Car Category. Not only was the A4 the most ideal Aspirational Luxury Car as rated by its owners, the A5 was in second place and the next-step-up A6 was in third place in the category. These are significant achievements.
In AutoPacific’s IVA research, 25% of A4 owners want more power and acceleration. About 23% want more passenger room, 21% want easier ingress/ingress and 19% want more daring styling.
A4/S4/A5/S5 Evolve Very Nicely, Thank You: So, the question is whether or not the new 2013 cars have hit their target market as well as their recent predecessors, and do they offset the shortfalls mentioned above? After a drive of the cars in Colorado during fire season, we can safely say the 2013 versions are equal to or better than the class-winners they replace.
The basic dimensions of the 2013 cars are identical to the 2012 cars. The styling of the sedans and coupe is very evolutionary with minor styling changes. Think of the exterior styling change as a moderate “front six inches” with new grille shape, headlamps and front fascia. The grille has evolved with a more trapezoidal look. Audi took advantage of this freshening to re-design its LED-accented headlamps and taillamps. These cues have become a distinguishing Audi design feature. So, Audi did not push the styling envelope with this facelift but remained safe. (About 80% of A4 owners find the styling of the 2012 model ideal).
The interior of the cars remains an outstanding reason to buy. Great fit and finish combined with excellent materials selection. There is a new three-spoke steering wheel, revised instrument cluster and Audi connect with Audi’s controller-based MMI Navigation system is ordered.
Just a Brief Note on Touchscreens and Controllers: The auto industry is all over the place relative to touchscreen navigation systems or controller-based nav-systems. Audi (MMI), BMW (iDrive), and Mercedes (COMAND) have continued with controller-based systems as have others. Many mainstream brands continue with touchscreens or have moved to them after wrestling with controller logic. Oddly, Volkswagen and Porsche – VWAG family members – both use touchscreen systems now. Volkswagen used a touchscreen and Porsche has moved from a controller-based system to a touchscreen. Audi engineers say “you will never see a touchscreen in an Audi”. They don’t like the fingerprints. So, inside VWAG, the engineers have agreed to disagree.
New Allroad is the Big News: The big news for the B8 launch is the re-launch of the Audi Allroad. The previous Allroad (1999-2005) was based on the larger Audi A6 and looked more aggressively off-road capable than the 2013 version based on the smaller B8-platform A4. The Allroad replaces the slow selling Avant wagon in the American lineup with the body of the Avant tweaked to appear off-road capable. Its ride-height is increased by 1.5-inches. The expected wheel arch trim is there as are the front- and rear-skid plates. A roof rack completes the appearance package.
Powertrains Essentially Carryover and Still Outstanding: The B8s are powered by a 211HP 2.0L turbocharged direct-injection 4-cylinder engine. With Audi’s Quattro all wheel drive system, the 4-cylinder turbo is mated to either a 6-speed manual transmission or 8-speed automatic transmission. If you select a front wheel drive S4, you get a CVT. This 4-cylinder turbo engine has always been a delight to drive and is one of the world’s best-regarded engines.
If you want more oomph in the A4 and A5, move up to the V6-powered S4 and S5. With the S4 and S5 you get a 3.0L supercharged direct-injection V6 engine with 333-horsepower. Quattro is standard in the S4 and S5. While the A4 is no slouch on the road or in the mountains, The S-Cars provide effortless performance in any situation. This engine choice lets you think about a place in traffic you want to be and then without knowing it, you are miraculously there.
So, all in all, the Audi B8 experience is about what you would expect. Great cars with evolutionary styling, super finesse and outstanding powertrains.