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Our Take: 2018 Audi A4

, Automotive Editor -

There is no shortage of choice in the compact luxury sedan market. Germany continues to dominate, but Japan remains popular. The United States and Great Britain build some off-beat choices in the form of the Cadillac ATS and Jaguar XE, while even Italy is getting in on the action, with the new Alfa Romeo Giulia. If this is a tad overwhelming, rest easy knowing that the Audi A4 remains a perfect fallback vehicle in model year 2018.

The 2018 A4 is not the best at any one thing any more, but it's such an all-around pleasant vehicle that it remains difficult to ignore. But customers wanting more passion, flair, or personality, might want to look at the competition.

Best Value

Buying a front-wheel-drive Audi – especially the A4, which defaults to a lower-output turbocharged four-cylinder without Quattro all-wheel drive – doesn't make sense. Instead, the smart money goes for Quattro and the 252-horsepower, 273-pound-foot version of Audi's popular 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder.

A snickety-snack six-speed manual is available as standard, although Audi doesn't charge extra for the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The choice, then, depends purely on personal preference – while the manual is available with a $3,400 Sport Plus Package, the most important items in it are available in separate packages with the automatic. There's no real difference between the two, otherwise.

The best deal is generally the most customizable, and in the A4's case, that means grabbing the mid-range Premium Plus trim. This grade walks the line perfectly, offering a lot of nice standard equipment (LED headlights, a Bang and Olufsen audio system, and blind-spot monitoring) while offering the best features from the range-topping Prestige (Audi Virtual Cockpit) as optional extras. At the same time, though, it costs almost $7,000 less, at $44,675 (including a $975 destination charge).

  • Model:2018 Audi A4 Premium Plus
  • Engine:2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output:252 hp/273 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Exterior color:Gotland Green metallic
  • Interior color:Nougat Brown
  • Options:Cold Weather Package ($500, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel), Navigation and Telematics Package ($3,000, 8.3-inch MMI infotainment system with navigation, Audi Virtual Cockpit, Audi telematics suite), Sport Package ($750, black headliner, sport seats, 0.9-inch suspension drop)
  • Base Price:$44,675
  • As Tested:$48,525

Performance Pros

Audi A4
  • Audi has been riding the 2.0-liter turbo train forever and it shows – this remains an excellent engine with plenty of power and a quiet, refined exhaust note.
  • Seven-speed DCT isn't as fun as the six-speed manual, but shifts are fast and wisely executed.
  • Drive mode system is intuitive and offers substantive character changes in each mode

Performance Cons

  • Lacks driving character and charm abundant in newer competition

Interior Pros

  • Audi is still one of the best brands for interior quality on the market.
  • Audi Virtual Cockpit is one of this industry's best technologies – intuitive, intelligent, and absolutely fantastic to live with.
  • Sport seats are very supportive without feeling claustrophobic (we're looking at you Alfa Romeo).
  • Backseat is roomier than its measurements indicate.

Interior Cons

Audi A4
  • The cabin is clean and attractive, but it also feels a little too boring. We'd really like some more exciting upholstery and trim options.
  • MMI infotainment system's controls aren't intuitive anymore. Fortunately, the center display is mostly obsolete – we shut it off for most of our testing and relied on Virtual Cockpit instead.

Our Favorite Thing

Audi Virtual Cockpit. It's not an exaggeration to say that this system replaces the center display. It has nearly all the same functionality right in front of your face and controllable via the steering wheel.

Our Least Favorite Thing

Alfa Romeo, Lexus, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz sedans all have so much character and charm that they make the A4 feel boring and staid. It's just hard to get excited about this sedan nowadays.

Right For

Drivers who know what they like and aren't interested in changing will flock to the A4. While redesigned last year, the reality is that this feels very much like the sedan Audi's been selling since the early 2010s.

Wrong For

Audi A4

Drivers that want to stand out. The A4 is a great luxury sedan, but it's not an exciting or boisterous one. Extroverts will be better served at Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, and Lexus.

The Bottom Line

The 2018 Audi A4 suffers not from its own faults as much as changes in the market driven by more exciting and open competitors. It's still a very competent, enjoyable luxury sedan, but it's no longer one worth getting excited about.

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Used Audi A4 in 20149

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