More power and standard AWD. The Audi A4 received a small refresh in 2020, which included a massaged nose. The 2021 Audi A4 gets updated powertrain options, including a 13-horsepower bump in the base 2.0-liter engine and standard all-wheel drive.

The powertrain update, coupled with its clean interior and comfortable ride, counteract its conservative looks and make it worth considering among rivals like the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Clean cabin, but timid overall styling. The Audi A4 boasts a clean cabin with a luxurious feel but no fuss. It pulls this off with a touchscreen infotainment system that eliminates most of the buttons, tasteful wood and metallic accents, and a toned-down design.

While that touchscreen helps with the sleek look, its dash-top perch eliminates the seamless look many other Audi touchscreens have.

While its cabin is clean and luxurious, the A4 is far from a family-oriented luxury sedan with just a 12-cubic-foot trunk. This falls a whopping 5 cubic feet behind the 3-Series and 0.6 behind the C-Class.

The A4 is just a year removed from a refresh, but its looks do little to impress. Audi has become known for design stagnation and letting its models retain similar looks for too long. The A4 falls squarely in this hole.

The S4 adds a little extra sportiness, and the A4 allroad wagon adds a unique touch to this otherwise vanilla design.

Audi A4

Capability for all conditions, but lacks top-end performance. The Audi A4 comes in a variety of flavors under its hood.

Things start with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 201 horsepower and all-wheel drive. Also available is a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 261 hp. These two engine options deliver ample acceleration, great drivability, and respectable fuel economy.

The A4 allroad ups the ante with a standard 261-hp 2.0-liter under its hood and increased ride height for additional off-road capabilities.

Rounding out the lineup is the performance-geared S4 with its 349-hp 3.0-liter turbo V6 that delivers a 4.4-second 0-60 mph time. The S4 also boasts a standard sport suspension that gives it a new personality in the corners.

While the S4 is a quick compact sedan, it lags behind the BMW M340i xDrive’s 389 hp and 4.1-second 0-60 sprint. Also, the Mercedes AMG C 63’s up to 503 hp and 3.8-second 0-60 time leaves the S4 wondering what just blew by it.

Whether you're a commuter, like heading off the beaten path, or prefer hitting the track, the A4 has a powertrain option for you. If there’s one weak spot in the A4, it the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission’s hesitation at low speeds.

Loads of standard safety gear. The Audi A4 doesn’t lack advanced safety gear, as it comes standard with automatic emergency braking. Optionally, buyers can tack on lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and more.

It also aced every IIHS test it’s been through so far. It hasn't taken the tough headlight testing, though, leaving it without a Top Safety Pick designation.

The 3-Series takes things a step further with standard lane departure warning. The BMW is also an official IIHS Top Safety Pick, thanks to its aced crash tests.

The C-Class is even better with its Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS. It also includes standard automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring, giving it a leg up on the A4.

Final thoughts. While Audi has come a long way over the years, the 2021 Audi A4 remains a notch behind the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class. This is especially true in the top-end performance models. But its fellow German luxury sedans come with higher price tag, leaving lots of room to add options.

Buyers who plan to use this compact sedan as a family vehicle may want to look at the 3-Series, as its 17-cubic-foot trunk crushes the A4. Shoppers looking for top-level performance and have no concern for the MSRP will want to forgo the S4 and opt for the AMG C 63.

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