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The 2012 Audi A4 Premium Plus: affordable German luxury for the masses

After spending 8 days behind the wheel of the 2012 Audi A4 2.0, there is little question as to why this is among the bestselling European luxury cars in the America with tons of amenities inside and an efficient drivetrain that maintains a fun to drive attitude – all under $40,000.


My test vehicle was a 2012 Audi A4 Premium Plus with the 2.0L turbocharged engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission and the familiar Audi Quattro all-wheel drive system. My test car was also fitted with the Sport package and the Audi advanced key system for a total price of $39,775 including the $875 destination fee.

The Exterior
On the outside, the 2012 Audi A4 Premium Plus features the S Line exterior package that gives this compact German luxury sedan a very aggressive look. This begins up front, where the S Line adds unique Xenon headlights featuring LED trim that serves as the daytime running lights with the hood running down over the housings – giving the car an angry look. These headlights flank the bold Audi “Singleframe” grille mounted above the unique front fascia that is part of the S Line package. The linear design of the matte black Singleframe grille is echoed in the lower fascia openings that house the circular driving lights. The lower lip of the front fascia angles upward right below the grille – really working to give the front a very menacing look. Sporty, bold, aggressive, angry…call it what you want…the front end of the Audi A4 certainly stands out in a crowd in a very good way.

The long, flat hood of the 2012 Audi A4 meets a very slick windshield line that arches up into the roof. Almost giving the A4 the look of a big coupe, the flat part of the roofline quickly vanishes as it runs into the rear glass and down to the short trunk lid. Where many compact sedans have an overall shape that is almost bubbly, the Audi A4 sedan’s top line makes for a very handsome sport sedan. Along the sides, the A4 has blackened B and C pillar areas that bolster the coupe-like form while a trio of sharp body lines running front to back add to the “fast while standing still” look. The flared wheel openings are filled with the 18” 10 spoke wheels that are unique to the S Line exterior package and these are wrapped in summer performance tires for improved grip.

Out back, the short trunk lid of the 2012 Audi A4 sports a subtle lip spoiler that hovers above great looking LED taillights that look great whether or not they are illuminated. Along the bottom, the lower rear fascia area is finished in a contrasting dark finish with dual exhaust exiting side by side on the driver’s side of the rear end. The rear end is quite as bold as the front end or the sides but the rear end doesn’t do the car any injustice as the exterior design really comes together for a great looking compact sedan. While there are a variety of exterior color options, the Bright Red that was featured on my test vehicle would be my first choice as it worked beautifully with the black trim all around the vehicle.

The 2012 A4 very much looks like the pricier and larger A6 sedan, giving those who are looking for a German luxury sedan on a smaller budget a chance to sport the bold good looks of the more expensive models at a much lower price.

The Interior
Inside, the 2012 Audi A4 Premium Plus doesn’t pack all of the goodies of the top of the line A4 Prestige but there is no mistaking that this is a modern luxury car. My test car was fitted with a light grey interior finish that had both light grey and dark grey along the floor, doors and dash while the leather clad seats were finished in a lighter tan color. These three tones are accented by sparse silver trim along the dash, door panels and shift console. When it gets dark and the interior lights come on – that is when the interior really shines…and that pun is intended. The A4 when all lit up packs a super sexy red glow from the various buttons around the interior and accentuated by the two red LEDs mounted in the overhead console and shining down into the interior. This red ambience lighting kind of prevents it from ever really being dark in the interior of the 2012 A4 but it does so without compromising visibility when driving at night. It is tough for a car’s interior to look great at night but the Audi A4 does just that.

As part of the Sport package, my A4 Premium Plus was equipped with sport inspired front seats that offer improved support during stints of spirited driving. Of course, these seats feature full power controls with driver’s side memory and heating elements for both while the back seats are a more traditional bucket style bench design. This design provides more comfort for the two passengers sitting on the “outside” but if you try to cram a third person between them – the design of the rear seat won’t make for a comfortable long trip for the person sitting there. There is lots of front seat adjustment so drivers and front passengers of all sizes will likely be able to adjust the seats to ensure plenty of leg room and head room. If you have two very tall adults up front with the seats moved all of the way back – leg room gets to be a little tight for other tall adults. However, there is still plenty of room for two children when you have the front seats pushed all the way back.

The driver and front passenger will find that they have plenty of places to stash things including the center console, the roomy glove box and the door panels but having two large “fast food cups” in the dual front cup holders will get in the way from the driver shifting. It isn’t in the way to the point of being dangerous but it is annoying – especially when you are driving in a situation where there is tons of shifting such as rush hour traffic. The Audi A4 Premium Plus does not come with a standard high end stereo with a large screen but for those who arent interested in Hi-Fi gadgetry – the standard stereo system is great. This offers your typical AM/FM/satellite stereo channels with SD disc media access and CD compatibility with the music pumped through a pretty impressive standard speaker system. This sound system isn’t going to out-boom the average aftermarket speaker setup but this system begs to be turned up – offering crystal clear sound quality throughout the volume levels. Also, the controls for this standard stereo are very easy to use while driving.

Finally, the 2012 Audi A4 features a nice big sunroof with a knob control that allows you to quickly open the sunroof all the way – or in smaller increments. There is also a power sunshade that blocks out the sun on those extra hot days.

The only thing that is clearly missing in the interior of the 2012 Audi A4 Premium Plus is the large infotainment screen that has become commonplace but even without that and the help of a navigation system – the A4 sound system is high quality. The sport seats are comfortable and offer a firm grip when you are hammering the turns while also offering plenty of comfort during a long highway trip. This interior is perfect for a family with two young kids as there is an ideal amount of seating space, plenty of places to stash things throughout the interior and a trunk that would fit luggage for short trip for a young family.

The Drive
The 2012 Audi A4 Premium Plus is fitted with a direct injected and turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder engine that churns out 211 horsepower and 258lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission. Helping to offer the 40/60 front/rear power distribution is the tried and true Audi Quattro all wheel drive system. I bet that some of you reading this are thinking that 211 horsepower seems a little light for an all wheel drive car of this size but as is the case with other models in the current Audi lineup – the A4 makes incredible use of the available power. There is almost no noticeable turbo lag and the 258lb-ft of torque allows the A4 to quickly get up to speed while the 6-speed manual transmission makes for some great gear banging fun. Also, thanks to the all wheel drive system, should the need come up to really come away from a stop in a hurry – all four wheels grip to help the A4 hit 60 miles per hour in just 6.5 seconds en route to a top speed of 130 miles per hour. In short, those who are in the market for a fun-to-drive compact luxury sedan should most definitely drive the Audi A4 before discounting it due to a lack of power on paper. You may not hurt any feelings in the muscle car crowd but the A4 packs enough power to get the compact sedan moving in a hurry with a 6-speed transmission that allows you to move quickly and smoothly through the gears.

The 2012 Audi A4 Premium Plus features a sport tuned suspension system that is included in the Sport package and this suspension package really offers great handling. Whether hammering tight turns at lower speeds or when climbing through long, sweeping turns at very high speeds – the A4 handles confidently. There is almost no body roll regardless of the type or speed of turn and I can honestly say that the A4 handles like a German sports car. The one downfall to this is that some people might find the sport suspension package to be a little stiff for their likings. I thought that it was a beautifully rigid ride that allowed me to feel the road under almost every driving situation but a few of my passengers who are more accustomed to softer rides complained that the ride was stiffer than they like. I wouldn’t change a thing but if you are a driver who is more concerned about a smooth ride than pinpoint handling – the Sport package might not be an add-on for you. Aiding in the handling is a steering system that provides a nice level of feedback when cruising but it doesn’t rattle your teeth loose with stray bumps on the road surface.

I had the 2012 Audi A4 during the summer so weather was ice free but based on an afternoon of driving on wet roads, I suspect that the Quattro all wheel drive system would allow the A4 to get along pretty well on snowy roads for those who live in colder winter climates.
Finally, the fuel economy of the 2012 Audi A4 is rated at 21mpg around town, 31mpg on the highway and an average figure of 25mpg. In my experiences while driving with a fairly heavy right foot through lots of spirited situations, I averaged slightly lower figures during my 8 day test session. However, when I drove the car more reasonably and less like I was touring the Autobahn – I was easily able to average 25mpg over the course of a tank of fuel.

The Final Word
I really enjoyed driving the 2012 Audi A4 Premium Plus and overall there is very little not to like about this luxury compact sedan – especially with a price under $40k. Those who really want or need the infotainment screen and a navigation system can opt for a package that adds those features but it also adds over $3,000 to the price tag. If you have an accessory navigation system that you can stick to your windshield, the Audi A4 offers a great sound system and everything else that you could want in a modern compact luxury sedan. Plenty of room for two adults and two kids or four adults provided that none of them are very tall (over 6’2”) – all of which are nestled down comfortably in the leather Audi seats.

The compact luxury sedan market is packed with big names from automakers around the world but with a drivetrain that inspires high performance driving while still offering better than 30 miles per gallon – the Audi A4 is a driver’s car that deserves a spot on any new car buyer’s short list.

Check out the gallery on the right for a look at our 2012 Audi A4 test vehicle.