Audi brings its adaptive bi-xenon headlights down-market for the B7 A4. Special because they "turn" with the car to help the driver see around corners, these new bi-xenons will be available as an option. The adaptive feature only works at speeds above about 6 mph. This feature is particularly helpful at night when trying to improve time through our favorite section of Skyline Blvd at the exact same time the local deer population decides the grass is better on the other side of the canyon.
Non-xenon headlamps will be standard equipment on the car. US vehicles will also now have Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) with a small switch next to the headlamp control switch to turn them on and off as desired. The good news here is that one can make a choice whether to use or not use these DRLs unlike our Canadian neighbors who are required to use DRLs all the time. One small beef with this new switch is that it was virtually impossible to see and therefore, adjust, while we were test driving this car. We had to physically get out of the car and look inward to see this switch and change its settings. That being said it is probably something that would be set once and not adjusted again on a regular basis.
What we would really like to see is some of the LED lighting technology making its way down to the A4 platform. Audi has already fitted several of the concept cars with LumiLEDs for front and rear lighting, put LED daytime running lights on the A8 6.0, and is planning rear brake/turning LED lights on the upcoming A6, allroad, and S6. We eagerly await Audi finding a cost effective way to migrate the technology into the A4 lineup. BMW, for one, has already started using this technology on their 3-series cabriolet, and we would welcome the adoption of this technology in the future A4 versions. Come on Audi...remember "never follow".
At initial launch the S-line version with different external fascia, S-line badging, sports suspension, and 18" wheels, will unfortunately not be available. Later this year, however, Audi will offer the S-line variant, complete with 18X8.5" BBS Challenge wheels. This already popular wheel with the current Audi crowd will definitely be desirable and the Ultrasport/S-line configuration will be worth its weight in gold for the 18" wheels and tires alone. The S-line option should come in around $3 grand extra, and will be available across the model lineup in both the 2.0T and 3.2 cars and sedan and Avant versions.
Warranty and Maintenance
Brakes, wipers and other normal wear and tear items now carry a basic warranty of 6 months for comfort problems (i.e. wiper chatter, brake shimmy, etc.). Brakes can be replaced once during the 4 yr/50,000 mile warranty period if they are worn out, however the warranty will no longer cover rotors that are damaged from metal to metal contact. We see a real positive in the fact that brakes on the B7's can be replaced prior to reaching the minimum standard. Pads can now be replaced if they have less than 5mm of friction material, and rotors can be replaced if they are within 0.5mm larger than the minimum specification for that rotor. This is being done to allow a technician to replace brakes that are close to wearing out, but have not reached the minimum specification. As a result the customer should not have brakes wearing out in-between services.
Brakes will still be covered after 6-months for material and workmanship (cracked pads for example). For the enthusiast crowd it is critical to thoroughly read the user manual and totally understand what is and is not covered in order to avoid surprises. Problems that could be caused by competitive events (racing or time trials), improper use of brakes (riding the brakes rather than using lower gears) will be looked at closely and possibly rejected by the warranty system unless the work meets certain failure guidelines.
The exterior color palette of the cars is varied as usual, but still not as expansive as our European counterparts. The following colors will be available as standard fare:
Ocean Blue and Brilliant Red were our favorite colors, but the new Quartz Grey (similar to the Aviator Grey of the TT) is starting to grow on us.
Customers will also be able to request alternative colors, however don't expect to see these options in the dealer order guides or brochures. Prospective owners interested in getting a unique colored Audi need to ask their dealers specifically for this option. The dealer representative will work with their respective Audi of America sales rep, which would then work with product management to evaluate the request. Any color in the current Audi of America exterior color palette is a definite possibility, but will carry an additional $2,500 paint fee, add 4-6 weeks to production time, and will be handled on an individual basis.
With the weak US dollar, many people expected some type of increase in the price of a new A4. The question was "how much"? Well, the cat is out of the bag now and Audi has indeed increased the cost of a new A4. A well-equipped Audi A4 3.2, even without navigation, comes in at a whopping $42K+. Even more important is the bump in the 4-cylinder pricing. Paying over $37K for a nicely equipped Audi A4 2.0T Avant is a bit much to swallow.
Audi has assembled a quite capable replacement of the B6 platform A4. A good number of the identified shortfalls of the previous model were addressed at some level with this new A4. However, will the buying public agree that a decently equipped Audi A4 is worth close to $40K of their hard earned dollars? Taking everything into consideration, we think the answer is still yes. Audi will be able to sell these new cars at a decent clip, however they definitely cannot rest and must continue to innovate and improve. This may seem like a harsh comment for a fully-redesigned automobile, but we like most Audi fans, want to keep the bar set extremely high.