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Audi's 2013 Line-up Reviewed - DrivingScene

Audi’s 2013 Line-up Reviewed

Posted on 26 July 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

Audi has been running a full-court assault on the luxury market for more than a decade now. The German marquee has gone from junior member to full-fledged player in that time mostly on the backs of their mass-market cars. What Audi calls their B-segment we would know as the A4, A5, and their many variants. Audi recently brought the DrivingScene team out to the only unburned Colorado mountains left to test the full line-up of 2013 B-Segment models and they brought an old friend with them – the widely missed American allroad. Keep reading to find out how Audi’s 2013 model line-up is taking shape, and how we scared an editor from another magazine into closing his eyes as we four-wheel drifted up a mountain pass…

Like all successful modern car manufacturers, Audi has pared down the number of engine and transmission choices of its vehicles. The A4, A5, convertible A5, and allroad all come with a 2.0T 4 cylinder with either variable or Tiptronic auto boxes, while the S4 and S5 come with a supercharged 3.0 6 cylinder coupled to either a manual or the S tronic transmission.

We enjoyed the 2.0T in the A4 and A5 variants; it has just the right amount of go that you expect from a German luxury car and the powerband was generously broad while the turbo lag was minimal – although it is sufficient enough to prevent you from winning any drag races at your local lights. The lag really popped up in the allroad we drove, to the point of being dangerous when we attempted to execute a left turn against oncoming traffic. After a few puckering moments, the torque kicked in at around 2.5K RPM and we were off. This kind of unresponsiveness was the norm in the 80’s when turbos first appeared in mass-market cars, but here in the future this is unacceptable. We live in a world where we demand that our vehicles respond immediately to our every input, and in this car that is not the case. It is curious that this only came up in the allroad we drove, while all the A4/5 variants share the same basic powertrain. Some of the other journalists present at the event complained of the same problem, so it’s hard to blame my own admittedly poor driving.

The 3.0T supercharged 6 cylinder had no such problems. With ample grunt and a great noise to accompany it, it is an engine that is meant to be driven. The amount of power on tap would be unwieldy to a novice, but in the hands of a skilled pilot (i.e. no one at DrivingScene), is a potent weapon for attacking straights. The infamous Quattro system keeps everything in check between those straight-aways, but also dulls some of the outright thrills that could easily be had with this engine.

That’s not to say that the 4-wheel drive kills all the fun. Given the keys to a pristine white S4 and pointed in the direction of an alpine road, I tried everything in my small bag of tricks to get the uber-sedan sideways. This had the effect of wildly entertaining one of my two passengers, both of whom are editors at other automotive magazines. The other passenger, however, was scared senseless. Even before my more reckless attempts at high speed cornering, we had him sitting in the back seat with his eyes closed most likely praying to whatever heathen god New Yorkers believe in.

Finally, after much acceleration and gnashing of teeth I entered the perfect hairpin at much too ambitious a speed and braked far too late to ever dream of saving us. Instead, like any hooligan, I stood on the accelerator and four-wheel drifted the S4 to safety. I’m not sure which part of that I enjoyed more – finally finding the infinitely capable Quattro system’s limit, the screams coming from my colleagues, or being told later that the elderly couple witnessing my unbridled gonzo journalism from the shoulder apparently simultaneously flipped us off as if they had been practicing the move in a mirror for weeks. Pure gold.

So the 2013 S4 is a very good car, and the S5 is largely the same, with a bit more sporting character thrown in to the looks. The run of the mill A4 and A5 are decent and rock-solid, but no-where near as entertaining as their S counterparts, obviously. The A versions seem ripped straight from a newly-minted middle manager’s fantasy of their first luxury car. Audi again lives up to its reputation of building well sorted and supplied interiors, with the only real let-down being the “leather” used for the steering wheel. It is hard and unforgiving at your most frequent touch point where you want soft and supple. I was impressed with the space in the back interiors of the A4, adults could consider sitting back there even. I found the top mechanism on the convertible A5 to be a little finicky, and wished it was a one-touch operation. Driving through the summertime Colorado mountains in this car is pure bliss however. I cannot discern if my perma-grin was due to the location or the vehicle, but frankly I don’t care to find out.

My most highly anticipated vehicle of this launch weekend was the allroad and it didn’t disappoint. It is gorgeous in the flesh, especially the handsome chrome grill. Audi’s designer told DrivingScene he had to fight for every millimeter of that grill, and it was well worth it. In fact, I shook his hand after he said that – well done sir. The front and side skid plates, along with the plastic fenders let others on the road know that this is a beefier, more serious wagon. Gone is the adjustable height air suspension, reportedly nixed because of maintenance issues. Now the allroad is one size fits all. The interior is deliciously spacious and the mind tends to wander with thoughts of all the kit that could be swallowed through the rear hatch. Unfortunately this car has the same low-quality steering wheel as the A4 and A5, but given the allroad’s more utilitarian bearing, the wheel grates a little less against my delicate sensibilities. That and the aforementioned abysmal turbo lag are the only major disappoints here. I sincerely hope the allroad stays on our shores for years to come.

Having used and abused Audi’s upcoming B-segment onslaught I can happily report that there isn’t a loser in the bunch. The A4 is a solid entry-level luxury car to reward yourself with. The A5 adds some sportier clothes but takes away passenger room, and the A5 convertible is all you could ever ask for in a canyon tourer. Of course, the S4 and S5 are in their own league here. While their road demeanor is largely the same, that is far from a complaint. You would be happy to have either of these cars in your life every day. Audi is still aggressively gunning to be the #1 luxury automaker, and with a line-up like this, it could certainly happen.

– Adam Kaslikowski

Photos Courtesy of Richard Melick