While Audi touts the 2013 A4 as new, it is basically a mild mid-cycle refresh with slightly altered front and rear clips and some changes inside. The same engines, transmissions, suspension and brakes are contained in the same chassis.
But this is not a bad thing since there was absolutely nothing wrong with the 2012 A4.
While arch-rivals BMW and Mercedes now feature turbocharged four-cylinder engines, Audi has had one for some time. While the others now offer all-wheel-drive, Audi has had it for some time.
Instead of having to catch up to the others, with the 2013 A4, Audi has had room to let them do the catching up.
The A4 plays a key role in Audi’s success in this country as it accounts for almost 25% of sales. It is slightly surprising the company did not use this opportunity for a more obvious update to a car that was introduced in 2009.
The hexagonal grille is new as are the head and tail lights, which incorporate LED and adaptive technology on Quattro models.
The interior has been left pretty much intact with the exception of some new colour combinations. The instrument panel, like the rest of the car is understated, lacking the "bling" popular in other circles.
Instead you get dark colours and brushed aluminum trim, impeccable fit and finish and top quality materials with nary a bit of plastic evident anywhere.
Soft touch surfaces abound and the pair of large analog instruments are well-placed and exceptionally easy to read with clear fonts and white backlighting. Between them lies a small digital display that can be set to show a variety of information, including directional arrows when using the navigation system.
While others continue to solider on with or introduce complex multi-function infotainment systems, Audi keeps improving on its intuitive MMI (Multi-Media Interface). A large round knob allows you to personalize the car to you own tastes by delving deeply into a vast array of settings. That knob is surrounded by a quartet of buttons which allow direct access to critical functions.
The well-bolstered front buckets may be a little too narrow across the shoulders for those who wear size 44 jackets or larger, but they are supportive and keep you in place during spirited driving.
There is room in the rear for a couple of adults thanks to sculpted-out front seat backs and headliner, but knee room is at a premium as it is in most A4 competitors.
The trunk is spacious with a wide opening and a cargo net and tie-down hooks to keep items from sliding around while you enjoy the back roads – or dodge shopping carts. For more cargo space you can fold one or both sides of the rear seat backs down.
My test vehicle was fitted with an optional ($3,400) S-Line package that included visual treats like unique 19-inch wheels, an Alacantra-wrapped steering wheel that is squared off at the bottom, Alacantra seat inserts and brushed aluminum sill plates.
Iincluded in that package are some dynamic treats as well; principally, Audi’s Drive Select System which lets the driver tailor suspension, throttle response and transmission shift characteristics to his or her preference.
You can select Dynamic or Comfort which results in what the names imply. Or you can leave it alone, in Normal, which the vast majority of drivers will do for the life of the car.
The ride is European firm – but with the low-profile 19-inch tires it becomes too much so for my taste on our rugged roads, when in Dynamic mode. Comfort mode softens things up considerably, but at the cost of steering feel and agility in the turns.
And just in case that is not enough adjustability, you can also vary steering response and transmission shifts separately between normal and sport.
Standard equipment includes power windows, locks, driver’s seat and heated mirrors, automatic climate control, cruise control, sunroof, wireless connectivity, heated seats and satellite radio.
Quattro models, add bi-xenon headlights and Premium models get MMI, a navigation system, auto-dimming mirrors, three-zone climate control and keyless entry.
My tester topped the charts with the Premium Plus package which brought HomeLink, a wicked Bang & Olufsen audio system, audible park assist, back-up camera, blind-spot warning system, and adaptive headlights.
It was also equipped with the ubiquitous turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine found throughout the Audi and Volkswagen lineups. It is among my favorite engines of any displacement or cylinder count, with gobs of low-end torque starting at only 1,500 rpm and the ability to behave like a much larger powerplant.
In this application, however, the engine's direct injection results in a diesel-like sound that is out of place in a luxury car.
While a six-speed manual transmission is standard, my test car had an eight-speed automatic and it is a treat with a ratio for every imaginable situation, rapid shifts under full-throttle and subtle changes under part throttle.
As always Audi's vaunted Quattro all-wheel-drive system is invisible and lends an aura of invincibility when the weather takes a turn for the worst.