Used Vehicle Review: Audi A4, 2009-2016

Vehicle Type

Sedan, wagon

History/Description

The “8W” generation of the Audi A4 arrived for model year 2017, meaning that the previous “B8” generation A4 has moved fully into used car territory. Look for turbocharged power and Quattro AWD on most models, and numerous model grades and trim levels, backed by various optional equipment packages and powertrain configurations, to meet an array of needs and budgets.

Feature content may include navigation, voice recognition, push-button start, a CD changer, automatic climate control, heated leather, a full driver computer, Audi’s MMI central command interface, and plenty more – depending on the model selected. Xenon lighting with a headlight washer system was also available.

If you’re considering a B8-generation A4 as an upgrade from an earlier model, you’ll likely find it more refined, sharper in the handling department, and more high-tech in terms of safety and feature content. Many owners say that the interior amounts to a significant upgrade too.

Engines/Trim

Power came from a popular two-litre four-cylinder engine, turbocharged for 21 horsepower. A 3.2-litre V6 with 265 horsepower was available on earlier models in this generation, too. The transmission on most used models will be a six- or eight-speed Tiptronic automatic, paired with Quattro AWD. A manual six-speed transmission was also available, though only on sedan models.

What Owners Like

Fuel mileage, good performance, an upscale cabin and ride quality, all-season traction, and all-weather confidence are all typically reported by A4 owners. Nimble handling, minimal worry about getting stuck in the snow, and a strong sense of value in spending a premium over a more mainstream sedan round out the owner praise. Excellent performance from the xenon headlamps is also noted.

What Owners Dislike

Gripes are reported minimally, though some owners wish for better fuel mileage, more rear seat legroom, and a more straightforward MMI interface.

Check out some owner reviews.

Pro Tip

Many shoppers seek out an A4 for its legendary Quattro AWD system, though Audi did sell several variants of this popular sedan in a front-wheel drive or “FronTrak” configuration as a cost-saving measure. If you’re set on an A4 with Quattro AWD, be sure to double-check that the unit you’re considering is equipped with it – by asking the seller, looking at the rear of the vehicle for the “Quattro” badge, or having a peek underneath to locate the additional AWD system hardware.

The Test Drive

Start by giving the electronics a full work-through, planning to spend about 20 minutes running through the functionality of everything in the car that runs on electricity. Confirm that both remote key fobs work properly, and ensure the A4 starts up quickly and strongly when the Engine Start button is pressed. The stereo, navigation, climate control, all lighting, all displays, all power windows and locks, the sunroof, and the heated and motorized seat functions should all be scrutinized for proper operation at this point in the process. If any issues are detected, be sure to have the vehicle assessed professionally. Note that an Audi dealer is the best place to quickly and effectively track down the cause of any electronics-related issues you detect.

A weak or dying battery may cause operability issues with multiple electronic systems, and software updates (applied by the dealer), may be available to help correct problems like these. If any electronic issues are noted, a professional check of the battery and charging system is a great place to start. Do not attempt to fix problems like these by disconnecting and reconnecting the battery.

Your number-one defence against buying someone else’s problems and headaches in a new A4 is to have the vehicle subjected to a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) at an Audi dealer before you buy. Make arrangements with the dealer ahead of time, setting up an appointment once you’ve confirmed that the seller (or selling dealer) can either bring the vehicle to the dealer for you, meet you there, or let you bring it yourself. This inspection takes about an hour, and can reveal a multitude of problems that may be all but undetectable to the average shopper on a simple test drive. Though a PPI may cost $150 or so, it can reveal many times that amount in potential problems, saving you money and stress down the line.

Owners online report a list of fairly easily diagnosed problems that potential A4 shoppers should be aware of, including fuel injector failures, fuel pump failures, and bad ignition coil packs. These issues are among the A4’s most commonly reported – and thankfully, they’re typically easy to identify and remedy. Telltale signs of these problems may include difficulty or failure in starting the engine, lumpy or inconsistent power delivery, poor performance, or a Check Engine light illuminated in the instrument cluster.

Note that a Check Engine light may not necessarily illuminate for certain issues. Put another way, the absence of this warning does not necessarily indicate that the vehicle is trouble-free, and the vehicle should be assessed by a professional regardless, for maximum peace of mind.

Oil consumption is another popular and well-documented issue with this generation of Audi’s A4, with numerous owners discussing their experiences with oil disappearing between oil-change intervals, and some back and forth with Audi on what’s considered to be “normal” oil consumption.

Here’s some more reading. Keep your eye on the oil level of your A4 by checking it often and keeping it topped up. Here’s some more discussion, suggesting the issue may stem from a bad batch of piston rings on earlier models that were covered in a recall. If the unit you’re buying has some warranty remaining, be sure to advise your dealer’s service department of any noted oil consumption before the warranty runs up, and confirm that it’s documented to speed future warranty repairs, if required. Note that this issue seems less prevalent on newer used copies of this car, suggesting that the issue was addressed in production a few years in. Also, note that some owners report oil consumption, but that many do not.

Deposit buildup on the intake valves in direct-injected engines, like the A4’s 2.0T unit, is a well documented issue across many makes and models as this technology becomes more prevalent. Heres some reading. Note that this issue can affect any direct-injected engine, not just Audi’s.

To be safe, ensure the A4 you’re considering performs without any hesitation or sporadic power delivery, and that there are no stored trouble codes for an engine misfire with an ECU scan. Higher-mileage units without full service records are most suspect. To help fend off harmful valve gunk deposits as the vehicle ages, be sure to fill up exclusively with high-quality fuelsb and to change the engine oil, filter, and spark plugs not a moment later than outlined in the owner’s manual – and using only factory-specified fluids, filters, and plugs.

Have a mechanic inspect the coolant level of the A4 you’re considering, and check for the presence of any fluid leaks. Low coolant levels or a leak could both be signs of a water pump that’s on its way out. Earlier models are more likely to suffer from water-pump related issues, which are relatively easy to detect and remedy.

A slight vibration in the steering wheel while turning at low speeds is considered normal by many owners, though more pronounced vibrations, or unwanted vibrations at higher speeds when travelling straight, could be the result of a bushing that needs replacing, or bad power steering hoses. Here’s some more reading.

Avoid buying a model that’s been modified, especially if it’s still under any remaining factory warranty. Without the owner’s knowledge, the vehicle’s VIN number can be “marked” or “flagged”, either by its own on-board computer, or an Audi technician, if non-factory parts or computer programming are detected. Note that the presence of non-factory parts or software can typically be detected, even if they’re removed before a dealer visit. Specifically, non-factory engine programming via a chip, tune, or power programmer may lead to a so-called TD1 designation, which typically voids the vehicle’s warranty. As part of a pre-purchase checkup, ask the servicing Audi technician to determine if the model in question has been flagged, to confirm that its warranty is still in good standing.

With the owner’s permission, you may also ask a dealership to look up the VIN for any outstanding recalls.

Verdict

Most of the A4’s more commonly reported problems are easy to detect and remedy, and a used unit that passes a PPI with good marks can be bought with relative confidence. Plan to stay consistently on top of all maintenance requirements for maximum likelihood of a trouble-free life, and you’ll likely enjoy a healthy used A4 with minimal problems for years to come.

Crash Test Results

IIHS: Top Safety Pick (2010)
NHTSA: 4/5 Stars

Check that used A4 for a few common problems, warranty-obliterating modifications 9/27/2018 6:28:00 AM