Audi A3

In crowded European cities, small, space-efficient vehicles are very popular because of their versatility, fuel-efficiency and nimble nature. These vehicles exist in America as well, but they are not typically offered by luxury automakers as it's assumed that Americans associate compact vehicles with cheapness. One vehicle meant to break that tradition is the Audi A3.
Introduced a decade ago in Europe and brought to the United States in 2006, the A3 is Audi's entry-level model for the North American market. Roughly a foot shorter and about 400 pounds lighter than an A4 2.0T Avant Quattro, the front-drive Audi A3 Sportback presents a strong argument for buying a bargain sport wagon, provided one goes easy on the options. With the same powerful turbocharged engine as its bigger brother, the A3 2.0T performs like a sport sedan that happens to have a maximum cargo capacity of 56 cubic feet, just 3 cubes less than its larger sibling. And just because this is Audi's entry-level car doesn't mean the company cuts corners on quality. The cabin's design and materials are up to the lofty standards that Audi has set for the industry, meaning everything fits tightly, moves with precision and looks and feels top-shelf.
Slowly but surely, small European wagons are filtering into the States, so the Audi A3 does have some competition. But those who appreciate the distinct German flavor of Audi, meaning one of engineering excellence combined with an upscale cabin, will find plenty to like in the A3 Sportback.
Current Audi A3
The Audi A3 is available in 2.0T and 3.2 Quattro trim levels. Slip inside and it's readily apparent the A3 continues Audi's tradition of utilizing first-class materials throughout the cabin. Real metal rings around the dash vents and audio controls are accented by the solid action of the gear selector and climate-control dials. Standard features on the 2.0T include dual-zone automatic climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, one-touch power windows, keyless entry and a 10-speaker sound system. Step up to the 3.2 Quattro, and the list grows to include amenities like leather seats, a power driver seat and satellite radio. Options include xenon headlights, a navigation system, a sunroof and an upgraded sound system. But go crazy on the options and the A3's sticker will rapidly approach uncomfortable levels.
Enthusiasts will appreciate the 2.0T's engine, a sprightly turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a broad power band. If you want Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system, you have to go with the 3.2-liter V6 hooked up to the automatic. Both are offered with a standard six-speed manual transmission: Audi's six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) automatic that allows rapid, rev-matching gearchanges via paddles next to the steering wheel is offered as an option.
As with the rest of the Audi family, the A3's chassis strikes an agreeable balance between athletic handling and a comfy ride. Its steering does a superb job of dampening out unwanted road vibrations and kickback without marring the sublime feedback enthusiast drivers crave. At the same time, the suspension keeps the A3 buttoned down without transmitting harsh road impacts to the cabin.
Past Audi A3s
The Audi A3 was introduced as a 2006 model in the United States and has received only minor features changes since.

Audi A4

When people think of heroes, names that come to mind are John Wayne, Superman or perhaps Gandhi. When Audi executives think of their heroes, the A4 certainly makes the short list.
The Audi A4 holds the distinction of single-handedly reviving the flatlining Audi after the brand's big sales slump some two decades ago. Launched in the mid '90s, the A4 quickly proved a favorite among luxury-car buyers thanks to a handsome, well-finished cabin and available Quattro all-wheel drive. Tight panel gaps, high-quality materials and firm, comfortable seating give the interior the proper European ambiance, while a supple ride, responsive handling and willing performance make the Audi A4 a great road trip choice.
Although those core characteristics have been part of the A4's personality since day one, this compact sport sedan has become increasingly polished with each successive generation. Three generations of the Audi A4 have been produced to date and have been typically available in convertible, sedan and wagon body styles. No matter what year of A4 you look at, know that this vehicle will provide athletic performance and a comfortable and inviting cabin. Add in the appeal of all-wheel drive (a serious asset for those who live in inclement parts of the country) and it's easy to see why the A4 is such a credible hero.
Current Audi A4
Buyers can purchase the current A4 in sedan, convertible (called a Cabriolet) and wagon (Avant) configurations. Two trims are available: the 2.0T and the 3.2. Base 2.0Ts offer standard features like a power driver seat and dual-zone climate control. Step up to the 3.2 and the list grows to include features like heated leather seats and 17-inch wheels. Option packages are available that facilitate the addition of features like a navigation system and an upgraded sound system.
Under the hood, buyers may choose between a 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 or a 255-horse 3.2-liter V6. All wagons are available only with Audi's Quattro system; sedans and convertibles come with either Quattro or front-wheel drive. As far as transmissions go, options vary by body type and trim; the A4 may be had with a six-speed manual, a six-speed automatic or a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
This generation of the Audi A4 has been available since 2006 and has long impressed us with its impeccable cabin design and materials, as well as its nimble handling. Its host of body configurations and optional, rough-weather-friendly all-wheel drive only add to its appeal. The A4's only blemish concerns the fact that its engines come up a bit short in the area of low-end torque.
If you're shopping for a used A4, keep in mind that relative to second-generation A4s, the current generation offers refreshed styling, a revised chassis and more powerful engines. The sedan and wagon got these upgrades in 2006 at the start of the generational cycle, but the Cabriolet wasn't updated until the following year, in model year 2007. At that time, the Cabriolet was also endowed with a new acoustic soft top, which served to give it a quieter ride.
Past Audi A4 Models
The A4 has long been one of our favorite vehicles, and it's been a frequent winner of our annual "Editors' Most Wanted" awards over the years. This impressive Audi is an excellent buy on the used-car market, regardless of which generation you choose.
The second-generation A4 was produced from 2002-'05. Compared to the first generation, it benefited from a redesigned body structure and new sheet metal, as well as changes that made it sportier. It was motivated by either a 170-hp 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a 3.0-liter 220-hp V6. Both could be mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. (The CVT first became available with this generation.) The A4 Cabriolet made its debut in this era, first appearing in model-year 2003. In editorial reviews, we praised the A4's refined interior and sharp handling. As with third-generation models, its only drawback concerned a slight lack of low-end torque.
The first-generation Audi A4 (1996-2001) was a huge success for Audi, helping to put the automaker in the same league as its respected German luxury-car competitors. This was attributed in no small part to the A4's handsome Teutonic looks, impressive performance and stylish, well-constructed interior that set a precedent for future Audi models. A five-speed manual was standard, with Audi's five-speed Tiptronic automatic offered as an option. As is the case today, the base engine was a turbocharged four-cylinder, while the upgraded model came with a naturally aspirated six. Note that the A4 was initially available only as a sedan; the Avant didn't join the lineup until 1998.
This generation offered all the usual A4 strengths, like good looks both inside and out, and available all-wheel drive. Weaknesses included a lack of rear legroom and a somewhat confusing dash layout.

Audi A5

Audi has been making a concerted effort in recent years to expand its product line. One of its newest products is the A5 midsize coupe. Inspired by the company's stunning 2003 Nuvolari grand touring concept, the A5 is a slightly less practical but much sexier two-door alternative to mainstream luxury sedans. It boasts standard V6 power, all-wheel drive, a refined interior and plenty of standard or optional luxury features.
Those shopping for a sport-oriented luxury coupe would be wise to check out the Audi A5. Its combination of striking good looks, all-wheel drive and everyday practicality is hard to ignore.
Current Audi A5
The Audi A5 was introduced for the 2008 model year. Mechanically, it's related to the latest-generation A4 sedan. Motivation is provided by a 3.2-liter direct-injected V6 that puts out 265 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque. Power is directed through either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. (The S5 coupe is similar but comes with a robust V8.)
A key advantage for those who those are subject to slippery weather conditions is the A5's Quattro all-wheel drive, a feature not available from this Audi's peers. With a 40/60-percent front-to-rear power split, the Quattro system provides a rear-wheel-drive car's crisp handling dynamics along with the extra grip of all-wheel drive.
Those who value sophisticated design as much as performance will feel right at home in the Audi A5. This is arguably one of the best-looking coupes on the market. The sporty silhouette, distinctive Audi one-piece grille and shapely tail end team up to create an extraordinarily appealing look.
The same is true of the A5's handsome four-place cabin. The interior materials are first-rate, and the A5's multi-adjustable front seats offer daylong touring comfort along with an appropriate measure of support during spirited driving. Expanding upon the limited capacity of the company's TT roadster, the rear seat area offers room for two additional passengers, though taller individuals can expect a fairly tight fit. The generous trunk offers more than 16 cubic feet of space, and the rear seat flips down to accommodate even more cargo.
The midsize Audi A5 luxury sport coupe is offered in a single trim level equipped with standard features such as automatic tri-zone climate control, a 10-speaker audio system and finely tailored leather and wood trim. Popular options include bi-xenon headlights, park assist with a rearview camera, a navigation system, a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system and an S line package featuring sport suspension with 19-inch alloy wheels, unique front and rear fascias, sport seats and aluminum interior accents.
As slick as it is, the Audi A5 faces some tough competition against rivals like BMW's 3 Series coupe, Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class and Infiniti G37. All are excellent choices, but shoppers desiring a coupe that provides a pleasing blend of style, performance and all-wheel-drive security would do well to check out the A5.

Audi A6

Luxury-car shoppers who love value have long cheered the Audi A6. And in true Audi fashion, the midsize A6 gives you a lot for a very competitive price.
One of the A6's primary strengths is its deluxe cabin. Materials are first-rate, and the overall design is nothing short of class-leading. Its winter-weather capability is another plus. A6s are available with the Quattro all-wheel-drive system, which distributes power to all four wheels, making icy roads more manageable.
But the car's most compelling asset concerns value. In terms of overall quality, the Audi A6 is right up there with other midsize luxury cars, but it costs thousands less. A used A6 represents an even more affordable proposition.
There have been three generations of the Audi A6, and all are worthy selections. If there's a downside to the A6, it's that it hasn't been the most athletic choice in its segment. Its engines have been somewhat light on low-end torque over the years, and relative to other sporty sedans and wagons, handling is skewed more toward luxury than performance. But these quibbles pale in the face of this car's undisputable merits. Offering premium refinement at a respectable price, the A6 is an excellent choice.
Current Audi A6
With its clean lines and oversized grille, the current Audi A6 is one of the most distinctive midsize luxury cars on the market. It's available as both a sedan and a wagon. The A6 wagon -- called the Avant -- is one of the few midsize luxury wagons on the market, and with a 34-cubic-foot cargo bay behind its rear seat, it makes a practical yet elegant choice for families with a large dog or double stroller in tow.
Those who purchase the A6 sedan may choose between two trims: base 3.2 and top-of-the-line 4.2. Wagons are available only in the 3.2 trim. Standard equipment is generous, and as we've come to expect from Audi, the A6's interior is a case study in attractive design and quality materials. The options lineup includes a high-end audio system, voice-activated navigation system and Bluetooth phone connectivity. Most are accessed via Audi's easy-to-use Multi Media Interface (MMI) vehicle management system. It sounds complicated, but with its logical menus and ergonomically designed, all-in-one control knob, MMI is relatively easy to learn.
In terms of performance, the Audi A6 is available with either a 255-horsepower V6 or a 350-hp V8 engine. The engines are smooth and refined, though the V6 is taxed by the A6's 4,000-pound curb weight. Acceleration is certainly passable, but most other V6-equipped luxury cars are quicker. The A6 rides comfortably on the highway, and while it's not the most athletic car in its class, our editors like its predictable, nimble feel through the corners. As far as transmissions go, both a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a six-speed automatic are offered. The A6 may be equipped with either front-wheel drive or Audi's Quattro system.
The current Audi A6 is representative of the third-generation model, which dates to 2005. Overall, the third-generation car represents by far the best package of attention-getting style, entertaining driving dynamics and opulent furnishings. Those considering used third-gen models should keep in mind that the car's V8 engine (offered on the 4.2 trim) got an upgrade a couple of years into the cycle. The A6's current 350-hp V8 didn't debut until 2007; prior to that, V8 models delivered 335 hp. Model year 2007 also marked the debut of the car's available iPod integration and a rearview camera.
Past Audi A6 Models
The second-generation A6 sedan arrived on the market in 1998 and benefited from a ground-up redesign; an all-new version of the Avant wagon debuted the following year. This was the first Audi A6 to ride on a stretched version of the highly regarded A4 platform. For the first two years, only a naturally aspirated V6 was available, but in 2000, Audi added a spirited twin-turbocharged V6 and a torque-rich V8 to the engine lineup for the sedan. Given that acceleration tended to be sluggish with the base V6, particularly on the hefty A6 Avant Quattro wagon, Audi began offering a larger, more powerful 3.0-liter six-cylinder in 2002. Transmission choices included a five-speed automatic and a CVT (which was introduced in 2002). In our editorial reviews, we praised the heavenly cabin and all-wheel-drive utility offered by the second-generation A6, and panned its somewhat nonlinear steering. Overall, it represents a solid choice for used-car shoppers.
The original A6 came to market in 1995 as a lightly revised version of the old Audi 100 sedan and wagon. Although prices on used A6 models from this era are convincingly low, consumers should be aware that only one engine -- a 172-hp V6 -- is available on these cars. With the lightest A6 sedan weighing in at 3,400 pounds, acceleration is modest at best. However, much like newer Audis, this A6 was nicely appointed and offered a choice of front-wheel drive or Quattro all-wheel drive.

Audi A8
The flagship Audi A8 is a full-size luxury sedan meant to appeal to wealthy consumers looking for maximum luxury and space. Although competing models from the premium German and Japanese marques may sell in greater numbers, the A8 does possess a distinct advantage because of its aluminum frame and body panels. Significantly lighter than a traditional steel frame, the Audi Space Frame (ASF), as it's called, helps offset the bulk of the car's Quattro all-wheel-drive system; the A8's competitors are primarily rear-wheel drive.
Thanks to the Quattro system, winter weather capability is one of the A8's strengths. Luxurious accommodations are another, though the current model, which dates to 2004, is considerably more opulent and feature-laden than the original sedan.
Current Audi A8
The current A8 offers a near-perfect blend of luxury, performance, amenities and style, and is one of our favorite full-size luxury sedans. Three trims are available: A8, the long-wheelbase A8 L and the A8 L W12. The A8 and A8 L are powered by a 4.2-liter, 350-horsepower V8, while the A8 L W12 offers a 6.0-liter engine good for 450 horses. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift control. Regardless of which engine you choose, you'll be impressed by the big sedan's ride and handling characteristics. The Audi A8's driver-adjustable air suspension provides a comfortable ride without excessive float over bumps, and if you take the car around a few corners, it proves surprisingly agile with nicely weighted steering. All trims boast generous standard features lists, including amenities like a navigation system and heated front and rear seats.
Rear-seat room is adequate in the regular-wheelbase model, while the A8 L model provides more than enough legroom for a pair of 6-footers. Cabin furnishings are best-in-class, and thanks to Audi's logically designed Multi Media Interface (MMI), accessing the car's numerous audio, climate and navigation functions is as simple as it gets in the luxury-car world.
The A8 undoubtedly lacks the snob appeal of its fellow Germans, but don't let that stop you. With its roomy, best-in-class cabin and excellent driving dynamics, this sedan shines as one of the strongest picks in its segment. This fact is evidenced by its multiple "Editors' Most Wanted" wins over the years.
As redesigns go, Audi's 2004 overhaul of the A8 is likely one of the most successful on record. Relative to its predecessor, this generation offers a lighter chassis and a more muscular V8, along with lots of comfort, safety and suspension upgrades. If you're shopping for a used A8 from this era, keep in mind that the car's W12 power plant wasn't available until 2005. Additionally, you'll want to remember that the A8 got a new V8 in 2007, upping horsepower on these models from 335 to the current 350.
Past Audi A8 Models
The first-generation Audi A8 was offered from 1997-2003. Although it was one of the most technologically advanced cars on the market by virtue of its aluminum frame, it never had its successor's flair for style or performance. Understated in its adornments inside and out, the original A8 failed to deliver the over-the-top ambience that's so important for high-dollar luxury sedans sold in the United States. However, if you like the idea of owning a discreet luxury car, you can buy a used A8 for considerably less than you'd pay for a used BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Early A8s were offered only with a 113-inch wheelbase, which meant that their backseats were cramped compared to the other full-size luxury sedans. The longer and roomier A8 L arrived for the 2000 model year and would be our pick if you're planning to carry adults in back. Most first-generation A8s were sold with a 4.2-liter V8 and Quattro all-wheel drive. Thusly equipped, the A8 was one of the quickest large luxury sedans of its day, though the V8 was deficient in off-the-line torque. It was a comfortable car but not a particularly entertaining one due to overly soft suspension tuning. Audi also offered a less expensive front-wheel-drive model from 1997-'99. This rare A8 had a small 3.7-liter V8 and a modest 8.3-second 0-60 time.

Audi Q7

The Audi Q7 is one of the newer large luxury SUVs to become available. It doesn't disappoint, and comes with all the quality and understated opulence buyers have come to expect from the respected German marque. The Q7's bloodlines are evident in its incredibly swank interior. Craftsmanship is first-rate throughout, and the big SUV is decked out with a wide array of sophisticated luxury and safety features.
The Q7 isn't without its flaws. The vehicle's full complement of features contributes to its ponderous curb weight, which strips some crispness from its acceleration. Fuel economy is poor. And those hoping to keep the kids occupied on road trips with showings of "The Incredibles" will be disappointed to learn that the Q7 isn't available with a factory-installed DVD entertainment system.
At the end of the day, though, these blemishes do little to compromise the attractiveness of Audi's exceptional hauler. If you're in the market for a luxury SUV, the Audi Q7 deserves a place on your list.
Current Audi Q7
Introduced for the 2007 model year, the Audi Q7 is a sport-ute that seats seven. Audi's crossover SUV emphasizes performance and luxury, as its car-based unit-body construction and flurry of high-end accoutrements attest.
Those looking to drive home in this new hauler have a choice of three trims. The base 3.6 trim gets you an impressive list of standard features, including upscale treats like leather upholstery and dual-zone automatic climate control. The midrange 3.6 Premium adds items like a rearview camera and Bluetooth connectivity. Finally, the top-of-the-line 4.2 Premium seeks to sweeten the pot with extras like a voice-activated navigation system. Numerous trim-specific packages are offered, along with stand-alone options like second-row captain's chairs and a sunroof.
Engine availability is tied to the corresponding trim levels. The Q7 3.6 comes with a 3.6-liter V6 cranking out 280 horses and 266 pound-feet of torque, while the more athletic 4.2-liter V8 offers 350 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Both are mated to a six-speed transmission with manual shift control. All Q7s are equipped with Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system.
Within its cabin, the Audi Q7 manages to be both futuristic and warm at the same time. There's lots of burled wood on display, and come nighttime, the gauges light up with a pleasing red glow. This being an Audi, the cabin offers class-leading levels of style; an air of discreet affluence predominates, and materials quality is first-rate. The navigation, climate control and audio systems are all accessed via Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI). You'll have to flog a few brain cells to get up to speed on the system, but it's a lot easier to use than BMW's tricky iDrive. As is the case with most SUVs of this size, third-row seating is strictly for the kids. Both the second and third rows may be folded flat to swallow an impressive 88.7 cubic feet of cargo.
The Q7 shines on pavement. Its optional adjustable air suspension helps it navigate bumps and ruts with panache, and Audi's all-wheel-drive system keeps the wheels firmly glued to the road. The SUV is somewhat porcine, though, and this fact serves to compromise its acceleration. Additionally, drivers can expect to cough up some serious coin at the pump, since the large hauler isn't about to win any awards for fuel efficiency. In consumer reviews, buyers praised the ute's all-wheel drive and elegant interior, but deducted points for its less-than-pleasing fuel economy.

Audi R8
The most high-performance road going Audi ever. If there were any questions as to what the Audi R8 is, that's the answer. Designed to give Audi an honest competitor to the best exotics the world has to offer, the R8 is the first midengine production vehicle Audi has ever sold, and it encompasses everything the brand has learned from more than 70 years of racing history.
The Audi R8 came about as a production version of the Le Mans Quattro concept car. The name itself references Audi's R8 racecar that won several 24 Hours of Le Mans races. Performance from the R8 road car starts with a stiff and lightweight all-aluminum space frame chassis. Much of it is similar to the space frame used for the Lamborghini Gallardo. The R8 is advanced in other areas as well, such as having a direct-injected V8 engine with dry-sump lubrication, two-mode active dampers and, of course, Quattro all-wheel drive.
Although many high-performance exotics can be challenging to drive, Audi took effort to make sure its R8 is comfortable enough for daily use. The R8 really stands out via its interior, which is roomy and of high quality while also maintaining a modern design flair that is not normally associated with high-performance exotics.
Current Audi R8
The Audi R8 debuted for the 2008 model year. It is powered by a 4.2-liter V8 that utilizes direct injection to produce 420 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices are a standard six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed "R Tronic" sequential-shifting manual with an automatic mode. Power is sent to all four wheels via Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system that has been specially tuned for the R8 to deliver a decidedly rear-wheel-biased power delivery.
As with most vehicles that have the engine mounted behind the driver, the R8 possesses an abbreviated nose that is adorned with the current corporate Audi grille and bi-xenon headlamps. The exotic look of the R8 is further enhanced by a series of 12 LED lights that underscores the headlamp housings and act as daytime running lights. The styling of the aluminum body consists of chiseled flanks that lead your eye to the "sideblades" that highlight the mid-mounted engine. The rear styling is accented by a glass engine cover and additional use of LED lighting.
Standard equipment on the Audi R8 is comprehensive, with only a short list of available options. Standard features include active dampers, 19-inch alloy wheels and power and heated leather/Alcantara sport seats. Major options include a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system, navigation, upgraded leather upholstery and different finishes for the sideblades.
In reviews, we've found the R8 sublimely balanced in terms of handling. This is one of those rare vehicles with enough straight-line traction and cornering grip to match its high-performance engine, so the Audi's V8 actually feels less powerful than it is. It's also a dignified sports car, mercifully free of those elements that make other supercars impossibly taxing in real-world use. It doesn't have goofy scissor doors, and 6-footers will fit comfortably with room to spare. The Audi R8 even rides astonishingly well, thanks to its two-mode adaptive dampers. Meanwhile, the interior is typically Audi, with solid controls and an ergonomic design.
Audi plans to import only a limited number of R8s into the United States each year. As to be expected, demand has currently outstripped supply. However, for those lucky owners who have the financial means to acquire one, Audi has produced a vehicle that proudly lives up to the heritage of its Auto Union badge.

Audi RS4

Much like the difference between a merely competent steed and the legendary Seabiscuit, there's quick and then there's quick. If you're a driver looking for the latter, you should know that the once-small pool of ultra-performance sport sedans is growing; high-end automakers have stayed up nights plotting and scheming new ways to stoke your desires and deplete your bank account. The latest entrant in this category is the Audi RS 4. Gobbling distance with ruthless speed and efficiency, the RS 4 is endowed with all the traits that leave enthusiasts salivating like babies.
Other German manufacturers have performed like straight-A students in this segment, but the RS 4 indicates that Audi has done its homework, and has its eye set on being class valedictorian. Ridiculously powerful engine? Check. The Audi RS 4 sedan comes ready for the smackdown thanks to a V8 that, with more than 400 horsepower, offers more muscle than the Rock -- just what you'd expect from a car in this rarefied class. Superior ride and handling? Check. Audi's runner even manages to best the rear-wheel-drive competition by a nose thanks to its all-wheel-drive system. And the RS 4's extraordinarily supportive seats mean your back won't ever beg you to plead "time out" from all the festivities.
Downsides? The RS 4's compact dimensions add welcome nimbleness, but they also result in rear seats that are somewhat on the cramped side. And then there's its price. At almost 70 large, the RS 4 won't put a dent in your finances so much as blow a hole in them. But don't let that stop you. Retirement plan, schmetirement plan. An object of desire if ever there was one, the Audi RS 4 is the type of sport sedan that puts the fun in reckless spending.
Current Audi RS 4
The Audi RS 4 sport sedan made its North American debut for the 2007 model year. It's a product of Quattro GmbH, Audi's performance division. (There's some inherent confusion here, as Audi brands its all-wheel-drive system "Quattro" as well.) Essentially, the RS 4 is an amplified version of the S4 sedan, itself already a performance variant of the entry-level Audi A4. Highlights include a higher-output V8, specific suspension tuning with Dynamic Ride Control, modified all-wheel-drive components, more powerful brakes, special 19-inch wheels and high-performance tires. Identifying the RS 4 is more aggressive exterior styling, including flared fenders and a unique rear deck lid spoiler. Overall, this super sport sedan has a look that says "performance" without shouting it.
The RS 4 comes in just one trim, but as you'd expect from a sedan in this price range, you're not wanting for luxury. Heated leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and bi-HID headlights all make an appearance on its standard features list.
Motivating the Audi RS 4 is a high-performance 4.2-liter V8 good for 420 hp and 317 pound-feet of torque; the engine offers 80 more horsepower than you'll find in the S4. Only one transmission is offered: a six-speed manual. Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system makes sure the wheels never break their kiss with the road.
This Audi's cabin places an emphasis on clean lines. Though there's the requisite supple leather, plushness isn't the focus; rather, the car's interior champions a pared-down aesthetic that favors sleekness over opulence. The RS 4's sport seats look good and feel good, offering bolstering that cradles you in the corners without ever being too overwhelming. There's ample room for those in front, but rear seat passengers may find their accommodations a bit cramped.
But of course, this sport sedan is all about performance, and in this area, it doesn't disappoint. Going in, the Audi RS 4 seems to have a couple of strikes against it. Weighing in at about 4,000 pounds, it's one of the more porcine players in the class. And its design places the V8 engine entirely over its front axle, a fact that can compromise steering and weight distribution. But somehow the RS 4 manages to transcend all this the way a Teflon politician transcends a scandal.
Certainly helping matters is the Dynamic Ride Control system. DRC links the diagonally opposite front and rear dampers with a gas-charged reservoir to allow more compliance when front and rear dampers are compressed at the same time, ensuring a comfortable highway ride with minimal compromise during performance driving.
In reviews, we've found that the RS 4's handling is near perfect, with the sort of steely composure that remains undaunted no matter what. Acceleration is explosive, shifts are quick and a broad torque band ensures that there's ample power underfoot for all situations. In testing, we measured a 0-60-mph time of just 4.3 seconds.
Past Audi RS 4 models
It should be noted that although the RS 4 is new to the U.S., there was an older RS 4 briefly sold in Europe. Debuting for 2000 as an Avant wagon only, it came with a 375-hp, turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 engine.
Audi S4
The Audi S4 is a high-performance version of the A4 entry-level luxury car. It features hardware modifications that increase the car's capabilities in regards to acceleration, braking and handing.
Consumers interested in a car that combines performance, luxury and versatility will find a lot to like. One of the car's main advantages is its Quattro all-wheel-drive system. For most cars, all-wheel drive is typically employed to provide added traction in slippery weather conditions. Though the S4's Quattro system is certainly useful in that regard, its main purpose is to make sure that the S4's powerful engine output is put to good use. During cornering, the S4 feels very secure and stable as power is fed to all four wheels.
Other S4 advantages include high-quality interior materials and an attractive cabin design. It's true that other European compact sport sedans can provide a harder-edged approach to performance or a more prestigious image. Overall, we hold the Audi S4 in high regard and expect most shoppers to be drawn to the car's balanced approach to performance and comfort.
Current Audi S4
The current third-generation Audi S4 is available as a sedan, wagon (Avant) and two-door convertible (Cabriolet). Since the A4 is compact in size, it might come as a surprise that the current S4 packs a 340-horsepower V8 under its hood. It's matched to either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard. There are other performance-oriented modifications as well, including a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels with high-performance tires and more powerful brakes. On the outside, subtle styling accents and badges distinguish the S4 from the regular A4.
Inside, front occupants are treated to a comfortable and functional cockpit. Leather seating is standard, and interior trim, lighting and controls are all of high quality. Although the rear seat is fine for small children, adults seated back there will likely complain about a shortage of legroom. The Avant sport wagon provides up to 61 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded.
The current S4 impresses with both performance and style. Power is abundant, handling is stellar and the cabin is superlative. The fact that it's available in Avant and Cabriolet versions is another plus. Its one drawback is a somewhat cramped backseat.
Those interested in a used Audi S4 should know that the current generation dates back to 2004. Relative to its predecessor, this generation offers a more powerful V8; it also features a convertible in its lineup, whereas previous generations do not. As you evaluate current models, also keep in mind that the S4 Cabriolet was spruced up in 2007, with new styling and a quieter top.
Past Audi S4 Models
Previous to this model, there were two other generations of the S4 -- a second-generation vehicle, available from the 2000-'02 model years, and a first generation, available from 1992-'94.
The second-generation model was based on the A4 sedan and wagon of its day, and it came equipped with a twin-turbo, 2.7-liter V6 engine rated at 250 hp. Quattro was standard, and Audi offered either a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. If you look back at Edmunds' S4 road tests at the time, you'll see that we found the car very enjoyable to drive, as it struck an ideal balance between outright performance and everyday comfort. Our main complaint about this model was the familiar lack of rear-seat room.
As is the case for many performance-oriented cars, there is a chance that a used Audi S4 has been driven harshly. Many have also been modified for additional performance. Interested buyers would be wise to spend additional effort on vehicle inspection. Feature-wise, there is not much difference between the years of this generation, though S4 enthusiasts typically gravitate to late-build 2001s and 2002s.
The first-generation Audi S4 was a performance variant of the Audi 100 sedan (later A6). These S4s came with a turbocharged inline five-cylinder engine capable of 227 hp. Quattro was again standard, and these cars were equipped with a five-speed manual transmission only. After 1994, they became known as the S6. First-generation S4s are a relatively rare find today.

Audi S5

The luxury coupe market hasn't always been Audi's bag. Most associate the German brand with solid, reliable sedans. Yet as competitors expand their model lineups to fit what seems like every possible niche, Audi has increasingly started to keep pace by launching more two-door models -- not the least of which is the Audi S5.
True to Audi nomenclature, the S5 is the performance version of the A5 coupe. That means a bigger engine, more horses and a stiffer suspension. The exterior is set apart from its more mild-mannered sibling by a chrome-trimmed grille, quad tailpipes and more muscular bumpers. The resulting package is refined yet athletic, with luxury appointments that ensure comfort matched with a powertrain that won't disappoint.
Current Audi S5
The Audi S5 sport coupe debuted in the 2008 model year. Beneath its elegantly sculpted hood lies a 4.2-liter direct-injection V8 engine, which produces 354 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. This single trim level is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic with manual shift control. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard. In our tests, the manual S5 produced a 0-60-mph time of 4.9 seconds.
The Audi S5 platform is largely based on the S4, its four-door counterpart. But the two-door offers sportier enhancements, such as a longer wheelbase and a new lightweight, aluminum front suspension -- changes that are slated to be included in the next version of the sedan. The front end takes styling cues from the midengine R8 sports car, while the rest of the exterior design comes from the Nuvolari, an Audi concept that made the auto show circuit rounds in 2003.
The Audi S5 is fitted with many standard safety features, such as antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control and traction control. Front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags also come standard. Many luxury-oriented features are also standard. Major options include keyless ignition/entry, a navigation system and a premium audio system.
Inside the cabin, the four-seat Audi S5 is appointed with sophisticated touches, such as finely stitched leather and genuine aluminum trim. The front sport seats offer plenty of space and support, although legroom could be better in the backseat. Audi's MMI (Multi Media Interface) controls the audio, climate and optional navigation systems, and unlike some multifunction controls, is relatively easy to figure out. And although the S5 has the spirit of a sports car, it's still practical enough for everyday life -- the trunk offers a full 16 cubic feet of cargo space, and the rear seat flips down to make even more room.
In our tests, we found the Audi S5 sport coupe to be an excellent grand tourer. The steering feels crisp and the suspension, although non-adjustable, is firm without being gut-busting. Brakes may seem a little touchy at first, but with practice, they feel responsive and firm. Thanks to Quattro, the S5 provides excellent traction in all conditions, making it an ideal choice for buyers living in colder climes. Power is normally distributed 40 percent to the front and 60 percent to the rear, and this helps give the S5 handling characteristics similar to those of a rear-wheel-drive car.

Audi S6

Fast four-doors have been around forever, but the Audi S6 provides an enticing mix of people-friendly room, blistering speed all-weather traction and brand-name cachet. Three generations of S6 have graced our shores to date, though their sporadic appearances and truncated lifespans sure bring new meaning to the term "limited edition."
From the start, the S6's mission has been to be an extra-special version of Audi's already special A6 -- an end usually achieved by means of more power, a sportier suspension and performance-biased wheels and brakes. The S6 has always been abundant with the luxury content expected of Audi, and its midsize dimensions make it one of the better Audis for seating multiple passengers. Just keep in mind that the S6 focuses on performance, and as such its ride quality is harder-edged than that of other Audi vehicles.
The Audi S6 is unique for skipping the evolutionary progress common to most cars, as its performance leaps by one league at a time. From a 227-horsepower five-cylinder in the first S6 to a 340-hp V8 in the next and finally to the 435-hp V10 of today, the S6 has been a reflection of Audi's rapidly rising performance aspirations.
Current Audi S6
Available as a sedan, the current Audi S6 debuted for 2007. It's offered in one nicely loaded trim that comes complete with amenities like heated front sport seats and satellite radio.
Audi has turned more serious than ever about the S6's performance, this time setting up its all-wheel-drive system for a 60 percent rear-wheel bias and sourcing engines from none other than Lamborghini. While slightly revised and detuned, the fact that there's now a 5.2-liter V10 with 435 hp under the S6's hood means the list of cars it can out-accelerate is plenty long.
Not included on that list, unfortunately, are its two primary competitors, the BMW M5 and the Mercedes E63. Because the S6's only transmission is a six-speed automatic (with Tiptronic manual shifting), because it weighs hundreds of pounds more and because it's the only one of the three under 500 hp, its performance ends up excellent in a class where awesome is the norm. Audi claims a 0-60-mph time in the low 5-second range, though in our testing we did no better than 5.7 seconds. Other problems include a nonlinear throttle response, a jarring ride quality and a feeling of heaviness from the front of the car in tight handling situations.
Yet, Audi's entry proves nearly as fun to drive as the Teutonic titans. The V10 has a guttural growl, braking is stellar, handling is reasonably grippy and well-balanced, and while its power is less prodigious, AWD allows the S6 driver to exploit it in all seasons.
Looking past performance, the Audi S6 also has thankfully grippy leather-Alcantara seats to complement its interior, which is the most stylish among the Germans. For the driver interested in a high-performance sport sedan that does everything well, the S6 won't disappoint. Its all-wheel drive is certainly an advantage not to be overlooked and pricing is less than its main rivals'. Only those consumers who place the highest priority on performance are likely to find the Audi S6 lacking.
Past Audi S6 models
Born at a time when Audi's model-naming system was in flux, the first-generation S6 officially came to life (and death) in 1995, though essentially the same car had been sold for a few years previous as the S4. Available as both a sedan and a wagon, the original Audi S6 offered an eccentric turbocharged, 227-hp five-cylinder engine, working through a manual transmission to drive all four wheels. While performance was decent for the day, this iteration of the S6 never made much of a mark on the history books.
The S6 found more respect, if not recognition, after returning (briefly) for the new millennium. Available only for 2002-'03, it was made far more American-friendly with a torquey 4.2-liter V8 whose 340 horses were made more accessible by a five-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Oddly, this edition of S6 came as an Avant (Audi-speak for "station wagon") only, which was partly responsible for its 2-ton curb weight.
Zero-to-60 mph acceleration was in the low 6-second range, and the car's lowered and stiffened suspension and 17-inch wheels and tires made it a potent handler, with grip similar to that of the current S6. Other pluses included its opulent interior and ample standard features list; the wagon's big drawback was its unimpressive gas mileage. Though hard to find, a used second-generation Audi S6 wagon offers an intriguing blend of performance and utility.

Audi S8

The Audi S8 is this German automaker's flagship performance sedan. Debuting at the start of the new millennium, it was the third vehicle for the North American market to bear an "S" badge. Used to showcase Audi's performance engineering, S- and RS-badged vehicles compete directly against other automakers' performance models from divisions like BMW's M and Mercedes-Benz's AMG. As a high-luxury, high-performance and high-tech platform, the S8 is the standard-bearer in Audi's arsenal.
There are two generations of the Audi S8 and each has been based on the A8 luxury sedan from the same time period. Building on the A8's lightweight aluminum-frame chassis, the S8 adds a more powerful engine, a sport-tuned suspension, more powerful brakes and a slightly more aggressive look. Despite being Audi's largest sedan, the combination of a relatively light curb weight, muscular power and the tenacious grip of the car's standard Quattro all-wheel-drive system make it surprisingly quick and agile. Audi's Quattro system is a key advantage over the S8's competitors as it provides more traction, especially in inclement weather conditions.
Audi made sure that luxury amenities were not sacrificed for the sake of outright speed. A premium leather-trimmed interior, real wood accents and exemplary fit and finish complement both S8 models, as do a full bevy of safety features. If there's a fault to the Audi S8, it's probably that it doesn't quite match the performance potential of some competing sedans. Our editors have described it as an impressive luxury sedan first and a performance sedan second. But for those needing AWD security or simply desiring a fast, stealthy and relatively rare luxury sedan, either S8 generation will do nicely.
Current Audi S8
Returning to the lineup for 2007 after a three-year hiatus, the latest Audi S8 is based on the second-gen A8. Its most talked-about feature is its engine. Audi's engineers took advantage of parent company Volkswagen's ownership of Lamborghini and snagged the Lamborghini Gallardo's 40-valve V10 engine. Audi increased displacement to 5.2 liters and added FSI gasoline-direct injection to optimize power delivery. The result is an operatic 450 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque. All that sonorous power is pushed through a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, so you can happily keep your fingers tapping on the steering wheel paddle shifters. The sound of the engine wailing through the quad exhaust pipes is so sweet, you may ask the premium audio system to take five.
The current Audi S8 delivers the performance goods while rewarding the driver with an opulent experience filled with techno-gadgetry. It has an easy-to-learn Multi Media Interface with Bluetooth-enabled navigation, a 350-watt, 12-speaker Bose audio system with a glovebox CD changer, power retractable side mirrors with tilt-in-reverse and all of it wrapped in sumptuous leather and wood trim. A stiffer version of the standard A8's fully independent adaptive air suspension works in unity with 20-inch wheels, performance tires and speed-dependent steering to deliver exceptional handling in both high- and low-speed maneuvers.
Overall, the combination of luxury, performance and technology add up to an impressive package. At the same time, Audi has kept the styling upgrades tasteful so the S8 doesn't immediately scream "performance model" like some competitors do. Only in terms of maximum performance potential is Audi's finest a bit of a letdown.
Past Audi S8 Models
When it debuted for the 2001 model year, the first Audi S8 came with a 4.2-liter V8 making 360 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque. The aluminum frame body and lowered, stiffer suspension performed well on its 18-inch wheels. The fit and finish bested anything else in its class. It even garnered a starring role in a memorable car chase in the film Ronin directed by John Frankenheimer. Yet the S8 never seemed to have the name cachet of its impressive rivals.
Audi continued to improve the car by small increments over the next two years. It offered new features like a tire-pressure monitoring system, front and rear parking assist and a navigation system. To increase the feeling of exclusivity, Audi released limited-edition color combinations like a silver exterior with a burgundy interior, a Ming Blue exterior with a platinum interior and a black exterior with a caramel interior. As a used model, the original S8 still provides serious performance dynamics that can be enjoyed from the most splendid of environments.

Audi TT

At its debut as a concept car in 1995 and finally a production reality, the Audi TT was one of the most dramatic cars to come out in the mid-to-late 1990s. Its organic and symmetrically styled front and rear profiles contrasted with slab-sided flanks to create a look unlike anything Audi had ever done before. Meanwhile, the TT's handsomely executed interior left no discernible traces of the car's rather humble VW Golf roots.
Named after the Tourist Trophy motorsports event held on the Isle of Man (in which a predecessor of the Audi brand competed), the Audi TT is not quite a sports car, not quite a sport coupe or roadster. In essence, the front- or all-wheel-drive TT is a two-seat GT. True, the coupe has a pair of seats in the back, but they are best left for little kids or used as an upholstered package shelf. The TT has the low-slung look and feel of a sports car, but its dynamic personality is closer to that of a luxury sport coupe.
Regardless of year and trim level, the TT is respectably fast, but with some first-generation versions weighing more than 3,600 pounds and suspension tuning that prioritizes touring comfort over all-out cornering prowess, it won't be the first choice for hard-core enthusiasts. Those zealots seeking a harder-edged driving experience would be better served by more finely focused sports cars. The greater majority of consumers, however, who desire a sporty coupe or roadster with energetic performance and a heavy accent on style, should be more than happy with the Audi TT.
Current Audi TT
The current Audi TT was redesigned for the 2008 model year and represents the second generation. Although slightly larger, the second-generation TT doesn't stray too far from the timeless lines of its predecessor. The general look is the same, though character lines are crisper and the nose adopts Audi's now signature single-frame grille. Although longer and wider than the first TT, the latest version is lighter (by nearly 200 pounds in the case of the roadster) thanks to increased use of aluminum in the body structure. It also offers a more powerful four-cylinder engine.
Two trim levels -- a 2.0T (200-horsepower turbocharged four with front-wheel drive) and 3.2 Quattro (250-hp V6 with all-wheel drive) -- are offered in a choice of hatchback coupe and roadster body styles. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual and a six-speed S tronic twin-clutch sequential transmission that offers the ease of an automatic combined with the quick response of a manual. (Formerly, the S tronic was known as the Direct Shift Gearbox, or DSG.)
On the road, the 2.0T feels more agile through a set of curves, as it has less weight on the front tires, while the 3.2 Quattro delivers more punch on straightaways along with a more aggressive engine and exhaust sound. The 2.0T is actually the more athletic of the two, as its quick-revving four-cylinder engine, whooshing turbocharger and light-effort, nimble steering combine to deliver a strong sporting impression.
One of the TT's most notable assets is its superbly crafted interior, which entices with a look that is sleek and modern. Another is its sculpted exterior design. The TT also offers an impeccable sequential-shift manual transmission, and great hatchback utility when purchased in the coupe iteration. Its primary downside concerns the fact that its handling is less precise than that offered by some of its rear-drive competitors.
Past Audi TT Models
Introduced for the 2000 model year and initially available solely as a hatchback coupe, the first TT was powered by Audi's peppy 1.8-liter, 180-hp turbocharged inline-4. Buyers could choose either front- or all-wheel drive (Audi's Quattro system). A five-speed manual was standard, while a six-speed manual was optional. Along with its low-slung, avant-garde styling, the TT boasted an equally unique interior that featured polished aluminum accents, impeccable fit and finish and, unfortunately, a few ergonomic glitches such as a CD changer mounted behind the driver seat and counterintuitive climate controls.
After a highly publicized recall to fix the twitchy handling characteristics of early TTs, a roadster and a 225-hp Quattro version debuted the following year. In 2003, an automatic transmission (with six speeds) became available. But the biggest news for this generation came in 2004, when the 250-hp 3.2-liter V6 and Audi's superb six-speed automanual gearbox became available. The latter, dubbed DSG, provided rapid yet jolt-free manual-style gearchanges that put a Ferrari's F1 transmission to shame. The Audi TT stood pat through 2006, the last year of this generation.
Potential buyers should know that, although potentially fast in a straight line, this TT was never considered a true sports car due to its potentially heavy curb weight and softly sprung suspension. Still, the TT should satisfy those who prize comfort, style and all-weather capability in their sport coupe or roadster.

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