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German automaker Audi is known for its luxurious rides, including the A4 for more than 20 years. With a reputation for reliability and owner satisfaction, it’s no surprise the A4 remains one of Audi’s flagship vehicles. But as it turns out, the most common issues Audi A4 owners have may prove otherwise. So, is the Audi A4 as reliable and luxurious as it appears?

The most common problems owners have with their Audi A4: what’s up with the engine? tallied complaints from all model years to find the three worst overall. Using factors like repair cost, average mileage, and more, the worst-ranked problems were selected for the model. Each of the top three worst-ranked problems falls into one category: the engine.

Excessive oil usage

 The worst-ranked problem by Car Complaints for all Audi A4 model years is excessive oil usage. It’s a genearl Audi (and VW) problem, appearing in nearly every model year. In fact, it is the most commonly-reported problem across all years. Though most model years have complaints of excessive oil usage or burning oil, the problem appears worst in the 2011 Audi A4. According to Car Complaints, this problem happens around 64,000 miles. In total, it costs owners an average of $6,000 to repair, earning a severity rating of 8.0 (out of 10).

Engine failure

Though the 2002 Audi A4 has fewer complaints than many other model years, it is where Car Complaints’ second-worst-rated problem exists. The only reason engine failure is not the top-rated problem is because fewer owners run into such severe problems. But engine failure earns Car Complaints’ severity rating of 10.0, the worst rating possible. The average repair cost in 2023 is $8,500 and the problem arises at an average mileage of around 66,000 miles.

Bad piston rings

This complaint isn’t as common, but is extremely costly. While only two out of nine owners of the 2012 Audi A4 report experiencing a bad piston rings, the problem earns Car Complaints’ severity rating of 10.0. This problem occurs at a low average mileage of around 48,000 miles and costs around $8,500 to fix. Often it involves a complete engine replacement, as both the piston and engine block receive damage.

The worst-ranked category across all model years is engine problems, receiving more complaints than any other category. In fact, the vast majority of complaints about all Audi A4s fall within this category. For example, 25 out of 33 total 2009 A4 complaints fall into the engine category. Furthermore, 19 out of 22 complaints for the 2011 model year do. It’s expensive, too; the most common engine problem costs an average of $7,000 to fix and happens at an average of fewer than 59,000 miles. 

The worst Audi A4 model years to stay away from

Joe King (Head Audi India), at the launch of Audi A4 2016
The Audi A4 | Raunak Dave/The India Today Group via Getty Images

According to the model year comparison on, the 2009 Audi A4 has more complaints than any other model year, with 33 total. While that’s an obvious model year to steer clear from, Car Complaints actually rates the 2011 A4, with 22 complaints, as the “Worst Model Year” all “because of other possible factors such as higher repair cost or more problems at lower mileage.” This should come as no surprise as the 2011 model year comes with Car Complaints’ top worst-rated problem.

Is the Audi A4 unreliable?

Related 5 Unreliable Audi A4 Model Years To Avoid, per Real Owner Complaints

5 Unreliable Audi A4 Model Years To Avoid, per Real Owner Complaints

While the problems some owners are experiencing are severe, the Audi A4 still has an impressively-low number of owner-reported complaints. Out of model years 1996-2020, the majority have fewer than 20. Overall, the Audi A4 proves to be a generally reliable vehicle. In fact, out of every new luxury compact car tested by Consumer Reports, the 2020 Audi A4 is ranked overall as the best, with an impressive score of 88 (out of 100) and a perfect predicted reliability rating of five (out of five).