It’s no secret that the country that brought us Heidi Klum, Christoph Waltz, and an odd obsession with David Hasselhoff has given the world it’s fair share of great automobiles. Much like Kenya’s ability to produce great long-distance runners, Germany produces cars that are meant to be driven, not just ridden.

A great quandary and often times an either/or choice for modern day auto buyers is the decision to choose luxury or performance, as few vehicles excel in both departments. But, there are bastions of balance in this category and Audi’s most recent installment of the venerable A4, Audi’s most popular model, is one of our favorites.

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Originally named as a derivative of the Latin word for “hark” or “hear”, Audi began producing automobiles in Germany during the early 1900s. Volkswagen purchased Audi and relaunched it in 1965, eventually coming to strategically compete with its Deutschland rivals, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Unfortunately, the 1980s weren’t favorable to Audi which became as exciting as vanilla ice cream and in dire need of a jolt. With new designs in its A4, A6, and A8, the Audi lineup has rapidly gained market share. It doesn’t hurt that the lust-inducing RS and R8 elicit phrases like, “DAMN!” and “Zeus’s Beard!”

A lot happened to make this happen: award-winning Quattro all wheel drive technology, tack-sharp interiors that set new benchmarks in build-quality, and head-turning body style designs. The brand’s more subtle “below the radar” approach has also managed to creep into the recognition of most any car enthusiast, including this one.

This ‘Brilliant Red’ 2010 A4 2.0T six-speed manual Quattro the Audi provided Gear Patrol with arrived with what most would consider a premium package, but in reality, quite standard. No frills like navigation system, push button start, MMI, or 20” wheels. An A4 for the purist. But still, the Audi A4 proved to be impressive.

The first thing you notice upon entering the car is the 8 degree axis the dash pivots towards the drive on (like BMW’s of yore). It’s all about the driver here, as it should be, and the amply side-bolstered seats, top notch graduated steering feel make for an outstanding driving experience.

Once you shift out of first, a blink of a gear, you experience the pull of the 258 lb-ft of torque harnessed by Audi’s stick-with-it Quattro you can feel the pavement literally crinkle as you accelerate in turns. Snapping through all six gears is as smooth like room temperature butter and the amount of Valve-Assisted power juiced from the 211 hp 2.0T turbo proves Audo’s smart decision to drop the underperforming, over consuming V-6 engine from prior years.

Like most luxury cars in this price bracket, the Audi A4 is loaded with thought and details. The generous but not wasteful interior, tri-zone climate control and nearly silent cabin make riding or driving a very pleasurable experience. The trunk is positively massive with basic 60/40 split rear folding seats (standard, thanks), a clever emergency kit, and full spare (read this BMW?) The red aura emitted from the gauges and ambient light makes driving at night a “cooler than I actually am” encounter, ensuring you and your passengers never forget you’re riding in an Audi.

This year Audi has tweaked the external appearance of the A4 to include a more aggressive lower front fascia, sharper body edges, xenon lights, and the signature strip of LED indicator lights that give the A4 an unmistakable night presence. My only qualms were the slightly too stiff seats. iPod controls were perfect, but the base audio system provides for some unfriendly user control unbefitting of an Audi. Most consumers will opt for the more premium audio package so this is unlikely to affect many buyers.

Yes, it is possible to acquire a car with similar feature to the Audi A4 in this price range, but if you are more concerned with hammering through a turn in luxury versus hammering through your bank account with prejudice, I strongly recommend you put an A4 through the paces… or your garage.