The premium sports sedan market is one of the most fiercely competitive segment in the global market today. Once the preserve of Bavaria's BMW, Audi, also from Bavaria, has stepped up to the challenge. In the 3-series class, Audi fields the A4. In like manner, the A4 has spawned close to a dozen engine options, plus a wide range of variants from the classy A5 coupe, hot rod S4, capacious A4 Avant, glamorous A4 cabrio and launched at the latest Paris Auto show, the sleek A7 sportback.

Audi, like the rest of VW Group cars and Porsche, are going big for direct injection in all their petrol engines. Direct injection is, for VAG [Volkswagen AG], the best way to overcome ever tightening Euro V emissions controls without losing that snappy take off that is beloved by petrol heads. Combined with either turbocharging, supercharging or both, the TFSi concept's performance has established its reputation as the best compromise between ecology and high performance.

The B8 A4 has increased in length by 117 mm over the prior B7, which has allowed for increased rear seating legroom despite the low coupe like roof. Size wise, the A4 is now 33.02mm shy of the bigger A6. Although the overall dimensions have increased, the curb weight has dropped some 10%, thanks to high tech metals. The trunk has also increased to 480 liters for the sedan version and is slightly wider.

The new A4's design doesn't escalate the 'high belt-line' trend that have been preoccupying the German brands until now. This up sizing of the A4 now makes it longer than the BMW 3 series [177mm] and Mercedes C-class [76mm]. Compared to the B7, the A4's drag coefficient is down from 0.31Cd to 0.27Cd, air con stronger by 10% all resulting in better fuel consumption. All the benefits of moving the engine mass behind the front axle, 55:45 front-rear weight distribution bequeathed by the longer wheelbase/short overhang look translated in the supremely balanced ride of the Audi. With the grippy Bridgestone Potenza RE050A, the A4 1.8T silently devoured the broken concrete of the Metro's ring road while keeping hushed cruising the world class NLEx. Despite its low slung posture, the A4, even when fully laden never bottoms on hump back bridges taken at speed.

Sitting in the latest Audi A4, one is greeted by electronic displays that delight the tech savvy touch- fiddle-and-amuse iPod-iPad-iPhone crowd. The plethora of buttons and dials may seem daunting at first, but any basic knowledge of operating a cell phone or laptop will leave one spending time enjoying exploring. The video display in the center and in the instrument cluster is HD-TV quality and the fonts are like a glossy print mag's. Move further into the sculptured swoops and curves, one discovers more design details from seat adjustment buttons to flap button electronic parking brake actuation. Needless to say, interior furnishings and materials are top class. Immobile in the showroom, the A 4 already feels and looks dynamic. One cannot imagine how a "bare" Audi can look like, and I am assured by PGA-Audi, there is no such creature. Audi's standard options range from well equipped to everything but the kitchen sink. You can take sun blinds, remote audio/phone controls, 8-way power seats, on board computer and more for granted. Its an article of faith per PGA Chairman RCJ [Robert Coyuito, Jr.] who is passionate about cars.

On the technology front, Audi has caused controversy among its loyal fans as it has shifted the drive bias of its famous "Quattro" 4-wheel drive from 50:50 front/rear to 40:60. Having practically invented and extolled the virtues of front wheel drive since the Auto Union years of the 1930s, is Audi finally admitting that for high performance handling, rear wheel drive bias, like the other Bavarian car maker, is superior?

Mere quibbles? Traditional sports car purists bewailed modern Audi's shift into a softer feel. Credit this change to the inroads Lexus has made into this premium category, previously the exclusive preserve of the Germans. The steering is lighter, the computer controlled automatic transmission shift programs are less aggressive and the ride is softer. This has resulted in a far more refined and more comfortable ride. In my experience, Audi has also banished the steering conflicts that make front wheel drive steering feel less sweet, less positive and responsive vis-a-vis rear wheel drive. Note that the steering feel of most front wheel drive cars do not feel as pleasurably rewarding as an Audi's. Why does this matter? It matters because for all the criticism for going soft, Audi's are high performance German cars through and through. And perform they do as the A4 is a sports sedan, a fitting rival to BMW's 3-series.

Is this because, over the years, several Bavarians have made the move from the car company in Munich north to this car company in Ingolstadt? Did the Philippine experience mirror this as PGA was once a BMW dealer? Whatever the fate of these two rival Bavarians have in store, the premium sports sedan market is all the better for it. Just as the twin ring coronas of the BMW are easily recognized on the Autobahn, so too are the Audi A4's curving twin array of LEDs daytime running lights. Audi is the other closely watched Bavarian car company as it has been posting phenomenal sales growth across the world, despite the recession, and despite the success of that other Bavarian car company.