First Drive: Audi A4
Key features: New styling, more equipment, better efficiency
Our view: Audi, it seems, has never been in a better position – only days ago CarandVanNews reported the brand clocking up record sales figures, and significantly out-selling deadly rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
In fact so good is the place that the brand now occupies, that the arrival of the latest version of its best-selling car, the A4, does not seem nearly as crucial as it once was. But in those days Audi did not offer nearly as many different cars as it does now.
And the range is still growing – another 15, yes, 15, newcomers due in 2012. As a result Audi is getting the launch of the revamped A4 out of the way all at once – no waiting a few more months for the estate Avant or the power-packing S4 versions, from the start they are all in the showroom alongside the saloon.
This is the eighth generation of the A4, but it is more a case of improving what is already there rather than any radical revision. The styling is breathed upon inside and out, there’s more equipment – with an options list brimming with tempting bang-up-to-date tech, and new colours of course.
Most importantly, there are upgrades right across the engine line-up, with serious economy improvements of up to 21 per cent.
A fellow journalist at the launch commented that you could almost write an Audi test report from home because you know exactly what you are going to get. Not quite, but the point is well made… Everything is put together supremely well, the quality of the surfaces is just that – quality, and basically each version of the new A4 is the superb package you expect from the brand of the four rings.
Where the engines are concerned, however, it’s rather different. Most of them are diesels, with six varieties on offer across four-cylinder two and six-cylinder three litres. And all have been made better, especially in their economy.
Start-stop comes as standard and is among a range of measures that seriously improve the efficiency. Most efficient of all are the two ‘e’ variants, one of which, the 160bhp model, is expected to be the range best seller. With fuel economy close to 63mpg, emissions of 120g/km, and a sub nine-second 0-62mph time, what’s not to like?
It’s certainly an impressive motor, particularly the torque figures that apparently are more than 40 per cent boosted on its predecessor. In this form the car is very livable with, and it’s easy to see why Audi expects such big things from it.
We also tried the 3-litre TDi in 201bhp Avant (estate) form (as for the 2-litre – more pace…) and by far the most involving of the two petrol options. You can have 208 horses in a 2-litre four-cylinder unit, or the 328 of the six-cylinder S4.
The S4 is matched to the seven-speed S tronic transmission, and is quick – five seconds to 62mph, electronically limited at 155mph. It’s also a lot of fun. And with 33mpg fuel consumption, it’s affordable fun.
One of the few criticisms of the A4 has always been its ride. Audi claims to have tuned the suspension of the new model and it is better. Serious bumps on the road are still somewhat too obvious in the cabin, but overall everything is rather better damped.
Lots of tempting tech is on offer in the latest range as the advances debuted in other recent Audi launches work their way into the rest of the line-up. Many will no doubt be drawn to the online options. These turn the car into its own wi-fi hotspot, allowing one to surf the internet and streaming the Google Earth satellite image system straight onto the sat nav screen – very neat…
Most buyers, however, will be drawn to the A4 because it is so good at everything it does. For many years Audi was regarded as the imposter at the premium party – now it’s the manufacturer the others have to beat…
Model Tested: A4 2.0 TDI 143PS, 3.0 TDI 204PS, S4
On Sale: March 2012
Price: £26,555-£39,865 (full range inc Avant/S4)
Engines: 2.0 TDI diesel (x4), 3.0 TDI diesel (x2), 2.0 petrol, 3.0 petrol
Power (bhp): 134/141/160/174, 201/241, 208, 328
Torque (lb/ft): 236/236/280/280, 295/369, 258, 325
0-62mph (sec): 9.3/9.2/8.7/7.9, 7.3/5.9, 6.5, 5.1
Top speed (mph): 134/134/134/138, 143/155*,152, 155*
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 65.7/62.8/ 62.8/58.9, 55.4/49.6, 40.4, 33.6
CO2 emissions (g/km): 112/119/120/127, 135/149, 159, 197
Key rivals: BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-class
Test date: Feb 2012
* = electronically limited
Words by: Andrew Charman