18 May 2013
Audi’s ubiquitous A4 has been around since the mid ‘90s with over 430,000 sold in the UK. March 2012 saw the current fourth-generation A4 go on sale with styling enhancements and efficiency improvements to maintain competitiveness with its lifelong Teutonic rivals, the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-class.
The A4 saloon now comes with a choice of three petrol engines plus six diesels with three different transmissions for each. Power outputs range from 120PS (1.8TFSI) to 245PS (3.0 TDI) so I opted to test a middle-ground 163PS 2-litre TDIe with 6-sp manual. Coupled with 280lb/ft of torque there’s obviously more than sufficient power and performance for all normal needs, but somewhat surprisingly, for a turbodiesel this engine doesn’t feel very willing at low revs, it needs a lower-than-expected gear in some circumstances and so it left me somewhat underwhelmed. The claimed figures are 0-62 in 8.3secs with a 140mph max.
The A4’s suspension systems have been revised, and the TDIe models come as standard with 20mm-lower Sports suspension. Coupled with standard 17-inch wheels this A4 has a ride quality that I’d describe as ‘not great, but not too bad either’. By way of reference, an experienced colleague with whom I shared the same car found it to be “irretrievably awful” – an opinion which in my view is harsh, but if you’re also sensitive to ride issues and drive on poor roads then don’t say you weren’t warned! No complaints about the revised steering which, though anodyne in response, is precise, well-weighted and utterly predictable, or the front-wheel-drive handling which feels safe and secure.
To find fault with the fit or finish of any current Audi you’d have to carefully scrutinise every inch of the car inside and out with a magnifying glass, a fine toothcomb and a great deal of determination and patience, and even then you’d likely find nothing wrong. That said, my test car had a highly uncharacteristic and irritating buzzing while driving which seemed to come from behind the passenger-side dash and which no amount of Fonz-style thumping could alleviate. More generally, the A4 scored 81.1% (32nd equal out of 108 models) in JD Power’s 2011 survey, while Audi scored 81.2% to come 8th out of 28 brands in the same survey.
EuroNCAP’s 2009 test of the A4 saw it awarded the maximum 5-star rating, with a 93% mark for adult occupant protection and 84% for child occupant protection. As standard equipment my test A4 had driver and passenger airbags with front side and head airbags, emergency braking, a ‘break recommendation’ system, ESP with a limited slip diff, front and rear fogs, light, rain and rear parking sensors, a first aid kit and a Thatcham category 1 alarm and immobiliser. S line versions also boast Xenon headlights and LED lights front and rear.
Inside there’s ample space in all directions in the front, adequate space in the rear and a 480-litre boot which expands to 962 litres with the split/fold rear seat folded. If you need more than that then the 490/1,430-litre Avant version may suffice. Having driven another A4 with an ‘open-sky panoramic sunroof’ I would advise that taller drivers check the noticeably reduced front seat headroom before ticking the box for that £1,125 option. Standard ‘practicality’ equipment includes front and rear armrests, electric windows front and rear, an auto-dimming rear view mirror.
The ‘basic’ SE-spec 2.0 TDIe A4 saloon costs £27,575 otr, and this price includes a 180-watt, 10-speaker sound system with CD player and SD card reader, a Bluetooth phone interface, 3-zone climate control and quite a bit more. A4 options now include Google Earth satnav mapping and turning your car into a wi-fi hotspot, but remember that an undisciplined approach to Audi options lists can lead to bankruptcy… With Start-Stop now on all models, A4 CO2 emissions have been reduced by up to 21% – this 163PS example producing just 115g/km, while combined mpg is a quoted 63mpg – not bad for a 140mph exec saloon.
Submitted: 16/04/2012 15:58:56
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