Often regarded as the perfect business driver’s car, the A4 offers distinctive looks, performance and safety features galore. There is an incredible range of petrol or diesel engines to choose from along with feature-rich equipment levels depending on your driving requirements.
The goodVast choice of engines and designs
The badMassive rivals in the form of Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia
Audi A4 (fifth generation) – first drive
The competition for top dog position in the compact executive segment is fierce so you certainly need to bring your A game along – and that’s just what Audi has done with its latest A4.
The car is new from the ground up with a whole host of technological advancements in infotainment and safety to be explored. If you include the original Audi 80 models from which it evolved then this is the ninth generation of a car dating back to 1972, but it is actually the fifth generation to carry the A4 name-tag.
And with stiff opposition from the likes of the Jaguar XE, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, the new A4 really has to up the ante. It does just that because the 2015 A4 is lighter, more efficient, longer, wider, packed with all the “must have” connectivity and driver aids, it is more powerful and delivers improved economy. It’s even quieter than the luxurious A8.
So it would seem the German marque has all bases covered. The car, which is already on sale with deliveries due in November, is priced from £25,900 and is available in three trim levels SE, Sport and S-line.
From the outside the design has been sharpened up and looks more dynamic with additional creases to help reduce the car’s drag coefficient. The grille is more defined, the side mirrors are now positioned on the doors to improve the vehicle’s aerodynamics and there are sophisticated lights with the option of Audi’s Matrix LED headlights which offer maximum illumination when driving on high beam but mask the LEDs so other motorists are not dazzled.
All three trim levels are generously-equipped and depending on the model there is the classy virtual cockpit with its 12.3-inch display ahead of the steering wheel that can be adapted to suit the driver’s needs.
Elsewhere there is the likes of the Audi Drive Select to alter the car’s handling and dynamics, a seven-inch colour monitor, three-zone climate control, a head-up display and some of the most advanced smartphone connectivity technology on the market with wireless charging.
Plus there are a number of optional packs and driver aids to choose from including a stop & go adaptive cruise control system with traffic jam assist function that eases driving in crawling traffic by taking control of the steering, braking and acceleration – this is possibly the closest we will get to autonomous driving today.
There is a wide selection of engines to choose from with the 2.0 TDI ultra manual variant delivering fuel economy of up to 74.3mpg with carbon emissions from as little as 99g/km.
We tested out three versions of the new A4 on a range of road routes that incorporated busy, congested town centres, open country lanes and fast-moving motorways and each car had its own individual personality and appeal.
First up was the 2.0 TDI S line 190PS S tronic priced at £33,345 (£40,230 with options fitted). This car can reach 62mph from a standing start in 7.7 seconds and tops out at 147mph. According to official figures it can deliver combined efficiency of 65.7mpg with carbon emissions of 113g/km on 19-inch wheels.
The first factor that really impressed me was how quickly you find a perfect driving position and how easy it is to settle in and familiarise yourself with all the on-board technology at your fingertips. Comfort levels are high with ample space for two or three adults to stretch out in the back and the boot has a 430-litre storage capacity which can be increased to 965 litres with the rear seats dropped down flat.
When it comes to handling and driving dynamics the A4 is certainly up to the task. It accelerated smoothly through the seven-speed automatic gearbox and the road-holding was very sound and sure footed.
The cabin remained beautifully hushed even when the car was driven quite hard and the precise steering and responsive handling made light work of tight bends.
My only slight moan was that a car costing £40k lacked electrically-adjustable or heated seats but these can be added as optional extras as can most features.
Next up was the mighty 3.0 TDI quattro S line 272PS tiptronic model priced at £38,135 (£51,245 with extras fitted). This car can sprint from 0-62mph in just 5.3 seconds and redlines at 155mph. It can achieve 54.3mpg on a combined run with emissions of 137g/km (again on 19-inch wheels).
This is certainly the A4 for any thrill seekers out there. The acceleration through the 8-speed gearbox is very swift and the power is constant and even fierce at times. In fact, when driven in Dynamic mode it becomes like a caged animal that has been unleashed. Once again the road-holding was very assured and the all-round handling very rewarding. Obviously it can be tamed down and driven more conservatively, but it’s nice to have those dynamics at hand when you fancy a little excitement in your life.
Finally, the tamer yet still impressive 2.0 TDI ultra SE 150PS priced £28,465 (£33,565 with options). This car can reach from 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds and has a top limit of 130mph. it can deliver combined fuel economy of 74.3 with carbon emissions of 99g/km on 17-inch wheels.
Despite being lower in power and spec level this car was still great to drive. The acceleration through the six-speed manual gearbox was responsive and there was plenty of bite when a little additional power was required to overtake.
To be honest all three models had their plus points be it dynamic handling, efficiency, price-tag or on-board technology. And with additional models due to be added to the range there will almost certainly be an A4 to suit all needs and requirements.
Audi A4 Saloon 2.0 TDIe 136PS SE
With sales topping the five million mark and popularity on the increase, Audi has just launched its eighth generation A4 line-up.
Admittedly, the alterations are very subtle with a newly sculpted bonnet, angled air vents and new sharper headlights being amongst the changes, but the real bonus for buyers lies beneath the bonnet.
That’s because the new 2012 range boasts a 21 per cent reduction in carbon emissions and fuel efficiency improved by 11 per cent on average.
As always, the interior is as impressive as ever, but now features improved ergonomics, higher quality materials and more colour-co-ordinated options.
Saloon and Avant models are available with a choice of six TDI and four petrol engines, three engines are offered for Allroad Quattro models.
The most economically sound of this vast range is the 2.0-litre TDIe with 136PS. According to Audi bosses this model is likely to account for a third of all A4 sales.
And with its combined fuel efficiency stated at 65.7mpg and emissions as low as 112g/km, it is likely to send business users scurrying to the showrooms.
The model tested – the saloon in SE trim – was priced at £25,910 with optional extras taking the price tag up to £28.2k.
Features included 17-inch alloys with low rolling resistance tyres, body-coloured bumpers, door mirrors and door handles, twin exhaust pipes, privacy glass and chrome window surrounds.
The elegant interior boasted the sort of styling always associated with Audi vehicles and the cloth seats provided excellent comfort and support.
Other creature comforts on this test model included a brilliant 10-speaker sound system compatible with all today’s music devices, stop and start technology, three-zone climate control and a leather multi-function steering wheel.
It also featured Audi’s highly acclaimed Drive Select which allows you to adjust the car’s driving response and performance depending on your mood and requirements. These modes are efficiency (which is new to the range), comfort, auto and dynamic.
The A4 saloon was impressive both in and around town and out on the faster roads where the acceleration through the six-speed manual transmission was very smooth and responsive.
All-round visibility was good which is another plus factor if driving through busy city centres and the cabin noise was almost non-existent.
Despite delivering just 136PS, the vehicle had plenty of get-up-and-go and made light work of accelerating up steep inclines.
There is room for three adults in the back with plenty of leg, head and elbow space and storage will never be a problem either thanks to the generously-sized boot. Capacity can be increased even further thanks to 60:40 split-folding rear seats.
The A4 has all the state-of-the-art safety technology one has come to expect from Audi over the years and some newer options are available these days too.
The rest recommendation function certainly deserves a mention. Basically the system analyses a person’s driving style over the course of 15 minutes and stores the results. If that style drastically alters, the system takes into account external factors and, if necessary, delivers an audible and visual alert suggesting that a rest break might be needed.
It’s these examples of pioneering technology that constantly proves Audi is never satisfied with leading the way in the premium brand. It is always striving for bigger, better and most importantly safer.
Audi A4 2.0 TDI S Line
I’ve always classed the Audi A4 as the perfect business car with great performance, safety and spec levels plus a price tag that doesn’t really break the bank.
Now, that’s not a bad assessment, but after a week behind the wheel of the S Line saloon, I realised the A4 is so much more besides.
This vehicle is crammed to bursting with state-of-the-art technology and delivers a ride that, despite being fairly low to the ground, is so smooth you almost feel you’re driving on glass.
Guaranteed to stand out in any crowd, the beautifully-crafted A4 is drop dead gorgeous with its subtle streamlining and distinctive Monza Silver colour – one of two exclusive body colours to this model.
And once inside, you cannot fail to be impressed by the sheer quality of the cabin features.
There are heated leather seats that have electric lumbar adjustment and really do feel like they have been personally designed for you. The ergonomics of the interior is second to none with all controls, dials and levers ideally positioned for ease of use, and the optional extra of Audi’s Technology Package introduces a plethora of entertainment, information, set-up, navigational and audio features plus a whole lot more.
The four-door saloon was deceptively spacious inside and even rear seat passengers are treated to ample leg room along with a luxurious armrest, their own heating system and various storage compartments. The luggage compartment is also exceptionally large meaning this car could easily accommodate four adults along with a mountain of luggage with ease.
In and around town, the A4 was a pleasure to drive and manoeuvrability was very good. But, it’s out on the open road where the 2.0-litre engine bursts into life with immense power.
Acceleration through the six-speed manual transmission is very responsive and the road-holding capabilities are incredible.
But not satisfied with delivering a seemingly perfect ride, Audi has come up with some excellent economy-saving features on this vehicle. It boasts a stop/start system that cuts engine power at idle when the clutch pedal is released and the car is in neutral position. It restarts in just two-tenths of a second when the clutch is depressed once more. This seemingly small application improves fuel economy and reduces carbon emissions at the same time.
Of course, the A4 is fitted with a host of class-leading safety features throughout to protect all occupants and a very efficient security package to keep any uninvited attention at bay.
All in all, the A4 may not be cheap, but when it comes to value for money, it’s well worth every penny.