- Great ride
- Material finish
- Not as fun to drive as rivals
- Could make better use of interior space
Matt Joy reviews the stylish new Audi A4.
Whether you’re in the market for an A4 or not, it’s a crucial car for the German manufacturer. Selling in hundreds of thousands around the world, it pays for fancier cars like the R8 and TT and gives it a vital presence on the street and on the wish-lists of company car buyers. Put simply there’s no room for complacency here.
Not that Audi has taken things lightly. The latest A4 has a new body structure with greater use of aluminium for weight savings of up to 120kg, new suspension, updated engines, a ton of new technology borrowed from further up the range and improved efficiency. We drove the likely best-seller, the 2.0-litre TDI Ultra model in SE form with the manual gearbox, costing £29,975.
Possibly one of the hardest jobs in car design, any new A4 has to look recognisably like the old one but without being a shameless rehash. This latest B9 model is arguably the best iteration since the B7 version; it has the solid flanks and prominent grille you’d expect but there’s more balance to the proportions than before and it’s less reliant on wearing huge wheels to look good – although most UK buyers will go for the biggest rims they can afford.
It’s not just about the looks either. Audi is claiming the new A4 is the most aerodynamic production car in the world bar one (the Volkswagen XL1) with a drag coefficient of just 0.23, yet it doesn’t look like all good design principles have been thrown out in the interests of aero.
They may be used as family cars but in truth premium compact saloons have rarely made the most of their footprint in terms of cabin space. However the new A4 has delivered useful improvements in both rear legroom and headroom, and most crucially can accommodate adults in the rear seats on long journeys in comfort. It’s still good news up front too, with a relaxing driving position and all the space you could possibly want. The boot is bigger than before, with 480 litres on offer. Storage space in the cabin is good too; the glovebox may be modest but there are plenty of other spaces available.
Performance & handling
If you’re under the illusion that somehow things were better in the old days, just take a look at the stats for this particular A4 model. By no means the fastest A4 in the range, the 2.0-litre TDI 150PS can do a highly respectable 8.9 seconds 0-62mph sprint and top out at 130mph, yet drive it like diesel costs £10 a litre and it will do 74.3mpg and hit 99g/km of CO2. In the real world you can expect to get where you’re going and hit 50mpg – spank it and you’ll do well to get less than 40mpg.
And while previous Audi A4s have been something of a mixed bag dynamically, a lot of work has been put into this latest version that has definitely paid off. The steering is accurate if not packed with feel but it responds well to inputs, while the suspension is sensibly biased slightly in favour of ride to great effect. This new A4 rides with impressive decorum, and while versions with sportier suspension and bigger wheels may be a little less compliant in SE guise, it should be just the ticket for poorly-surfaced UK roads.
Economy & environment
Rather than any radical changes Audi has used a series of sensible tweaks to improve the A4’s economy and emissions performance. A great deal of the improvements have come from the super-slippery new body and the weight reduction, meaning the engine has to work less hard for the same performance. The engines have to take credit too of course, with the latest Ultra range of diesel engines helping to cut emissions substantially and break the 100g/km mark for the first time. There’s also a 1.4 TFSI petrol for diesel haters that can reach over 50mpg.
Equipment & value
The standard kit list for every A4 has been given a significant tweak; the most basic model still gets 17-inch alloy wheels, three-zone climate control, the desirable xenon headlights with the distinctive Audi LED daytime running lights, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a 7-inch infotainment screen controlled by the latest MMI system that supports touch, swipe and pinch control inputs. On the options list traffic jam assist already seen on the Q7 could take all the pain out of motorway stop-start and comes as a part of a large package of safety kit costing £1,250.
It may be lighter but the A4’s body is also stiffer than before which is good news in the event of a collision. Forward collision alert helps avoid or at least reduce the impact of a crash in the first place whilst the standard ESP and brake force distribution are on your side. Add to that more clever options like the pre-sense package and rear cross traffic assist and if you want to it can be specified to the hilt with safety kit.
The new A4 could easily have been a by-the-numbers refresh and still would have sold by the container-load but Audi has gone much further and raised the standard that bit more. Where it performs best is overall refinement and quality; it has put some clear air between itself and rivals in terms of material finish, while the ride quality and noise levels are deeply impressive.
A little less sparkling to steer than the driver’s choices of the latest BMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE, the A4 nonetheless will be a pleasure to own and run, as well as being pleasingly light on fuel. Better-looking, offering more tech and more practical too, it will feature heavily on wishlists everywhere.
|Engine||2.0-litre TDI Ultra|
|Acceleration||0-62mph in 8.9 seconds|