BY ANDREW MUZAMHINDO
With challengers getting better and brawnier, what does the new Audi A4 do differently to court luxury sedan buyers?
Believe me, there is a market out there for a good sedan. There are consumers who want a sedan over an SUV or double cab. Or they might have it within their collection
The traditional, Audi A4 target market is men aged 35 and over, who like a practical car, but love driving a powerful machine with an executive touch. I am certain no one does interiors better Audi. They are probably the best in the business
If you are a keen driver, the BMW 3 Series and the Jaguar XE are the sports sedan for you. If you are after a more opulent, more comfortable, and more elegant sedan, the C-Class, with its three-pointed star, still has no match.
And if you do not want to run with the pack, then go for the for the all-new Volvo S60, which is without a doubt, a fabulous looking car. Where does the A4 fit in? The Audi A4 is a line of compact executive cars produced since 1994 by the German car manufacturer.
Even though it is a new car, it is the same fifth-generation or B9 version of the A4 that made its global debut in 2015. It is the second time that this generation has received an update, but this time the update is quite comprehensive.
The front-end has become beefier, as it features a broader and flatter single-frame grille, along with new segmented LED headlamps and a sportier bumper. At the rear, the tail lamps have been reprofiled, and there is a new bumper design with trapezoidal exhaust tips — both these updates give the A4 a more stretched-out look, like the new A6 and A8.
There are Quattro-rally-cars-like creases at the front and rear fenders as well. The design has become busier now, which gives the A4 more character — it wants to look angry and sedate at the same time. To an extent, Audi has got it right — it does look bolder now.
However, those 17-inch wheels look a bit boring, and the overall effect, as a result, is that the new A4 does not look aesthetically any better — you can easily miss it for the old car.
Overall, I would say it is an alright looking car, but it will not make any lasting impression. Or let me rephrase it — the A4 is a good-looking car, but its look is not its strong suit.
You may find the exterior uninspiring, but the cabin impresses you no end. Sure, it is familiar, but it is remarkably well-built, oozes high quality, and very well laid out. There are a couple of new bits too. There is Audi’s new MMI 10,1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which comes with Android Auto and Apple Car Play.
It is a welcome change and makes the cabin appear cleaner since there are fewer buttons on the centre console now. It is quite intuitive too — the resolution and touch response are quite impressive.
The instrumentation is the all-digital “Audi Virtual Cockpit”, which I believe is the best amongst its rivals. You also get wireless smartphone charging, three-zone air-conditioning, powered front seats, and more. The seats are superb — both at front and rear.
Plus, the rear bench has decent legroom, and even though it is not as spacious as the new S60, the seating is upright and the under-thigh support is much better. Three adults sitting abreast, however, will be a problem, owing to a protruding transmission tunnel. On the whole, the A4’s cabin is still a tech-laden, practical, and quality place to be. It is definitely one of the best, if not the best, in the segment.
The biggest update of the new A4 is hidden under the bonnet — a bigger two-litre TFSI petrol engine, which replaces the 1,4-litre unit of the old model. There is not any diesel on offer. I have discussed before in some of my articles that most manufacturers are moving away from diesel cars.
More engine capacity means more power and torque — 140kW188bhp and 320Nm, to be precise. Power transmission duties are taken care of by a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The power goes to the front wheels — so, no quattro all-wheel drive for folks on this version.
Performance-wise, the new A4 is quick. There is some lag below 2 000rpm, but post that, the motor spins ferociously, delivering a sprightly performance. Its refinement levels are exemplary, and the motor produces likeable noise at high revs. There are five drive modes — efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic, and individual.
Each mode alters the gearbox, throttle, and steering behaviour — adaptive suspension is offered in some selected countries. You do get a mild-hybrid system though. At launch, the model range essentially comprises three engine options. The two lower-powered derivatives both employ some version of the Volkswagen Group’s corporate two-litre petrol engine, tuned to produce either 110kW and 270Nm in 35 TFSI trim, or 140kW and 320NM in 40 TFSI trim. This means the demise of the outgoing A4’s 1,4-litre engine, with the void being filled by the lower-powered engine.
The dual-clutch transmission’s response, as you would expect, is lightning quick. It is hard to catch it off guard, but that does not mean that you cannot — in bumper-to-bumper traffic, you can experience some delay. Other times, it is nippy. Thanks to paddle-shifters and a responsive engine-gearbox combo, the drivetrain is pretty engaging.
Just like the outgoing car, the A4 is dynamically well-sorted. There is a hint of torque steer when you mash the throttle pedal, but the traction control overpowers it quickly. Lean it hard in a corner, and the A4 will track its line confidently with only slight body roll. Despite being non-quattro, it grips really well. With low-profile rubber and bigger wheels, it can do even better. The steering wheel could do with more feedback, although it is quite direct. Of course, the A4 is not as playful as the 3 Series, but if anyone tells you that it is a lame handler, you can dismiss it as nonsense. The A4 is actually pretty involving in day-to-day driving.
The ride quality is stellar, especially at low speeds. Going over sharp potholes at high speeds can get a bit noisy, but overall, it is very well damped. In the city, the A4 is a joy to drive. It has brilliant visibility all-around, light controls, peppy drivetrain, and offers a comfortable ride.
Let us cut straight to the chase — the new A4, despite all the improvements, is not a one-trick pony like its rivals. Instead, it does everything well. For its range of abilities, it is hard to find faults with the new A4. Sure, the four-ring badge may not be as desirable as it once was, but brand loyalists will still lap up the new A4, for it offers virtually every joy of owning a luxury sedan.
Transmission: Seven-speed DCT/front-wheel drive;
Power: 140kW@4 200–6 000rpm; and
Torque: 320Nm@1 450–4 200rpm.