Audi A4 review
The BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C-Class have a real fight on their hands in the shape of the latest Audi A4
The A4 is one of Audi’s most important models and this all-new version will ensure it remains one of the bestsellers in the class. The compact executive saloon is better than ever and with a focus on technology and comfort, makes it an interesting alternative for those who don’t want the sporty character of the BMW 3 Series.
Where the A4 has made huge advancements over the old model is in the way it drives. Audi has listened to customer feedback and made the A4 softer and more comfortable and, as a result, easier to live with. There’s still plenty of performance on offer to keep you entertained, but if you’re after real thrills your still better off with the Jaguar XE.
Where none of the A4’s rivals can compete, however, is inside. The new cabin is beautifully crafted and a place than can transform the most arduous of journeys into enjoyable ones.
The Audi A4 is the company’s best seller in a crowded and tough sector, so it’s no surprise all the stops have been pulled out when it comes to development. The result is a package that has the potential to be the best in its class, although it’s up against some seriously good competition
The Audi A4 is built around the MLB Evo platform, which is the Volkswagen Group’s latest structural architecture for cars with north-south engine layouts. The new tech brought a significant weight-saving over the old A4, which now also weights less than all its most significant rivals - the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Jaguar XE.
As before, the latest Audi A4 is available as a standard four-door, but also in stylish Avant estate guise. Performance fans also have a hot S4 model to look forward to, and we’ve also seen spy-shots of the next generation RS4 Avant which should offer close to 500bhp.
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If you’re thinking of running an A4, you may not be overwhelmed with desire for its somewhat conservative looks, although there’s no doubt the model has become an icon for corporate middle management in the UK. You may be more inspired by the A4’s performance though, as it boasts ‘best in class’ values for kerbweight, economy and practicality – not to mention the array of up-to-the-minute onboard tech.
As usual, the A4 also offers a wide range of petrol and diesel engines to pick from. The most economical of them is the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which can return a highly creditable 74mpg while emitting 99g/km on the combined test cycle. In fact, overall Audi reckons its A4 engine line-up is 21 per cent more efficient than previously. As for gearbox options, Audi offers a six-speed manual or seven-speed S Tronic automatic, while as you’d expect on an Audi, quattro all-wheel-drive is also an option.
All models come as standard with alloy wheels, Xenon headlights, three-zone climate control and a 7-inch colour display screen. The A4 can also be had with Apple CarPlay, while Audi’s trademark Virtual Cockpit can be specced for £450. It replaces the conventional dials with a digital display and can also show sat nav information and vehicle data such as mpg and speed.
Engines, performance and drive
In quattro 4x4 guise, the performance of the A4 offers some stiff competition to its rival the BMW 3 Series. Generally the A4 feels connected to the road in all the right ways and the drive is direct and involving, but it doesn’t feel quite as exciting as the Jaguar XE.
Audi's work on the exterior has also reduced noise in the cabin and the car is extremely comfortable to drive as well, thanks softer suspension than we’ve been used to in previous A4s.
Both fixed and variable dampers are available on the A4. The variable dampers set in Auto are much more comfortable than fixed - and are an option worth having. Sports mode makes the car feel more aggressive and offers a sharper drive, and Dynamic mode reduces comfort for minimal, if any, improvement in handling so we’d leave that alone.
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The softer ride means the A4 is a lot easier to live with than the previous model, as main criticisms of that car mainly focused on the ride quality.
Active steering is available as an option but avoid it, as it doesn’t feel as natural as the normal setup. The standard steering option on the A4 works just fine and is the best on any A4 yet. It’s responsive and accurate but ultimately its isn’t as direct as the set-up in the Jaguar XE – which is one of the main reasons as to why the XE is better to drive overall.
A six-speed manual comes as standard on the 2.0-litre diesel engines, but Audi’s seven-speed auto can be added for £1,530. If you can afford it, we’d recommend stumping up the extra cash for the automatic as it suits the car’s more premium feel better than the manual. Having said that, the manual gearbox is very smooth and easy to operate.
From launch the A4 will be available with three TFSI petrol and four TDi diesel engines, with power outputs ranging from 148bhp to 269bhp. Audi claims the new engines in the A4 are up to 21% more fuel efficient than those in the previous model.
The best-selling engine is likely to be the 2.0-litre diesel engine, available with 148 or 187bhp and we would choose that or the 3.0-litre 268bhp diesel. These offer combined economy figures of 74.3 and 70.6mpg respectively and have low emissions of 95 and 99g/km of CO2.
Both the 2.0-litre engines are smooth and refined, delivering enough straight-line performance. The higher-powered model develops a healthy 400Nm of torque so delivers strong acceleration from low speeds. It’ll hit 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds.
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Crucially the A4 majors in refinement, so even as you accelerate hard there is very little wind or engine noise. Engine response is good and returning over 72mpg means it’s fast and frugal.
That brings us onto the top of the range 268bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel model. It’s the only model available with Audi’s eight-speed tiptronic gearbox as well as Quattro al-wheel drive. That combination makes it the fastest A4 currently on sale, with a 0-62mph time of 5.3 seconds.
It builds speed effortlessly and the V6 engine is super smooth and responsive. Its muscular hit of torque – 600Nm – is great for long distance cruising, propelling you along effortlessly at the flex of your right foot. Returning over 54mpg is pretty good going too, considering the performance on offer.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The A4’s diesel engines offer a great balance of performance and economy. The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel, achieves sub-100g/km CO2 on the tests. Even the highest power 3.0-litre 268bhp V6 diesel engine, which is only available with quattro four-wheel drive, can hit 62mph in 5.3 seconds, although it emits only 134g/km of CO2.
Three petrol engines are also available. There’s a 1.4 TFSI with 148bhp capable of 57.6mpg and 114g/km plus a 2.0 TFSI with 249bhp that can get from 0-62mph in as little as 5.8 seconds but still manages a decent 49.5mpg and 129g/km of CO2. Audi has also introduced a 2.0-litre 187bhp TFSI engine that will make a great option for company car drivers looking for a speedy petrol car that will have low tax bills.
In fact, this engine actually betters the smaller 1.4-litre unit as it can achieve 58.9mpg and 109g/km CO2. It does this by limiting the amount of fuel and air entering the chambers during cruising so it effectively operates as if its capacity is 1.2 litres, but if you want to accelerate hard the switch back to full capacity is seamless.
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Interior, design and technology
The A4’s exterior styling is pretty conservative - no one is going to be offended or shocked by the way it appears. Although it’s a familiar look, a lot of work has gone into the bodywork and every line and crease is there to improve the aerodynamics of the car.
The bodywork sets a class record for low drag. Clever developments include side mirrors that are mounted directly on the door panel rather than at its junction with the quarter light. These mean more air can glide smoothly down the side of the car.
Compared to the previous model A4, the visual changes aren’t dramatic. There’s a new set of LED headlights and taillights and the body is now longer and wider than it was before. The A4’s new light signature looks smart but the LEDs are also functional. Audi has developed them to read the road ahead and adjust their spread so they don’t dazzle oncoming traffic.
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But if you’re not impressed by the exterior, the interior will surely do the job. Immediately, the A4 feels and looks more premium than its rivals. The materials are soft and everything feels plush and well screwed together. There’s isn’t a cheap or nasty piece of plastic to be found in the cabin and everything has a real premium feel to it.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The infotainment and navigation system in the A4 is a real highlight. Primarily that’s down to the brilliant virtual cockpit and Audi’s new touchscreen display, both of which makes the whole infotainment system very simple and intuitive to use.
The A4 is also compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Both are excellent systems and essentially mirror your smartphone’s functions and menus onto the 8.3-inch central touchscreen display. If you’re unfamiliar with Audi’s own MMI infotainment set-up these compatible smartphone systems present a more easily recognizable alternative to operate the car.
The 8.3-inch display is now a touchscreen for the first time. It responds to functions very much like a smartphone would, so you can pinch to zoom in and out and swipe across the screen to move across the navigation map. You can also pin point exact locations on the sat nav by pressing and holding the screen rather then inputting the destination manually.
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The Virtual Cockpit is a £240 option but is a relatively inexpensive extra for what it is. The 12.3-inch hi-res display is more responsive than conventional dials and can monitor and display engine speed more accurately a result.
It’s a configurable display and can be tailored to your liking, showing you a hi-res navigation map, vehicle details such as speed and oil temperature or even the infotainment menu. Buttons on the steering wheel allow the driver to cycle through the various displays offered.
Buyers can also opt for LTE mobile connectivity, which will turn their cars into a wi-fi hotspot.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Compared to its rivals the Audi A4 feels very spacious inside. The new A4 is the same height as the old model but headroom has been improved because the seats are thinner and also mounted lower. The additional wheelbase length of 23mm might not sound like much but it means taller passengers will feel comfortable in the back seat. It also benefits from a wider body which means more shoulder room.
The wide opening and low floor of the boot make it extremely useable. The Avant plays an ace though, with a boot space of 505 litres - or 1,510 litres with the rear seats folded - which its rivals can’t beat.
Being based on the new MLB Evo platform now only makes the A4 up to 120kg lighter than before, but also longer and wider, too.
The new model measures in at 25mm longer and 16mm wider than the previous model, while the height remains the same. The Avant version of the A4 is actually shorter than the saloon – only by 1mm, though – and 7mm higher.
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Leg room, head room & passenger space
Those increases in proportions unsurprisingly mean there is a lot more space inside than there was before – we’d also say the A4 is one of the most spacious cars in its class.
The chunky transmission tunnel in the back remains, so it can get a little awkward trying to seat three adults comfortably. Having said that, there is a generous amount of shoulder room and head room.
The A4 fairs no better or worse when it comes to boot capacity against its closest rivals. With the rear seats in place capacity is measured at 480 litre, while folding them flat increases space to 965 litres. Naturally, the Avant is the one to go for if space is a priority, with a boot capacity that increases to as much as 1,510 litres.
Reliability and Safety
Safety is obviously high on the agenda for the A4. It gets impressive brakes, which offer superior pedal feel and more stopping power. This is combined with pre-sense city braking that can automatically brake the car to lessen the force of a collision at under 53mph and even stop the car at less than 25mph.
The A4 also gets adaptive cruise control, which is able to drive the car for you at crawling speeds or keep itself within its lane at higher speeds.
Audi placed 13th in our Driver Power survey with a respectable score of 86.5 per cent, although it did drop one position from 2014.
As standard, every A4 comes with a three-year 60,000-mile warranty. However, owners also have the option to increase that if they desire.
For £385 buyers can opt for a four-year warranty that extends up to 75,000 mile or for £905 a five-year 90,000-mile warranty.
The cost of a service on the A4 can vary depending on engine size. For models fitted with 1.4 and 2.0-litre engines, an interim service will cost you £159. For models powered by the higher-powered 3.0-litre diesels, it ill set you back £199. A major service will cost you £309 and £399 respectively.