Audi A4 review
The Audi A4 offers technology and quality when compared to its small executive saloon rivals
The A4 is one of Audi’s most important models, and the current version is one of the best-sellers in the class. The compact executive saloon has a focus on technology and comfort, and this makes it an interesting alternative for those who don’t want the sporty character of the BMW 3 Series.
An update in 2019 resulted in overhauled styling: new headlights, front grille elements alter the front end; the side gets an adjusted shoulder line to emphasise the wheel arches, and the tail lights feature more intricate LED graphics. Elsewhere, the revisions included an overhauled engine line-up and improved in-car tech.
Where the A4 has advanced is in the way it drives. Audi has listened to customer feedback and made the A4 softer and more comfortable, and as a result it's easier to live with. There’s still plenty of performance on offer to keep you entertained, but if you’re after real thrills you're still better off with the 3 Series or Jaguar XE.
Where few of the A4’s rivals can compete, however, is inside. The cabin is beautifully crafted and a place than can transform the most arduous journey into an enjoyable one. The 2019 facelift improved things further with the introduction of a larger 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system and an improved iteration of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital driver’s display.
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The Audi A4 has been on sale for a number of years now, and it's established itself as a strong contender in the compact executive class. It's available as a saloon or A4 Avant estate, while the A5 Sportback is a coupe-style hatchback variant. The trim levels range through Technik, Sport, S line, Black Edition and the range topping Vorsprung. Performance models sit above the regular A4 range, including the fast-but-subtle S4 and the ballistic, estate-only RS 4 Avant.
As with the rest of the Audi range, quattro four-wheel drive is available, while the range of 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines currently offered deliver a good mix of performance and economy. They need to, because the Audi A4 has a string of talented rivals to compete against.
The Audi’s toughest rivals are the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, while the Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Giulia shouldn't be ruled out. Then there are the Volvo S60 and Lexus IS, as well as upmarket versions of family cars such as the VW Passat, Ford Mondeo, Peugeot 508, the Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport, Mazda 6 and Skoda Superb.
The facelift to the range in 2019 introduced an overhauled engine lineup which, across the petrol and diesel range, features mild-hybrid tech. While posher Audis – and the sporty version of the A4, the S4 – feature a 48-volt system, here there’s a simpler 12-volt set-up. Though less powerful, the use of a belt-driven alternator starter allows the A4 to recuperate up to 5kW of power when coasting. This can then be redeployed under acceleration to reduce load on the engine, or to allow the car to coast with the engine off for up to 40 seconds at a time.
The engine line-up consists of a range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines with varying power outputs. The 35 TDI diesel is the engine that makes the most sense for buyers: it manages 54.3-55.4mpg in official tests and its 163PS output is more than enough. It lacks the quattro four-wheel drive system used by the 40 TDI and is 26PS down, but the lack of complexity and weight means that it’s almost as quick and more frugal – all the while coming in at over £2,000 cheaper.
2019 marked the introduction of the latest S4. The significant change came under the bonnet: gone was the old petrol-powered V6, replaced by a V6 diesel with 48-volt mild hybrid tech. The new unit doesn’t quite have the outright power of the old engine but it makes up for it with a thumping 700Nm of torque.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Audi A4 offers technology and quality when compared to its small executive saloon rivals
- 2Engines, performance and driveNot the sharpest to drive in its class, but the A4 is a leader in terms of long distance refinement
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsEfficient but powerful engines deliver strong performance without sky-high running costs
- 4Interior, design and technologyThe A4 has the best interior in its class by some margin. It’s crammed with tech and beautifully crafted
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe A4 is on par with its rivals with a spacious boot and generous passenger space
- 6Reliability and SafetyA raft of safety tech ensures you’ll be safe on the road, but Audi slips down the Driver Power survey rankings
- 7Deals and offersThe latest finance deals and special offers on the Audi A4 saloon and Avant estate