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In-depth reviews

Audi A4 review - Engines, performance and drive

Not the sharpest to drive in its class, but the A4 is a leader in terms of long distance refinement

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Engines, performance and drive Rating

4.0 out of 5

Price
£38,285 to £52,595
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​The fifth-generation Audi A4 moved to a new platform, adopting the VW Group’s MLB Evo architecture. The more advanced chassis is underpinned by multilink suspension at both the front and rear, and although this differs from the front-end systems on rivals like the Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Giulia, the technology and components used are equally hi-tech and modern. 

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The A4 is available with ‘quattro’ four wheel drive, which gives strong traction in slippery conditions. While some models offer it as standard, for the rest it’s worth thinking about whether or not you’ll actually need it, as it’s more expensive and harms fuel efficiency.

The compact executive class is filled with cars that either handle brilliantly, are beautifully refined, or a combination of the two. The A4 aims towards the more relaxed side: minimal wind noise and hushed engines mean that it’s a great long-distance cruiser. If you’re looking for fun, look elsewhere: the Alfa Romeo GiuliaBMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE are all superior in this regard.

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. Dynamic mode makes the car feel more aggressive and offers a sharper drive, but reduces comfort for minimal improvement in handling, so we’d leave that alone. It’s worth avoiding the large alloy wheels, too. On larger 19-inch rims, the A4 tends to fidget over bumps that the XE skips over more smoothly.

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On smooth surfaces the A4’s ride is taut yet begrudgingly absorbent, but on rougher roads the ride breaks down. It would be better on adaptive dampers; in S line spec the no-cost Comfort Dynamic passive system struggles to cope with faster bumps and jolts.

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The steering isn’t as fast as an Alfa Romeo Giulia’s, but it’s nicely geared to the chassis, which delivers good grip and agility. It feels incredibly light though; great when driving in town, but might be unnerving for some at higher speeds. While it will change direction quickly, the A4 still feels a little flat compared with the Giulia, which is more alert and involving.

0-62mph acceleration and top speed

The A4 is now available with two petrol engines: the 148bhp 35 TFSI and the 201bhp 40 TFSI, with the 261bhp 45 TFSI no longer offered. The 134bhp 30 TDI is also off the price list, leaving the 161bhp 35 TDI and the 201bhp 40 TDI diesels. Revisions to the range in 2019 mean that engines are now equipped with fuel saving mild-hybrid tech.

Each of the 2.0-litre diesel engines are smooth and refined, delivering enough straight-line performance. The higher-powered model develops a healthy 400Nm of torque so it delivers strong acceleration from low speeds. It’ll hit 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds in the 40 TDI quattro S tronic, compared to the petrol 40 TFSI's 7.1-second sprint time.

Though the diesels are refined, the petrol models are smoother and quieter. And thanks to clever turbocharging, they deliver the torque in a smooth, linear fashion. When you settle down to a cruise it’s incredibly refined, the S Tronic auto transmission shuffling ratios sweetly unless you stamp on the throttle. The long gearing means that it’ll kick down under the lightest of loads at motorway speeds though, which can be annoying.

The petrol and diesel engines are combined with mild hybrid tech to help save fuel. This includes a 12-volt electrical system with a starter/generator unit which can recoup energy under deceleration which can then be deployed under acceleration. This helps to reduce load on the combustion engine, thus improving economy.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    35 TFSI Technik 4dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £31,470

Most Economical

  • Name
    30 TDI Technik 4dr S Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £35,220

Fastest

  • Name
    40 TDI 204 Quattro Sport Edition 4dr S Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £41,090

Shane is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2021, he worked as a radio producer and presenter for outlets such as the BBC.

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