Audi A4 Review
The Audi A4 has had a little refresh and the engineers at Ingolstadt have introduced a more frugal and more efficient engine to th
- Cabin is first class
- Frugal and clean engines
- Drives really well
- Driving engagement could be better
- Options can be expensive
- Looks similar to its predecessor
Audi models are always easy to recognise and the A4 is no different. As facelifts or mid-life refreshes go it was always going to be subtle – no point in change if it’s not needed?
So how far has the nip and tuck treatment gone? Well, the front has seen a little cosmetic surgery with a reworked bumper, new look air inlets and there’s a pair of flat edged fog lights. The grille has been reshaped slightly with a single frame with tapered upper edges and redesigned cross ribs. There’s also the addition of Xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights. Walk round to the rear of the refreshed A4 and again the change is minor. The rear bumper in line with the front has been redesigned and the taillights now take the shape of the headlights. If you weren’t an Audi aficionado then it could take you some time to spot the difference between this car and the previous iteration. The company car market means that the A4 is a huge seller for the brand in the UK but it is rising in popularity with private buyers too. Is the latest A4 up to the challenge? Is it better than the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C Class? Read on to find out…
On the Road
For some years the most popular engine in the range has been the 2.0-litre TDI but the new Ultra engines is sure to enhance this even further. This new range of power plants is more frugal and much cleaner than what has gone before, however, performance is just as good and if not better. Step on the right pedal and the four-cylinder 2.0-litre Ultra engine producing 161bhp will cover the benchmark sprint in under 8.5 seconds and will go on to a top speed of 140mph. Overtaking slower traffic is child’s play, the six-speed gearbox has a smooth shift making it a joy to use. For an executive saloon car, straight line pace is good. That should be more than adequate for a saloon that’s predominantly aimed at the company car market. When at speed there is a lovely little whistle from the turbo, just reminding you that you are sitting in a fairly quick saloon. The A4 is aimed more at munching motorway miles but it has more than enough oomph for keen drivers.
The A4 has always lacked a bit of steering feel when comparing to the BMW 3 Series meaning that the A4 is nowhere near as engaging to drive. The electromechanical steering may improve emissions and improve better fuel economy but for a driving enthusiast, steering feel is very important so Audi you could do better. It is good through the corners when driving enthusiastically as there is little bodyroll. Our car came with the optional Audi Driving Select system. You can vary the set-up of the car between four settings including Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Efficiency. The settings are self-explanatory – comfort is best used when trawling the length and breadth of the UK. Auto should be used when you want a mix. Dynamic is when you want to drive a bit more enthusiastically – this gives the car a quicker throttle response while efficiency should be used if you want to save fuel and drive with a ‘green’ head on.
One of the major highlights of the A4 is how comfortable it is. If you are driving for business and your miles are spent on the motorway, then the A4 will be pretty much perfect – it’s comfy on long trips and makes short work of arduous motorway trips.
The Ultra tech engine is easily the most refined engine on the Audi’s line-up. Previous generations of the Audi A4, especially diesel versions always sounded a bit rattly start-up. Thankfully this version is much better. There is little noise on start-up and on idle it’s as ‘quiet as a church mouse’ – it really is a big step-up. Noise levels are good too, there is little tyre, road or wind noise in the cabin meaning there is no need to shout at fellow passengers. The cabin itself is well soundproofed while Audi has always installed cracking music systems – the acoustics are first class and it is almost like setting in your own music studio. As you would expect Audi refinement levels are top notch, in this sector, that’s a must have as it is up against tough competition in the guise of the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C Class.
In the car
On the inside, the A4 has stacks of space. Five adults can be transported with ease and in relative comfort. There’s plenty of knee, shoulder and head-room in the A4. The seats are first class and give good levels of bolstering for your back while aircon is fitted as standard.
The cabin of any Audi is a luxurious place to spend time in. The A4 is classy but subtle. There’s less buttons on the centre console than you get in some more mainstream cars as most of the entertainment systems are controlled by the MMI system. Fit and finish is first class – the driving position offers good visibility as the seats has plenty of movement as does the steering wheel.
Standard kit is decent, and on most models it has nav, Bluetooth, DAB radio and iPod connectivity. Just be aware though you will have to go mid-spec to get a good level of kit. Go easy on the tick list as the options are pricey, it’s best to go up a trim level than tick a crazy amount of options.
When comparing to the previous A4 model, this car is longer meaning that passengers have more interior space. Realistically, the rear should only be for two adults but you can easily fit a child in as well. With all the seats in place, the boot has a load space of 480 litres while this expands to 962 litres once the rear seats are folded. That should be more than enough for weekend bags, the sports equipment or all the kit for those important business presentations.
There are a number of cup holders up front, while the glovebox is of average size, the central console bin is huge and you can store plenty of nik-naks in this.
The doors are nice and wide too, making the access nice and simple, which is bound to appeal to families.
Even though this is a saloon, there’s an awful lot of boot space. Granted the Mercedes is still bigger but this is a good effort from the Audi boffins.
The Audi is competitive when it comes to costs. This new engine has a claimed average of 67.3mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 109g/km. This makes the car attractive for both personal and business users.
If you purchase an A4 with an Ultra engine then you’ll find the car is in road tax band B, with benefit-in-kind liabilities of 16 per cent. Not too shabby given you are buying a premium car. We expect the majority of Audis to be sold with the new Ultra engines thanks to how clean and how much more frugal they are. SE is likely to be the most popular trim on the A4 range. As we mentioned, don’t go ticking lots of boxes on the option list or it could cost you an ‘arm and a leg’ but Audi is not on its own, the German big three including BMW and Mercedes are just as bad.
The Audi A4 oozes quality, the car is a brilliant example of German engineering and craftsmanship. Audi fares well in reliability surveys while its dealers also seem to perform well.
As you’d expect, the Audi A4 is extremely strong yet made from lightweight metals, such as the Ultra engine and according to the boffins its highly rigid meaning it will be very strong in the event of an accident. The new A4 is well-built and you can tell that the materials are of a high quality that have been used inside and out.
Audis are strong, durable cars and the brand always performs well in the consumer surveys for quality. The German big three including BMW and Mercedes-Benz are top of charts for quality, the Germans cannot be separated for quality – they are really first class. Audi is slightly ahead on comfort but Mercedes probably has a little more prestige.
One of the safest cars on the market, when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP the A4 received the maximum five star rating. It’s not hard to see why the A4 was rated so well, there’s a vast array of safety kit installed. It comes with electronic stability control, anti-whiplash head restraints and six airbags to name but a few. The driver has good all-round visibility, which adds to the level of safety. Options that can be added include adaptive cruise control (which maintains a set distance with the vehicle in front), a blindspot system and a lane-departure warning system. Families will be pleased to know that there are Isofix child seat mounting points on the outer rear seats, and additional points on the front passenger seat can be specified at no extra cost. The new Audi A4 fares well on security when it was tested by experts Thatcham. This means insurance levels are really competitive with rivals in the class.