2012 AUDI A4 REVIEW
|2.0 TDI Avant||130kW/380Nm||8.1s||4.9l/100km|
|2.0 TFSI quattro||155kW/350Nm||6.5s||7.0l/100km|
Audi’s current-gen A4 has been around since 2008. Since then, all of its premium mid-size competitors have been updated or, in the case of the BMW 3 Series, replaced by an all-new car.
While the current A4 range continues to sell well, it sits behind the Mercedes C-Class and 3 Series in sales. A mid-cycle refresh - with new drivelines, power upgrades and sharpened styling - is therefore timely for Audi.
Most obvious among the changes are new head- and tail-lights. The A4’s signature daytime-running-lights (DRLs) are now better integrated into the headlight design, and xenon main beams are standard on all models aside from the 1.8 TFSI.
Updates also include new wheels, front and rear fascias and a more angular version of Audi’s single-frame grille across all models.
The revisions run more than skin deep however, with new driveline options improving efficiency and performance across all models.
We were among the first to sample the new range over some of the most entertaining roads north-east Tasmania has to offer.
The A4 interior has always been a benchmark with typically excellent fit and finish, material quality, ergonomics and space.
The design has aged very well in the four years since launch, but this hasn’t stopped Audi from incorporating several incremental improvements with this model revision.
All in the new range feature a new leather-trimmed steering wheel (with optional flat bottom), along with redesigned ignition stalks and key fob, and chrome-ringed controls.
Leather upholstery is standard on all models, with a huge range of optional trim colours and with the all-encompassing S-Line trim package available on all spec-levels except S4.
The seven-inch touchscreen ‘MMI navigation plus infotainment’ system (standard on all bar the 1.8TFSI - which makes do with a 6.5-inch display-only screen) is now controlled by just four console-mounted buttons surrounding the central toggle controller.
Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity is standard on all models, as is climate control (three-zone on models above 1.8TFSI).
Similarly, models above the 1.8 TSFI feature electric seat-adjustment as standard. Steering rake and reach adjustment remains manually controlled on all models.
Cabin space continues to impress for the category, with ample rear legroom and headroom for this 175cm passenger. Only the recently-launched F30 generation 3 Series compares with the A4 for rear seat accommodation.
Cupholders are integrated into each door, along with centre console and rear armrest. Interestingly, front seat map pockets are optional with the ‘Storage Package’, which also includes bins beneath the rear seats.
Standard on all models, Attention Assist sounds a chime if the wheel remains still for a period of time - with the intention of waking a driver drifting off to sleep.
Active Lane Assist goes a step beyond the existing lane departure warning system by actively steering the vehicle back within the road markings. This feature is included in the optional ‘Assistance Package’ which also includes adaptive cruise control.
Reverse sensors are standard on all models (rear-only on 1.8 litre models), but a reverse camera remains optional across the range.
Regardless of spec-level or options ticked, the A4 interior is a nice place to be.
On The Road
TMR had the chance to drive each of the new A4’s revised engine options at length, back to back, so we’ve gained a good appreciation of their relative differences.
But only automatic versions were available at launch, leaving the manual versions of the 1.8 and 2.0 TFSI for future assessment.
Aside from engine upgrades, the most significant mechanical update to the A4 range is the adoption of electro-mechanical steering for all models.
Replacing the previous hydraulic system, Audi claims the new setup brings an average 0.3 l/100km efficiency-improvement for each engine.
Out on the road though, the new system follows other electrically assisted units in lacking feel through the wheel, ironically returning some of the numbness Audis were once criticised for.
At slow speeds, the speed-sensitive steering is ultra light, which makes for effort-free parking, but takes a moment to adapt to after sustained high-speed driving with lesser assistance.
Another efficiency measure applied to all models is stop-start technology, regardless of transmission. The system is switchable; it can be turned off via a centrally-mounted dashboard switch.
This update also signals the farewell of the torque-converter automatic from the A4 range. All Quattro models now use an ‘S tronic’ dual-clutch unit, while front-wheel drive models employ a multitronic continuously variable transmission (CVT).
‘Audi Drive Select’ remains a multi-tiered option, with dynamic steering, adaptive dampers able to be added to all models, and a torque vectoring rear differential available on quattro models.
In its basic form, it now includes and ‘Efficiency’ mode, which adjusts engine and transmission mapping to favour fuel economy over performance.
Over the launch route, we found the adaptive dampers to be the most useful of these options, giving the driver the option of maximum comfort, or tightening the damper valving to reduce bodyroll when the going gets fun.
We found the dynamic steering option a bit of a gimmick, as it seemed to just significantly reduce power assistance, with no noticeable improvement in feel of the tyres’ relationship with the road.
1.8 TFSI - $52,700
The top-selling 1.8 TFSI continues as the entry A4, but with output now boosted to 125kW and 320Nm (up 7kW/70Nm). Relatively lightweight at 1470kg in multitronic guise, the 1.8 TFSI gets along quite well.
With a claimed 0-100km/h figure of 8.3 seconds, the days of the underpowered base model seem to be over.
With maximum torque arriving just beyond idle in a diesel-like band of 1400rpm-3700rpm, seat-of-the-pants feel would have you believing that there was a large six under the bonnet.
Coupled with the multitronic auto, the engine’s lower-end torque produces earlier upshifts and a more settled and refined feel to the drive. It all-but eliminates the feeling of slipping found in some CVT units (which hang onto higher revs before up-shifts).
With a bountiful 320Nm arriving so early, the 1.8 TFSI has no trouble dealing with hills or responding eagerly when the throttle is given a healthy stab.
This improvement in performance and refinement is matched by an 18 percent improvement to efficiency, with an official consumption figure of just 5.8 l/100km for the multitronic.
Physically, the engine gains from attention to thermal management, port fuel-injection as well as direct-injection, variable valve lift, and an electronic wastegate more accurately controlling boost levels from the turbo.
Essentially a reworking the 1.8 used by the Volkswagen Group for years, the 1.8 TFSI proves the value of searching for incremental gains from existing petrol engines and engine technology.
The 1.8 TFSI is a very appealing drive.
2.0 TDI - $57,900
Next up Audi’s price scale comes the 2.0 TDI turbodiesel.
It now produces a very healthy 130kW and 380Nm (up 25kW/60Nm) in both sedan and Avant model variants.
Despite carrying a 50kg weight penalty over the 1.8 TFSI multitronic, the 2.0 TDI completes the 0-100km/h sprint in 7.9 seconds.
The previous efficiency-focused ‘e’ grade manual 2.0 TDI has been discontinued, with the facelifted model achieving the same 4.8 l/100km consumption figure with the multitronic CVT automatic transmission.
Surprisingly for a diesel, maximum torque arrives later than the 1.8 TSFI, with a narrower torque band of 1750-2500rpm.
The CVT’s seven ratios disguise this from the driver though. It is a very robust unit with that wonderful rising diesel thrust that rushes things along so absolutely effortlessly - with just a hushed diesel groan as accompaniment on the road.
2.0 TFSI Quattro S tronic: $64,500
Now available only with quattro all-wheel-drive, the 2.0 TFSI turbocharged petrol engine is a very eager piece of work.
It adds another dimension to what makes the 1.8 TSFI so special, with its maximum torque produced over an even wider band of 1500rpm-4200rpm.
The 0-100km/h sprint takes just 6.5 seconds (for both manual and dual-clutch S tronic automatic options). Interestingly, the manual - which we have not yet driven - records a better combined fuel figure of 6.8 l/100km as against the S tronic’s 7.0 l/100km.
The S tronic transmission on test proved as comfortable under gentle driving conditions as the multitronic CVT. There is only the tiniest hint of dual-clutch stammer moving from rest.
But when hurried along, that’s when it really comes to life. At speed, the S tronic easily outshines the multitronic with the speed and definition of its shifting.
In the company of the new A4’s other engine options, the 2.0 TSFI’s most impressive trait is its smoothness and quietness throughout its rev range.
It’s a genuine sports saloon with a deceptively swift turn of speed and delightful on-road balance.
First Drive Verdict
In terms of design, performance and efficiency, the new A4 range is a genuine improvement to an already-appealing and dynamic mid-size saloon.
In our view, the standout driveline options are the impressive new 1.8 TSFI petrol engine and the 150kW version of the 3.0 TDI. (see Launch Review Part II)
The 1.8 litre combines comparatively low cost with surprising performance and efficiency, while the 3.0 litre performs with frankly amazing efficiency and potency under the toe.
We’re not so keen on the new electro-hydraulic steering system; it may improve fuel efficiency but at the cost of driver feedback.
Nonetheless, the A4 is an excellent premium mid-size choice, with an impressive line-up of dynamic drivetrains and handling, and appealing style inside and out.
2012 Audi A4 2.0 TDI multitronic - 130kW - $57,900
2012 Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDI multitronic - 130kW - $60,900
2012 Audi A4 1.8 TFSI manual - 125kW - $52,700
2012 Audi A4 1.8 TFSI multitronic - 125kW - $55,500
2012 Audi A4 Avant 1.8 TFSI multitronic - 125kW - $58,500
2012 Audi A4 2.0 TFSI quattro manual - 155kW - $61,700
2012 Audi A4 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic - 155kW - $64,500
2012 Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic - 155kW - $67,500
Note: prices exclude on-road costs.
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