THE 2016 AUDI A4 2.0 TDI QUATTRO OFFERS THE KIND OF IN-CAR TECHNOLOGY THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE STUFF OF CONCEPT CARS ONLY A FEW SHORT YEARS AGO. Yet, externally, its design is timeless.
Already loaded with standard high-end technologies thanks to Audi Connect (offering, among other things, Google services and a WiFi hotspot to the interior), add the $2100 Technik Package to the new A4, and you'll feel the future of the car as a flexible communications platform has arrived.
Things have come a long way in the past couple of years.
Adding to the appeal of the Audi A4 is a clean-sheet design - although you would hardly know it - and a new-found dynamic ability. Priced just within reach of middle Australia, this is a damn smart car.
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Price: $66,900 (plus on-roads) | As Tested: $78,427 (plus on roads)
Engine/trans: 140kW/400Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo diesel | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.6 l/100km | Tested: 6.1 l/100km
The all-new Audi A4 may not seem vastly different from its predecessor, but eyeball it closely and the striking new L-shaped headlights, and crisp new sheet-metal stand out strongly.
Step inside and the new interior is simply superb. Probe deeper, and the new A4 sits on a larger and lighter chassis, runs like a hare round a winding road and is simply loaded with high-end technologies.
But, the premium medium sedan segment offers some formidable competition, not least from the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Can Audi topple these two stalwarts of the class, while keeping new aspirants, like the Jaguar XE, at bay?
We spent a week behind the wheel to find out.
- Standard equipment: Leather seat trim, powered front seats with memory function, three-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED head and tail lights
- Infotainment: 8.3-inch display, satellite navigation, Audi Connect online services, digital radio, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, 10 speaker audio, MMI touchpad and scroll wheel, 10GB flash hard drive, smartphone connectivity
- Options fitted: Metallic paint $1420, Sunroof $1950, Adaptive sport suspension $1700, Matrix LED headlights $1700, Assistance package $1900, Technik package $2100
- Cargo volume: 480 litres, expandable via folding rear seats
A flawlessly executed interior is the A4’s crowning glory - perhaps not as showy as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but every bit as well-finished.
There’s a real technological edge inside, especially when teamed with the optional Technik Package which includes a 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster that offers navigation powered by Google Street View.
Driver and passenger can lock onto separate screens, allowing uninterrupted maps for the driver and open access to media for the passenger.
Otherwise, the premium feel is reinforced by the appealing high-quality dash, capped with aluminium trims and assembled with the precision typical of Audi.
The front seats, set low in the chassis, will appeal to the enthusiast driver when setting up behind the wheel, and offer plenty of adjustment.
Similarly, the rear seats, despite the smooth flow of the roof, offer more space than you might think, with decent room to stretch your legs, and just enough space for taller members of the family to sit up in comfort.
Outward visibility is hugely impressive too, with some of the slimmest A-pillars of any modern vehicle, something you’ll be sure to appreciate the first time you approach a tightly angled intersection.
This time around, Audi hasn’t installed the impressive slide-away centre screen seen in the rest of the range, but at 8.3-inches with a crystal clear display, the fixed screen, linked to Audi’s MMI touchpad and scroll-wheel interface, doesn’t disappoint.
Audi Connect brings Google services, and a WiFi hotspot to the interior, thanks to its own sim card, and is somewhat surprisingly standard across the range. There’s also smartphone connectivity for approved apps, but not of the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto kind.
While the interior layout itself feels spacious, there are some limitations to storage, like a shallow centre console that isn’t fully covered, a glovebox that’s smaller than it should be, and a front passenger cup-holder that’s obscured slightly by the climate control panel.
Otherwise the boot offers a handy 480 litres of storage, matching the capacity of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 140kW/400Nm 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, quattro all-wheel-drive
- Suspension: Five-link front and rear independent, with (optional) adaptive dampers
- Brakes: 338mm ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
- Steering: Electrically assisted, turning circle: 11.6m
- Towing capacity: 1800kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Audi offers just one diesel option in the A4 range; one with the mid-range performance of its petrol counterparts, but with superior economy, and the highest torque output - at least until the serious performance versions arrive.
With 140kW of power from 3800rpm to 4200rpm, the 2.0 TDI quattro matches the output of the 2.0 TFSI petrol engine, albeit much earlier in the rev range. Torque is set at a solid 400Nm from 1750rpm to 3000rpm.
Offered only with Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system, the 2.0 TDI has little trouble channeling its power into forward momentum, and while the 0-100 km/h dash takes 7.2 seconds, the A4 absolutely excels when it comes to rolling acceleration.
In and around the ‘burbs however, the engine and transmission mapping would seem to be targeted to economy, as it doesn't feel as eager off the line as its numbers suggest (as though being held back slightly).
The transmission, though, Audi's stalwart seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, offers crisp, fast, and barely noticeable gear changes, providing fluent acceleration while keeping fuel consumption low.
How low? Well, while certainly very good, we couldn’t match Audi’s scant 4.6 l/100km claim, returning 6.1 l/100km instead.
On the road the A4's polished road manners shine: smooth, unflappable cruising matched by equally hushed stop-start city shuffling. Unusually for a Euro-built car, the A4 we tested rode on Hankook tyres, but apart from a little roar on coarse-chip tarmac, the A4 is a perfect cross-country traveller.
Our tester came with Audi's optional adaptive sport suspension, meaning that the Audi 'drive select' toggles gave a choice of Comfort, Auto and Dynamic modes for the steering, suspension, and transmission.
For the most part, we found Auto mode just fine.
But, get this rapid mid-sized saloon onto a winding road, and Dynamic mode tightens the suspension and ties the car to the road, giving it a more settled and accurate feel while surging from corner to corner.
And the steering is absolutely sublime. It's delightfully quick, offering decent front-end feel yet stable high-speed cruising; it really shows how far those much-maligned electric steering systems have come.
Unfortunately the optional assistance package, which includes adaptive cruise control, failed to impress to the same degree. On a freeway run out of the city, it showed a tendency to slow down for slower traffic in a neighbouring lane, sticking behind left-lane dwellers when our intention was to overtake them.
On a decent run out of town on the Hume Freeway, this habit became quite a bugbear, and certainly not something we’ve struck on other vehicles equipped with adaptive cruise control.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: Eight airbags (dual front, front side, rear side, full-length curtain), autonomous emergency braking, fatigue monitoring, ABS brakes with brake assist, electronic stability control and traction control, tyre pressure monitoring, rear view camera and front and rear park sensors.
Optional safety packages include the Assistance Package ($2470) including adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, turn assist, collision avoid assist, and high beam assist, and the Parking Assistance Package ($1255) which adds a 360 degree camera system and park assist for parallel and perpendicular spaces.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
If you’d like a diesel powerplant in your midsize luxury car, Lexus can’t help you but the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series, Jaguar XE, and Infiniti Q50 are all happy to oblige.
The BMW 320d matches the A4’s 140kW/400Nm, the Infiniti Q50 2.2d generates 125kW/400Nm, the Jaguar XE 20d pulls 132kW/430Nm out of its hat, and the Mercedes-Benz C250 d outguns all with 150kW500Nm.
However, if you’d like all-wheel-drive with your diesel, Audi is the only option.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Audi may not have pushed the boundaries when it comes to design, but the A4 doesn’t suffer as a result. It’s clearly an Audi, borrowing from a long and handsome lineage of clean medium sedans that came before it.
On the road, the new A4 does something a little special. It manages both rewarding dynamics while also providing high levels of comfort and refinement. Not an easy thing to achieve, but 'top marks' to this Audi.
Similarly, Audi’s MMI infotainment interface has matured to a point where it rivals BMW’s iDrive for friendliness, while shaming Mercedes-Benz’ often frustrating COMAND system. Spend another $2k for the Technik Package on top of an already impressive technology suite, and the Audi, again, does something a little special.
Well-stocked with standard features, and with legendary German precision on its side, the Audi A4 2.0 TDI deserves your close attention.
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