The Audi A4 is an improvement over the previous version, but isn't good enough to topple the BMW 3-series
What is it?
The best selling model in the new A4 range. The 143bhp 2.0TDi will take a shade under half of all A4 sales thanks to being the best all-rounder in the range, combining good performance and fuel economy with Audi's usual attributes of quality cabin, solid build and the in the new A4, a more spacious cabin.
As well as the new skin, the new A4 is substantially new underneath, featuring a new chassis platform, suspension and bodywork. Bigger in all three key dimensions, the new A4 has grown to be not far off the A6. Now the boot is a class-leading 480 litres.
Key tech highlights are a longer wheelbase thanks to a re-packaged engine/transmission that shifts the front axle forward 154mm. The new bodyshell is 10 per cent lighter and 5 per cent stiffer than the outgoing car according to Audi's figures.
In styling, the new A4 is handsome, combining the cool Bauhaus look of the last A4 with a few of the curves that helped make the first A4 a best-seller.
What's it like?
Excellent. The new A4 Is a step-up in refinement and driving dynamics over the old car. The new common-rail diesel is much quieter than the old pump-duse unit and the cabin is noticeably quieter, although the BMW 320d just outpoints it for ultimate refinement.
The new 2.0TDi delivers the typical rush of torque expected of a modern diesel engine, performance best enjoyed on a sweeping A-road or motorway. On the latter there's enough poke to haul the A4 into a faster stream of traffic without dropping down a gear; a relaxed driving feature that escaped some six-gear manual box diesels.
The well-judged gearing and responsive engine also mean that its rare to find the engine struggling to pull out of a slower corner. Audi has sharpened the A4's driving feel, too, with more precise steering and a more sophisticated ride. The steering rack is just two and a quarter turns lock-to-lock, whereas the old was closer to three and the helm is better-weighted, which all translates into a more responsive and enjoyable drive.
We tested on super smooth Portuguese tarmac on 18in-wheel equipped A4s and the few potholes and rough bits did upset the otherwise unruffled sense of quiet into the cabin, so we’d guess the 3-Series will be just ahead on ride comfort in the UK. But it’s a pretty close thing.
Should I buy one?
Absolutely. The A4 is a notch above the 3-Series for styling and interior cabin quality, and just ahead of the new C-Class interior with flourishes and touches that ooze class. Now the soggy dynamics of the old car are banished, its also a more enjoyable saloon to drive.
The 2.0TDi is a great all-round engine and the pricing is keen, undercutting the opposition. Strong residuals promise keen leasing rates, too and a good C02 rating will keep lease-car owners’ tax bills down.
Just make sure you don’t get carried away with the options list. The essential metallic paint and desirable leather are going to add the best part of £2k to the price. So don’t be tempted by a few horrors that could make your bank manager go into meltdown, most notably the climate comfort seats, which blow cool air through perforations in the leather. They cost a horrendous £3950. And the Sat Nav is pricey too at nearly £2k.