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 only option you have if you're keen to avoid using a gearlever and clutch pedal in a larger-engined version of Audi’s new A4 – and let’s face it, the offset driving position alone could swing it for you.
Only available with the same Multitronic CVT transmission that Audi also uses in the lean-burn V6 edition of the A8 (it’s an option in the A4 2.0 TDI too), the A4 2.7 V6 turbodiesel tested here is really pitched against BMW’s 325d.
In SE trim the Bimmer costs a few hundred quid more but has an extra 6bhp; CO2 emissions (176g/km) are the same, however.
What's it like?
Audi’s reputation for interior quality remains supreme with the A4 – this cars fit and finish felt bombproof – but the new car’s dashboard design is too conservative and is short on flair to the point of looking old-fashioned.
And while the lack of a third pedal negates some of our concerns about the transmission tunnel intruding in the driver’s footwell, you do still end up sitting at an odd angle.
On the road the A4 2.7’s foibles are similar to those of the smaller diesel that we road tested last week; its ride is untroubled by most bumps and potholes, its steering is oddly weighted but otherwise precise and it is more accomplished cruising along motorways than being thrown down B-roads.
The engine is smooth and quiet (well, easily drowned out by road noise, at least) and on a test route that included urban sprawl and rush-hour motorway, it returned over 36mpg.
There are frustrations in the fact that this model is the only one currently available with an auto, though; the 2.7-litre motor never gives you the feeling of nonchalant overcapacity that has become the 3.0 TDI’s trademark in the A4. And if you do try to work this car’s 188bhp harder, the Multitronic transmission can trick the A4’s two driven wheels into traction control-inducing spin when pulling away from junctions.
Should I buy one?
If you simply must have an A4 automatic, now, then this model will serve that purpose as well as any of its predecessors.
But with the 3.0 TDI quattro and 170bhp 2.0 TDI models scheduled for auto 'boxes before the end of 2008, you’d be better off waiting before you commit your left foot to the carpet.