From £23,860
Avant might just have the nation’s load-lugging, fleet-conscious prestige buyers almost exclusively to itself

Our Verdict

Audi A4
The Audi A4 saloon is bigger, roomier and more aerodynamic than its predecessor

The Audi A4 is an improvement over the previous version, but isn't good enough to topple the BMW 3-series

  • First Drive

    Audi A4 Ultra first drive review

    New Audi A4 Ultra combines low fuel consumption and emissions with good drivability
  • First Drive

    Audi A4 2.0 TDIe

    Avant might just have the nation’s load-lugging, fleet-conscious prestige buyers almost exclusively to itself
27 February 2012

What is it?

This is the latest version of Audi’s veteran, dyed-in-the-wool, business-friendly Audi A4. We drove the first of the eighth generation in Europe last year, but now the full range is in the UK ahead of its official on-sale date later this week (March 1st).

As generational gaps go, the disparity between seventh and eighth is faint. The exterior differences are limited to a reworked bumper and revised headlights, along with similarly minor changes inside, and equipment updates.

The real beef occurs in the engine bay where Audi has tweaked, toned and refined much of the range for efficiency gains. Along with the introduction of an overhauled 1.8 TFSI petrol motor, the most significant new entry is the higher-powered version of the 2.0-litre TDIe - expected to carry the carry the vast bulk of sales in its established 134bhp guise.

The 160bhp edition, driven here as an Avant (the 134bhp motor is saloon only) is intended to go toe-to-toe with the forthcoming 320d Efficient Dynamics as the increased output puts the A4 almost on par with its outright performance, even if can’t quite compete with the BMW’s prospective 109g/km CO2 emissions and 68.9mpg economy.

What’s it like?

With the latest addition to the range included, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder TDI is now available as four distinct variants. The 141bhp and 174bhp are not badged TDIe because, apart from their marginal power advantage, they offer buyers the chance to spec bigger alloys - the efficiency-focused models come standard with 17-inch wheels and low resistance tyres only.

That’s a good thing because it gives the A4’s notoriously inflexible ride at least a modicum of elasticity over British tarmac. The Avant still reacts to minor, single-wheel deflections like all four had simultaneously hit a house brick, but at least the worst of the abrasive ricochet has been dialled away.

Along with it, unsurprisingly, goes some of the 134bhp engine’s hesitancy. The newer version is a second quicker to 62mph (8.3 versus 9.3 seconds – 8.7 seconds in the Avant) but it’s the increase in torque which stands out. With a 44lb ft advantage, the 160bhp car feels more limber and less strangled than its mechanical sibling, and requires fewer gear changes on the pithy six-speed manual to maintain a healthy pace.

It sounds good, too. One of the A4’s few standout attributes is its continued high level of refinement. The model keeps the husky diesel at a far greater distance than the latest 320d manages, but retains a surprisingly characterful turbine whine under heavy throttle. The engine also gets a new pendulum-type absorber in the flywheel which helps to reduce vibrations in the drivetrain at low revs.

Should I buy one?

Perhaps. If Audi’s marketing voodoo has you hankering after the A4 then there’s no reason why the 160bhp version - in the business-targeted SE Technik spec rather than the SE trim tested here - shouldn’t be high on your list. The 134bhp saloon may emit slightly less CO2 (112g/km versus 115g/km and 120g/km for the estate) and will therefore fall into a marginally cheaper company car tax band come April 1st, but the brawnier Avant is better looking, more practical and pleasantly quicker.

However, a new engine variant and a light dusting of largely inconsequential changes cannot paper over the A4’s shortcomings. In the driving stakes the model remains too firm to cosset properly, too detached to steer well and just too dull to ever really enjoy. Held up to the new 3-Series (and the current C-Class), the car struggles to make a convincing case for itself.

Nevertheless, there is a kicker. The new Touring is not likely to make its UK debut until the beginning of next year and the C220 CDI Estate is marginally more expensive and not quite as efficient, meaning the 160bhp 2.0 TDIe Avant might just have the nation’s load-lugging, fleet-conscious prestige buyers almost exclusively to itself.

Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDIe 163PS SE

Price: £28,130; Top speed: 134mph; 0-62mph: 8.7 seconds; Economy: 62.8mpg; CO2: 120g/km; Kerbweight: 1535kg; Engine type, cc: Four-cylinder turbodiesel, 1968cc; Power: 160bhp; Torque: 280lb ft; Gearbox: Six-speed manual

Join the debate

Comments
30

28 February 2012

I despair of this lot. How hard can it be to build a reasonable degree of suspension compliance and bump-thump absorption into a 1.5 tonne estate car on 17" wheels?

I'll give it a test when the time comes to replace my 3 Touring, but from this article it sounds as if once again the A4 is a great car to look at and sit in, providing it's not moving.

jer

28 February 2012

Message from this review is ; don't buy it with you own money and if it is a company wait for a 3 series, even with a noisy engine, or request summat else (v60?). I predict Audi will sell gazillions of em...

28 February 2012

[quote Submariner Redux]

I despair of this lot. How hard can it be to build a reasonable degree of suspension compliance and bump-thump absorption into a 1.5 tonne estate car on 17" wheels?

I'll give it a test when the time comes to replace my 3 Touring, but from this article it sounds as if once again the A4 is a great car to look at and sit in, providing it's not moving.

[/quote] If a car has dreadful suspension relative to British roads surely it qualifies as being a dreadful car regardless of fuel efficiency & quality of finish? After three nearly new BMWs I'm in a 3.3 V6 Sonata these days, it is more stable at high speeds than the 135 ever was, and I no longer wince over speed bumps!

28 February 2012

[quote Mr£4worth]

If a car has dreadful suspension relative to British roads surely it qualifies as being a dreadful car regardless of fuel efficiency & quality of finish? [/quote]

I personally hate a crashy ride for road use. If it's a car that you mainly keep for track days then something could be very firm and still a good car, but I always seek compliance and absorbency in a car that I'm going to use for everyday transport.

[quote Mr£4worth]After three nearly new BMWs I'm in a 3.3 V6 Sonata these days, it is more stable at high speeds than the 135 ever was, and I no longer wince over speed bumps![/quote]

What were the others? The old 1-series is very short wheelbase and was appalling on big wheels, runflats and in M-Sport spec in my experience, though the SE models on smaller wheels were a lot better. The E90 3-series is also pretty rough with the wrong spec. But my E90, on SE suspension, either 16" or 17" wheels (depending on the weather) and good quality non-runflat tyres, rides very nicely and quietly and can soak up the typical road irregularities of both rural and urban conditions with no problems.

28 February 2012

[quote jer]Message from this review is ; don't buy it with you own money and if it is a company wait for a 3 series, even with a noisy engine, or request summat else (v60?). I predict Audi will sell gazillions of em...[/quote]

Sheep, the lot of them!

It is the "brand" to have at the moment and they can't do any wrong in the eyes of some.

This car does nothing for me.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

28 February 2012

I wonder how many people buy German cars with overly stiff "SPORTS" suspension, then think that thats a normal ride.

I took a 3 series "M pack" driver a ride in my old Xantia once. He was amazed by the waftability. His "level through the corners" suspension actually made me carsick.

SDR

28 February 2012

Two things to say up-front:

1) I am seriously bored of mindless blanket criticism of anyone who buys an Audi as some sort of feeble-minded imbecile who knows nothing of cars or driving and has been charmed into their purchase by the genius of Audi marketing.

2) I like Audis generally - I have an A3, and very much like the A6/7 and R8. They are all good cars - not perfect, but nothing is.

But...

The A4 must be one of the most overrated and disappointing cars on the market today. I had one as a loan car a few weeks ago and it was quite the most charmless and unappealing car I can recall, possibly ever. For some bizarre reason it reminded me of a Ford Cortina - just a boring three box saloon capable of moving from A to B but with absolutely no personality, excitement or pleasure to offer whatsoever. To say it was dull is an understatement - it was almost like it was sucking the life out of me. Oh and I don't know how exactly I should understand "pithy" with reference to a gearbox, but I thought it was rubbery and crap. And the footwell is cramped and the pedals offset horribly.

30k on this? I would much rather drive a 15k Astra. In the specific case of the A4, I too would question how anyone could arrive by rational means at the conclusion that it's the preferable choice in such a competitive market.

28 February 2012

[quote SDR] And the footwell is cramped and the pedals offset horribly.[/quote]

Sad but true. The previous model was a lot better, actually.

28 February 2012

From what I can see, the A4 is a car that is mainly good in efficiency and perceived quality. The rest of it is poorly packaged, uncomfortable, average to drive, poor riding and in some cases unreliable. It has the makings of a terrible car yet is never classed as one and sells by the bucketload.

28 February 2012

I owned a 2008 A4 cabriolet 2.0 tdi, and yes it was a bland drive and the engine lack lustre given the weight. But in all other respects it was a suburb car, extremely comfortable, stylish and well built both inside and out and, quality wise its in a different league to my BMW. I am not brand loyal, I buy what I like, I love the way my zed drives but hate the obvious scrimping by BMW just to maximise profit. I love Audi because they don't treat their buyers with that much contempt, so you get a stereo as standard that you can hear music with the top down and not have to spend £600 for that pleasure. I just wish Audi made cars that handled better, but most of the public buying cars are not that bothered about driving dynamics, they just want to get from A to B comfortably and thus the A4 sells so well.

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