You’re looking at the first official pictures of the new, fourth-generation Audi A4, a car that Ingolstadt is hoping can steal even more of the European junior executive market from BMW and Mercedes, with a mix of improved dynamics, evolutionary design and a cheaper entry-level price tag. Behind its familiar design, the new Audi A4 features new underpinnings, advanced engine technology and the latest safety features. The new premium saloon will make its debut at the Frankfurt motor show in two weeks and will go on sale in the UK in January 2007 - and you can see it first, and in detail, in our gallery.Prices on this new A4 remain under wraps for the moment, but Autocar can confirm the starting price will be under £20,000, making it cheaper than today’s entry-level 1.8T at £21,350.
A better drive
Audi has placed a heavy emphasis on dynamics with the new A4 in a bid to challenge BMW’s 3-series and the Mercedes C-class, while continuing to fend off more affordable but improving rivals such as the Volvo S60 and Saab 9-3. It will be available with Audi’s Drive Select, which allows the driver to tailor up to 24 suspension, steering assistance and transmission response settings to his own taste. At the heart of the new car is Audi’s modular longitudinal platform (MLP), as used beneath the mechanically identical A5 coupé. Supporting both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, MLP moves the front axle 154mm further forward than that of the outgoing model, and adds widened tracks to provide the new A4 with what Audi describes as a “vastly improved weight distribution”.The suspension — a mixture of a four-link arrangement at the front and multi-links at the rear — is made almost entirely from aluminium, which helps to reduce weight. Despite the fact that the new car is larger all round, Audi claims the weight of the bodyshell has been cut by 10 per cent.
Subtly tweaked design
Audi’s designers have not attempted to do anything new with the A4’s exterior, which takes cues from the A5; the A4 will be built alongside its coupé sibling at Audi’s Ingolstadt headquarters. The Bauhaus-inspired lines of the outgoing A4 have been replaced by an edgier appearance first hinted at on the Walter de’Silva-penned Nuvolari concept in 2004, and now reflected on just about every Audi model. The new A4 inherits a conservative, evolutionary look, therefore. Highlights include a prominent single-frame grille, LED sidelights, a heavy shoulder line and a convex treatment to the rear end – but nothing we haven’t already seen from the brand.At 4703mm long and 1826mm wide, the new Audi A4 is 118mm longer and 56mm wider than the outgoing car. It also rides on a wheelbase that has grown by 168mm in all, to 2808mm — just 37mm shorter than the A6. The drag coefficient of 0.27 is the lowest in the Audi line-up, due partly to tighter shutlines that improve the airflow over the car.
On the inside
The new A4’s cabin architecture — including the dashboard, switchgear and instruments — is shared with the A5, and offers an electrically operated handbrake, automatic air conditioning and six airbags as standard. Audi’s MMI (multi-media interface) will be optional, together with sat-nav.Although the engine and other ancillaries have been moved back in the body for improved weight distribution, Audi says the length of the cabin has grown by 20mm, with rear kneeroom extending by 36mm, thanks partly to the rear bench being set further back in the wheelbase. Boot space has grown by 20 litres, the saloon now offering 480 litres.