Less is more, we’re told. And while it’s a hackneyed phrase, there’s no denying that when it comes to cars, tax pressures have led to the smallest engines selling in by far the biggest numbers.
Take executive saloons. Not long ago six-cylinder models accounted for a sizeable share of sales, whereas today most have been swept from the road by a torrent of 2.0-litre fours. The latest addition to our long-term fleet, however, seems to have been designed to reverse that trend.
The car in question is the red Audi A4 that you see above, and although it looks an awful lot like the white 2.0 TDI 190 that Andrew Frankel has been running for the past six months, it’s powered by a 3.0-litre V6 diesel that makes 215bhp and 295lb ft.
It’s faster than Andrew’s car, then, and, thanks to two extra cylinders, a hell of a lot smoother. Yet the price difference is less than £2000, it’s only fractionally less efficient (at least officially) and the two sit in the same company car tax band.
If you’re worried that this renaissance of the big-capacity engine has been accompanied by a return to the days when prestige German cars were stingily equipped, don’t be. Our new A4 is in mid-level Sport spec, which comes with climate control, xenon headlights, cruise control, rear parking sensors, keyless start, DAB radio and sat-nav.
That said, it’s quite easy to blow a five-figure sum on options; on our car these include the advisable (such as its S tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox), the desirable (leather and Alcantara upholstery and Audi’s Virtual Cockpit display) and the ‘I can’t believe these are part of the same pack’ (lumbar adjustment and a Bang & Olufsen stereo upgrade).
Best of all, though, is the Technology Pack, which brings an 8.3in display along with highresolution Google Maps navigation, on-board audio storage, more system controls on the steering wheel and a ‘phone box’ that allows wireless charging of your smartphone.
Prior to the A4, I ran a Jaguar XE for a year. And while early impressions of the Audi suggest that in many respects it’s the better car, there is one key area where it’s off the pace, and that’s driving fun.
Put simply, it doesn’t flow from corner to corner in the oh-sosatisfying way that the XE does, mainly because of the steering. You find yourself sawing away at the A4’s wheel when you turn in, trying to find exactly how much lock is needed, whereas the Jag offers much greater involvement and precision.
I find this strange. After all, the R8 and the latest TT show that Audi can produce a proper driver’s car when it wants to, and yet it has chosen not to in this instance, despite its obvious desire to be seen as a sporty brand.
More positively, the A4’s V6 has an even bigger refinement and performance advantage over the XE’s Ingenium diesel than it does over Audi’s own 2.0 TDI. Plus, the A4 has a more comfortable ride, a classier cabin and an infotainment system that’s at least a couple of generations ahead, both in the speed of its responses and the layout of its menus.
Over the next few months we’ll see whether the one big sacrifice is worth all the positives. And of course, whether the 3.0 TDI really can get close to the economy of the 2.0, or if more cylinders still mean fewer miles to the gallon in the real world.