Getting to grips with our executive saloon’s traction deficit
7 July 2017

I’ve never been a huge fan of four-wheel drive in anything other than big SUVs.

I can see the appeal if you live somewhere that regularly gets snow, but for the conditions generally found in the south of England, I’ve always felt that I’d rather have the extra fun that comes with rear-wheel drive or the lower running costs of front-wheel drive.

I didn’t give it a second thought, then, when the decision was made to specify our long-term Audi A4 as a non-quattro car. Why wouldn’t we have the extra 5.9mpg and the accompanying 10g/km reduction in CO2 emissions that drops it two company car tax bands?

Throughout my first six months with the A4, nothing came along to cause me to reconsider; I just got on with enjoying the effortless performance and superb refinement provided by its 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, and never found the car wanting for traction. 

However, when it's cold I’ve started to find it hard to pull out of busy junctions without spinning the front wheels.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised; a full 215bhp is quite a lot to send to the front end of any car, but particularly one without a clever diff to help it transfer its power to the road. And the S tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox doesn’t help, because its tendency to be slow to respond from a standstill can make it hard to judge how much throttle is needed.

You could go for the 2.0-litre diesel model, which has a more manageable 187bhp, but then you’d be missing out on one of the great executive car engines. So on reflection, the A4 is one car where I really would be tempted to specify four-wheel drive and put up with the slightly higher running costs.

At £1430, the premium for quattro isn’t huge. And you still get more than 60mpg on the combined cycle, meaning you can expect around 40mpg from it in the real world.

Steve Huntingford

Read our previous reports here:

From London to Blackpool

As an Autocar reviewer, swapping from vehicle to vehicle is part of my job, and I rarely get to stay in any one car for an extended period.

I’m not complaining about having a cornucopia of cars to drive, but it can be nice to get off the treadmill and just ‘live’ with something for a bit. Certain models make this more desirable than others, but when I needed wheels for a week in Wales (and a spur-of-the-moment blast to Blackpool) with my friend Ellen and her daughter Georgi, I was happy to bag the long-term Audi A4 for the trip.

Its velvety 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine supplies the sort of effortless speed that makes all the difference when you have the best part of 1000 miles to cover. And yet without really trying to drive economically, we averaged 55mpg on the motorway.

The rolling refinement at 70mph was just as impressive, with the A4 suppressing road noise and vibration better than most rival compact execs. Indeed, few large executive saloons are as smooth or quiet; the only reason we had to raise our voices was to make ourselves heard over the excellent Bang & Olufsen stereo.

Being a style-conscious teenager, Georgi loved the swishness of the cabin and the array of gadgets, including the Virtual Cockpit digital instruments and wireless phone charging dock. However, most of the features she picked out cost extra, and I doubt she would have been so impressed with a bog-standard A4.

Ellen, meanwhile, was happy lounging in the rear, but she was sitting behind Georgi; if a fourth person had been forced to sit behind my 6ft frame, they would probably have been less cheerful.

To sum up, the A4 was all things to all men – or one man and two women. But the fact that the right options have been ticked was key.

AUDI A4 3.0 TDI 218 SPORT S TRONIC

Price £34,700 Price as tested £41,450 Economy 48.2mpg Faults None Expenses Tyre inflation 50p Last seen 9.11.16

Read our previous reports:

First report

Interior niggles

Our Verdict

The 2015 Audi A4

All-new Audi A4 saloon zeroes in on efficiency, technology and quality

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Comments
14

8 February 2017
This is where Diesels should have stayed, bigg'ish car doing high'ish mileage mostly on fast'ish roads.
Instead VW and other's got carried away and thought 50%+ of the market would be appropriate for diesel.

They would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those pesky American kids!

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

7 July 2017
I am seeing more and more cars and vans spewing out great clouds of black smoke as they accelerate. Generalising, it tends to be older cars and vans. I don't know if they are any more damaging than modern cleaner diesels (I won't say clean) but it certainly looks bad.

I understand this is for a number of reasons, mainly poor maintenance and tune or something. Surely we should focus on getting these disgusting animal cars off the road, then focus on phasing out diesel.

Sooner the better.

Spanner

8 February 2017
Paper thin panel gap between bonnet and front wing. Beautifully done.

8 February 2017
abkq wrote:

Paper thin panel gap between bonnet and front wing. Beautifully done.

Very cleverly,the profile of the waistline crease running through the doors and rear wings creates a shadow line that exactly matches the clamshell bonnet / front wing shut line. Audi can do brilliant design details when they put their mind to it, so what happened with the Q7 (fussy multiple waistlines and wheelarches) and Q2 (stupid, ugly front grille and awkward C-pillars)?

8 February 2017
if it is achieving 48.2 mpg that is way better than a 1.6 newish golf that is noe gwetting39mpg was 42 to 44 before the emissions fix ,whaT A JOKE

8 February 2017
I pick up my 10month old A4 2.0tdi Ultra 190 Sport on Friday.
It's dealer owned has less than 1700 miles on the clock, has full Milano Leather, Technology Pack, Virtual Cockpit, Phone Box, Mettalic Paint and costs less than £22k.

List price for this little lot is £38K...£16k up in smoke had I bought from new.

Wonder how much this will lose given it's the 6 cylinder version!!

Either way...ouch!!

7 July 2017
Ludicrous speed wrote:

I pick up my 10month old A4 2.0tdi Ultra 190 Sport on Friday.
It's dealer owned has less than 1700 miles on the clock, has full Milano Leather, Technology Pack, Virtual Cockpit, Phone Box, Mettalic Paint and costs less than £22k.

List price for this little lot is £38K...£16k up in smoke had I bought from new.

Wonder how much this will lose given it's the 6 cylinder version!!

Either way...ouch!!

Agree that this is the smart way to buy! Just traded in a BMW 320D which I bought with cash 4 years ago with 6K miles on the clock, quite well spec'd (I got it for £11K off list). It has cost £289 a month in depreciation.

By coincidence, next to the A4 report was an advert for a new Mini Cooper Countryman - £289 per month for 4 years with a £3675 deposit. Ouch!!

8 February 2017
Well VW in a business suit really. Why has it lost so much? It's a diesel. 3 years from now very likely to be a "difficult" car to shift on with diesel scrappage schemes, increased tax penalties and probable bans from city centres etc. While Audi A4s are dull to drive and soulless the TSi is going to be a wiser buy going forward.

7 July 2017
In which case the only problem would be a slight loss of initial thrust that you'd expect when pulling away or accelerating out of slippery corners. Incidentally, it's not the 215 horsepower that's the problem, it's the phenomenal torque that goes with it, especially if that's allied with the unprogressive throttle. If it was me, I'd stick with front wheel drive, but invest in some winter tyres and develop a more sensitive right foot with a bit of anticipation. And maybe check that the traction control is working properly (this should curtail any wheelspin to barely detectable levels).

7 July 2017
I live in Norway, its cold and every winter we drive on roads with low grip, often ice or compacted snow. The secret isnt 4wd, its having the right tyres. I'd spend half the £1430 on a set of proper winter tyres on some cheap alloys and change them every spring and autumn. 4Wd is great if you want to accelerate, but it doesnt help you change lanes, or stop, or prevent aquaplaning. Proper winter compound tyres are essential in winter conditions, mine are Nokian from Finland.

I'll give you 1430 reasons why you wont hear that nugget of consumer advice from the motor industry.

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