From £26,2658
2015 has been jam-packed with progression in the executive class. First Jaguar's XE, then BMW's 3 Series. Now it's the turn of Audi's A4

Our Verdict

Aud A4

All-new Audi A4 zeroes in on efficiency, technology and quality but is it enough to drive buyers away from the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class?

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10 September 2015

What is it?

You've probably noticed some change in the company car park of late. Jaguar's XE is already a fairly common sight on our roads and - even if it's hard to recognise - a facelifted 3 Series will soon be joining it. There's more change afoot, though, because Audi's A4 is not long for the UK, too.

While Audi's premium badge and superb cabins have ensured that the previous A4 sold reasonably well, its dynamics and emissions have always played second fiddle to the BMW. With the XE now with us, the A4 was starting to look even longer in the tooth.

No such issues with the new one. Company accountants will like the fact that the new A4's emissions start at 99g/km and that (official) fuel economy is as good as 74.3mpg, while its completely new MLB-evo chassis, which features five-link independent suspension front and rear, should ensure better ride and handling characteristics. 

It's a bigger car than it was but it’s lighter, too. Overall it’s longer, while front head room and rear leg room are improved. Audi has also worked hard to ensure that refinement is better than ever, claiming that its class-leading drag coefficient helps to keep wind noise down to A8 levels of silence. 

We're yet to try that headline economy figure-wielding 2.0 TDI 150 Ultra, but here we're driving what should still account for a decent proportion of UK sales: the 187bhp version of the same engine. It still features Audi's 'Ultra' technology, so despite its extra performance, it remains good for CO2 emissions as low as 102g/km and thus an 18% BIK rate in entry-level manual form.

What's it like?

We've no complaints with the engine. This 2.0 TDI Ultra unit has already shown what it’s capable of in the A6, and it's no less impressive in this A4. By 1500rpm you begin to feel its pull and by 1750rpm the needle is well on its way, which means you rarely require a downshift to pull out of third and fourth gear. 

It's not adverse to being revved out, either, and is one of the quietest four-cylinder diesels on sale in the upper reaches of its rev band. You're aware of some vibration at the pedals and through the gear lever, but the latter won't be a problem for buyers of the automatic – and there'll be more of those, we'd suspect. The manual 'box’s action itself is far more sophisticated, while at 70mph wind noise is extremely well suppressed - although all our test cars were fitted with optional laminated windows.  

Thanks to some serious weight loss - up to 120kg in some cases - and that new chassis, driving this new A4 is a more rewarding experience than it was before. It certainly feels lighter on its wheels than the old car and more eager to change direction, but let's be clear, those who put handling first should still be heading for a BMW or Jaguar dealer.

The A4's steering remains its biggest frustration. The lack of feedback shouldn't be criticised too heavily (the majority of electronic systems offer very little), and nor should its low-speed lightness, but there just isn't the precision or urgency found in the 3 Series or XE. The A4 rolls further than its rivals when attacking bends, too, but grip levels are high and those more concerned with motorway behaviour might prefer the Audi’s less twitchy high-speed set-up.

Its motorway ride will also please, with bumps and crests being nicely damped and the body never wandering too far vertically. Four suspension set-ups are possible: a Comfort setting, a stiffer and 23mm-lower Sport set-up standard on S line cars, or adaptive versions of both. Confusingly, adaptive Comfort is 10mm lower than standard Comfort, and all Ultra models have the lower Sport chassis for better aerodynamics. Still with us?

Our Ultra model's ride began to unravel as the speed dropped, feeling unnecessarily firm over sharp-edged bumps and expansion joints, even when flicking through its drives mode and selecting Comfort. That said, at least there's a decent level of body control as these bumps are hit and the suspension always remains quiet. 

Another area in which Audi has proved itself a class leader is cabin quality, which remains consistent from the very bottom of its range in the A1 through its core models to the flagship A8. No surprise, then, that the A4 leads its aforementioned rivals when it comes to perceived quality.

We sampled a Sport model with optional leather and a more basic SE (in 1.4 TSI guise) without, but in either case the A4's dashboard is very special. Its soft yet dense upper section is underlined by a classy silver band across the middle, and even the plastics lower down feel of good quality. Its new metallic climate control switches – with haptic feedback – also look and feel superb.

Our car was fitted with Audi's optional larger-screened MMI infotainment system, although a smaller 7.0in version comes as standard on Sport models. Both work the same way, with a slick rotary controller between the front seats to guide you through simple-to-follow menus. The bright screen and crisp graphics are impressive, too, especially in conjunction with our car's satellite navigation maps. 

Also fitted to our car was Audi's 12.3in Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, first seen in the TT and then the R8. It is, of course, an option and we don't have prices just yet. If you can stretch to whatever it might be, though, you won't be disappointed.

It takes a while to learn, but you'll soon love how easy it is to sift through information using the multifunction wheel buttons, and the fact that you retain your dash-mounted screen means you can run your nav guidance directly in your eye line while you attend to other things on the larger central display. Visually, it's a stunning bit of tech, too. 

Although front head room is better, there wasn't much issue with it in the previous model, and two tall adults will still sit in comfort. The standard manual driver's seat adjustment is wide ranging and most will find enough steering wheel reach and rake adjustment to get comfortable. The improved rear leg room is more noticeable, with the two adults on the outside seats treated to more knee room than before. Three adults across the rear bench remains tight, however.

At 480 litres, the A4's boot hasn't grown, but it's still the same size as that of a 3 Series and XE and its low loading lip, decent access and handy netted side cubby holes make it a practical space. 

Standard equipment on SE cars includes xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights, 17in alloy wheels, three-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, cruise control and keyless entry and start. Sport-trim cars then add sat-nav to the standard 7.0in infotainment system, front sports seats (still in cloth) and an upgraded sound system. S line models get bigger 18in wheels and LED headlights.

Should I buy one?

You'd be foolish not to test drive one if you're in the market for a compact executive. You'll soon realise it isn't on a par with a 3 Series or XE for dynamism, but there's lots more to like. The A4 is still much better to drive than it was, cabin quality is top-notch, refinement is impressive and fuel economy and emissions are competitive.

In fact, compared with the equivalent BMW 3 Series 320d ED Sport or Jaguar XE 2.0 i4 180 diesel, this 2.0 TDI 190 Ultra is a band cheaper (even with Audi's seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox added) in terms of company car tax, saving you a little bit extra every month.

It gets four stars for now, but a drive of the 2.0 TDI 150 Ultra volume seller, which offers the even keener finances all-important in this class, might even see that rise. With the A4's ride a mixed bag at this early stage, we'll give a more final verdict once more suspension set-ups have been tried on UK roads.  

Audi A4 2.0 TDI 190 Ultra Sport manual

Location: VeniceItaly; On sale: Now; Price £31,000; Engine 4 cyls, 1968cc, diesel; Power 187bhp at 3800-4200rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 1750-3000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1505kg; Top speed 130mph; 0 62mph 7.7sec; Economy 72.4mpg (combined); CO2 rating & BIK tax band 102g/km, 18%

Join the debate

Comments
19

10 September 2015
Can't believe the progress of Diesels in the last ten years, for big'ish car 0 62mph 7.7sec; Economy 72.4mpg is bloody impressive.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

10 September 2015
Audi A4 - 187 bhp Total weight - 1505kgs Max. Speed 130 mph ................... .................
Skoda vRS TD 181 bhp Total Weight 1413 kgs BUT Max Speed - 143 mph

As both a Petrolhead (& Diesel lover for alternative steeds), I find that close to top speed, Diesel vehicles lose their economy...........
Therefore the Skoda may have more to recommend it than this A4 Ultra - unless you merely wish to save fuel as it may be more economical at higher speeds.

Malo Mori Quam Foedari

10 September 2015
that it looks like a LWB A3... instead of a SWB A6.

10 September 2015
Figures fudged again, it will not get anywhere near 72.4 mpg my wife has a golf diesel ,it is supposed to get 68 mpg gets 40mpg if you are light with the right foot , ohtherwise it would be 35mpg.So please do not buy a car based on it supposedly getting 3 or 4 mpg more than another make.

10 September 2015
Ski Kid wrote:

Figures fudged again, it will not get anywhere near 72.4 mpg my wife has a golf diesel ,it is supposed to get 68 mpg gets 40mpg if you are light with the right foot , ohtherwise it would be 35mpg.So please do not buy a car based on it supposedly getting 3 or 4 mpg more than another make.

Which Golf is this exactly - which mark and which engine? I have a mk7 and once run in it has been returning very strong figures. If you drive like a saint on a motorway then indeed it will do 65+ to the gallon. But even in the real world it is doing over 50mpg and it's the 2.0 Tdi 150. A recent long drive, driving between 85-90 where able to still yielded 58mpg. If I drive like it's stolen I may see early 40's...perhaps your wife drives flat out everywhere? Otherwise I don't see where your figures are coming from so would be great to know which mark and engine you are referring to!

11 September 2015
AddyT wrote:

But even in the real world it is doing over 50mpg and it's the 2.0 Tdi 150.

I'll second that real world figure. My own Golf, same engine but with DSG, has returned a sniff under 52mpg overall in its first 20,000 miles, measured by what I have put in the tank, and is improving as miles under belt accumulate. Depending on journey type, length, and my driving style, I can engineer anything from 65 down to about 38! I have aircon on most of the time too. One thing that can influence individual results is tyres. The EU tests, you can bet, are done on the most fuel efficient tyres available, which may not be the ones that are standard fit on the car you buy, they will have all other economy tricks switched on too, and all power-sapping accessories switched off.

11 September 2015
Ski Kid wrote:

Figures fudged again, it will not get anywhere near 72.4 mpg my wife has a golf diesel ,it is supposed to get 68 mpg gets 40mpg if you are light with the right foot , ohtherwise it would be 35mpg.So please do not buy a car based on it supposedly getting 3 or 4 mpg more than another make.

You making claims about mpg against a car you've never seen before let alone driven. MPG figures are just for comparison purposes. 0-60 are pretty accurate and I'm sure you'll agree, emmm maybe not, they are impressive.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

10 September 2015
Oh wait, it is the new one. Hard to tell.

10 September 2015
Notice the way the bonnet cut line becomes the crease line that flows all the way from front to back which then defines the top of the rear lights. Beautifully done. Meanwhile higher up the VW food chain, the Bentley Bentayga ...

10 September 2015
abkq wrote:

Notice the way the bonnet cut line becomes the crease line that flows all the way from front to back which then defines the top of the rear lights. Beautifully done. Meanwhile higher up the VW food chain, the Bentley Bentayga ...

Skoda got there first with the new Superb, which hides the bonnet shut lines in the same way, neatly overlapping the front wings. I saw one recently on show outside my local supermarket. The fit and finish of the body and exterior trim was, ahem, superb! Super tight shutlines everywhere and perfect paintwork. I wasn't sure about Skoda's new design language on white low spec Octavias, where it looked a bit flat and "thin", but on a metallic painted Superb it's an unqualified success. Mercedes-Benz might learn a thing or two here about how to do shut lines properly.

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