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.