New Audi A4 Ultra combines low fuel consumption and emissions with good drivability

What is it?

25 years after Audi launched its first TDI diesel engine, the company is still confident that there’s plenty of life left yet in conventional diesel technology.

No less than 23 frugal Ultra models will go on sale globally during the next year, fitted with further optimised TDI engines, with several coming to the UK.

The new Audi A4 Ultra 2.0 TDI Ultra is powered by a revised and leaner burning version of Audi’s 2.0-litre TDI engine, which produces 161bhp and 295lb ft torque.

Consequently it matches the BMW 3-series 320d Efficient Dynamics for power and CO2, but betters it marginally on fuel consumption at 67.3mpg.

Audi's new TDI also now meets the stringent EU6 emissions standards and gets ‘clean diesel’ status thanks to the adoption of SCR (selective catalyst reduction)

What's it like?

Like the Audi A4 TDIe before it (which is still available in the UK, in 134bhp form) the extra economy is gained partly by taller gearing that reduces engine revs at cruising speeds.

Other contributors are a fast and discrete start-stop system, and sports suspension that lowers the ride height to reduce aerodynamic drag.

The A4 Ultra may have been conceived as an eco warrior but owning one doesn’t mean you trade performance for economy. The engine revs freely to over 5,000rpm and is predictably strong at lower rpm.

Neither do the economy measures add combustion noise. The A4 purrs along, the rev counter sitting on a relaxed 2000rpm in 6th gear at 70mph.

Audi steering isn’t generally noted for being surprising and delighting. It's linear and a little dull as the wheel moves off centre but it's precise and weights up well enough when cornering briskly.

However, the 6-speed manual gearbox is light and satisfying to use. The A4's brakes have a good feel too and are not over-servoed like some.

The lowered suspension might imply a choppy ride, but that wasn’t the case on a test route that was admittedly fairly smooth. Standard 17-inch wheels are the only option as anything larger would interfere with ride height.

As a result, 225/50 17s tyres with their relatively generous profile help soak up rougher surfaces. The handling is certainly composed too, with little roll even when pressing on through corners.

Set to ‘Efficient,’ The Audi Drive Select system adopts a stodgy throttle response to damp out any efficiency-busting exuberance on behalf of the driver. In the absence of active dampers there’s little other change but in Dynamic mode the throttle response makes an about turn with much crisper response.

Otherwise, little else has changed from the standard model apart from an Ultra badge at the rear. On the inside, Audi’s trademark immaculate fit and finish still mark the A4 out as having one of the classiest interiors in the business and comfortable with it.

Choosing the Ultra model doesn’t affect trim and equipment choice in this area and buyers can still choose virtually any combination they like, for a price.

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Should I buy one?

The Audi A4 Ultra is a solid, sensible choice – but its performance is surprisingly lively despite its green credentials

Standard equipment levels are fairly basic with those 17-inch wheels and Audi Concert CD system with DAB radio. The optional Technik specification is still available but, because of the lower ride height, without the usual 18-inch wheels.

What you do get is Milano Leather upholstery and other goodies like a hard disk-based MMI Navigation Plus, the Audi Music Interface and the Audi Parking System Plus system.

The A4 Ultra stacks up well when it comes to tax, falling into band B for VED – meaning tax costs of £20 a year. It also offers a low BIK liability for business users of 16 percent.

Anyone wanting a combination of high quality, reasonable performance and a green option without having to suffer snail-like performance, should find the Ultra ticks all the boxes.

Audi A4 Ultra 2.0 TDI

Price £28,320; 0-62mph 8.3sec; Top speed 140mph; Economy 67.3mpg; CO2 109g/km; Kerb weight 1540kg; Engine 4cyls, 1968cc, turbocharged diesel; Power 161bhp between 3000-4200rpm; Torque 295lb ft between 1750-2750rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Shrub 18 July 2014

Go for an A3 saloon

I'd struggle to justify an A4 given how much better looking the cheaper A3 saloon is. Had a good look at one yesterday. Lovely proportions, sharp, smart and a great interior. A4 is old hat in comparison.
CWBROWN 19 July 2014

They are different 'Shrub'?

You can tell them apart? Visually? Without looking at the badge on the boot? I am impressed!
I recommend the following- an A3 viewed at 10 m = A4 @ 15m= A6 @ 20m = A8 @ 25m.
whitechick1 18 July 2014


Having been in quite a few of these, I can't say I'm particularly impressed with the quality. Not that they're badly put together, by any stretch, just that the reviewers chosen words leads you to believe its much better than it actually is. I was quite underwhelmed to say the least.
Frightmare Bob 18 July 2014

At more than 1 1/2 tonnes

At more than 1 1/2 tonnes this car still suffers from the big failing of so many new cars. If car makers want to be seen as taking economy seriously, they need to get the weight down and, perhaps, understand that cars do not need to get bigger every time they are updated.