From £26,2658

Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

The A4 has plainly been designed and engineered for high-mileage business users with a healthy disdain for compromise – those who want a car that’s as quick to get to outside lane speeds as anything else for the money but is also quiet, smooth, easy to operate and economical with it.

At least in some ways, they’ll find what they’re looking for here. All A4s get intelligent switchable engine mounts and an acoustic noise-filtering windscreen as standard, and our test example added acoustic glazing for its side and rear windows, too.

It’s easy to keep the A4 tight to the apex without having to be too light on the throttle mid-corner

It was pleasantly mechanically refined, suppressing engine noise very well and ending up a noticeable 2dB quieter than an equivalent Mercedes-Benz C-Class at both idle and at maximum revs in third gear.

However, cruising at 30mph and 50mph, the Mercedes registered less noise, a difference attributable to the gently rumbling distant coarseness of the Audi’s low-profile Hankook tyres, S line 19in alloy wheels and passive sports suspension. On smaller rims and differently tuned chassis settings, the A4 may well deliver the cruising manners many owners will expect, but it evidently won’t do so unconditionally.

The 2.0-litre engine is responsive, flexible and fairly free-revving – more impressively so at low revs than high, with the S tronic gearbox shifting up earlier than a BMW 2.0-litre diesel would.

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In fact, the manners and quirks of the A4’s dual-clutch gearbox define a great deal of its motive character. In regular drive mode, it seems to reach for ever-higher ratios earlier than a torque converter would, boosting fuel economy, you’d expect, but ultimately giving itself more to do in kickdown.

If you’re used to the elastic feel of the initial torque multiplication you get with a conventional auto, the S tronic may feel slightly ponderous on step-off and, again, overly keen to shuffle ratios. But in Sport mode, it shifts more decisively and intuitively for overtaking. It also coasts very effectively to conserve momentum and boost your fuel economy return.