The all-new Audi A4 has been officially released into a fierce marketplace shared by the likes of the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. We headed to Venice to test out the B9 generation Audi A4 to see if it has what it takes to expand it’s reach in the compact executive market.
When viewing the new A4 for the first time it is apparent that the visual changes are relatively incremental. However, upon closer inspection, the sharper lines and more aggressive and masculine stance become apparent and the culmination of minor refinements throughout create an overall aesthetically pleasing package. The previous model A4 was rarely criticised for not looking good enough and it seems like the old saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” really seems to ring true here.
It still would have been nice to see some slightly more dramatic changes to differentiate it from the outgoing model. Stepping inside the new A4 you are presented with a modern and uncluttered interior space. The quality is what we have come to expect of Audi with premium surfaces and elegant lines.
Start the engine and your eyes are instantly attracted towards Audi’s new virtual cockpit. This is essentially a 12.3-inch LCD screen that replaces the traditional speedometer and displays all vital information of the car including speed, RPM, Navigation and a whole host of other user-configurable elements. In addition to the virtual cockpit, an 8.3 inch centrally-mounted LCD screen allows the driver and passengers to interact with the MMI system which also displays the optional Apple CarPlay controls.
For all the audiophiles out there, Audi has you covered with the optional Bang & Olufsen sound system which features a very impressive 3D sound function. We had the opportunity to test all variants of the new A4 in the fantastic roads surrounding Susegana in northern Italy. Unfortunately, on the day we experienced extremely poor weather which favoured the Quattro models. The awesome tractive competence of Audi’s all-wheel-drive system in such extreme weather conditions is sure to be a large motivating factor for many potential buyers.
All models, however, drove extremely competently and handled with composure and a feeling of security that Audis have become synonymous with. It is not the most dynamic driving experience out there, but definitely a step in the right direction for a company that has been criticised for slightly dull driving experiences in the past. The active suspension also impressed with a very noticeable difference between settings, with comfort ironing out the bumps nicely and dynamic setting allowing relatively firm and flat cornering.
Audi are, for the first time releasing the saloon and Avant simultaneously from launch and will feature a lineup of 7 engine options, consisting of 3 petrol and 4 diesel variants with prices starting from 32,500 EURO. The petrol offering ranges from an entry model 150 hp/25 0Nm 1.4 TFSI leading up to the 2.0 TFSI boasting 252 hp/370 Nm. The diesel engines range from a base model 2.0 TDI with 150 hp/320 Nm up to the 3.0 TDI with 272 hp and a mountainous
600 Nm of torque. It’s refreshing to see a 6 cylinder diesel in the lineup as many competitors are increasingly downsizing to turbo-charged 4-cylinder engines in order to meet ever-tightening emissions targets.
Audi has put a real focus on refinement improvements with the new A4 and have managed to improve fuel economy across the range by 21 per cent whilst at the same time increasing power by 25 per cent. This is a rather impressive feat and is probably partially thanks to the weight reduction and class leading drag coefficient of 0.23. All petrol models and 4 cylinder diesels come standard with a 6 speed manual. This is a fantastic transmission with a reassuring shift feel and easy to operate clutch pedal.
For those of you who prefer your gears to be shifted automatically, Audi offer an optional 7 speed S Tronic while the range topping 3.0 TDI comes standard with an 8 Speed Tiptronic paired with Quattro all-wheel drive. Both the S Tronic and Tiptronic performed seamlessly with instantaneous up and down shifts and impressed with its ability to drop multiple gears almost as fast as the hand can tug away at the paddles.
Audi’s new A4 is built upon the MLB Evo platform which, in its most recent iteration, helps shave up to 120 kg off compared to the outgoing model whilst increasing front-seat head-space and rear passenger leg-space by 24 mm and 23 mm respectively. Storage capacity remains relatively similar to B8 specification allowing the boot of the saloon to accommodate 480 litres and the Avant a slightly increased 505 litres of cargo.
Much has to be said for the new driver assistance systems integrated into the new A4. The latest advances in adaptive cruise control technology allow the system to foresee the road ahead by utilising satellite navigation and with the assistance of a camera and other sensors, automatically adjusts speed accordingly.
This works impressively well and takes a bit of time to garner the trust to sit back and enjoy the ride but this develops surprisingly sooner than you would think. Before you know it, the assistance becomes a genuinely useful piece of technology. This, in combination with active lane assist truly provides a glance into the future that is autonomous driving.
All-in-all, the new Audi A4 is bound to be a huge success and will build on the brand loyalty that has been rapidly building over the past few generations. On one hand, Audi has played the safe card by restricting the visual evolution of the new car, however, when all the pieces are put together and the subtle but valuable refinements are appreciated, the new A4 presents itself as a very valid proposition.
The improvements in efficiency, fuel economy, weight reduction and the incorporation of arguably the most technologically advanced user interface in its class are all very valid selling points in this automotive sector. For those of you in the market for a compact executive vehicle, add one more very tempting option to the list.