Massive array of petrol and diesel engine; Aavant model thoughtfully done; nice exterior and interior style; high-tech
Doesn't match 3-series driving dynamics; V6 models ride a little harsh
Audi A4 Comes of Age
The latest 8K generation of the Audi A4 went on sale in Australia in October 2008. While there can be no mistaking the brand, there can be plenty of confusion for the prospective buyer in choosing between engines, transmissions and specification levels. Since the Audi Fox appeared in 1974, Audi has always had a compact prestige sedan with a sporting flavour. But where rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz send their power to the rear wheels, the A4 is a front-driver, unless it is one of the more expensive all-wheel drive Quattro variants.
Arguably for the first time, the A4 represents a viable alternative to its German rivals. Earlier cars displayed a strong nose-heavy front-wheel drive bias which blunted their appeal to keen drivers. But this new one boasts some smart engineering which has moved the front axle forward, bringing a marked improvement to steering feel and handling balance. You begin to ponder the need to spend many thousands more to get Quattro.
The packaging and quality are excellent. For such a modestly sized sedan, there is surprising space for passengers in a beautifully trimmed cabin. Audi is still regarded as the benchmark marque when it comes to interior design. But one notable omission is a left footrest for the driver. And a space saver spare tyre is never the right answer for Australia, even if it helped the engineers to endow the A4 with a huge and well shaped boot.
This is easily the most attractive A4 to date with a crisp, tailored, sleek exterior. The Audi excels in aerodynamic efficiency, which contributes to its outstanding economy at higher speeds. This time around the controversial trademark Audi single frame grille combines with shapely headlights of jewel-like appearance to produce an imposing, hunkered-down frontal ascetic.
In focusing on the 2.0-litre petrol 2.0 TFSI engine, this report excludes no fewer than five others – two more petrol units and three diesels. The 2.0 TFSI makes 155 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque, demands 95-RON premium unleaded, but can sprint to 100 km/h in just 6.6 seconds while averaging as little as 7.0 litres per 100 kilometres of mixed conditions driving. It is a fabulous engine, ideally suited to the car. Transmission choice is a six-speed manual or a CVT automatic and the former especially suits the car’s dynamic nature.
The A4 is rated as a five-star car according to Euro-NCAP safety testing, and this is another reason to move it up the shopping list.
It used to be the case that buying the entry level model of a European car meant a compromise on performance and equipment but even the 1.8 TFSI is quick and well specified, while the 2.0 TFSI is probably worth its $60K on the road. The Audi A4 has a unique character, which sets it apart from but not above its German rivals. The less expensive models represent very good value for such a quality machine. In fact, it is difficult to see the point in spending more than half as much again for the topline 3.2 FSI.
The competition is not only the BMW 320i and Mercedes-Benz C200 but also the less expensive Honda Accord Euro.