Audi’s shock of the new
“Evolutionary” A4 fits superior tech under the familiar panels
WHEN the new one looks just like the old one, there’s a word polite car critics like to use, so we’ll call the design of Audi’s next A4 “evolutionary”.
Many will mistake it for its seven-year-old predecessor.
Despite the hand-me-down style, the A4 due in Australia in February is a much better car than the one it replaces.
Its grille is a different shape, the exterior mirrors shift a little and there’s an aerodynamic lip creased into the bootlid yet the new A4 faithfully duplicates the profile and proportion of the previous model.
It’s a surprise to hear Audi’s claim that more than 90 per cent of the car’s components are new.
Fresh parts and panels may barely change the appearance but they bring improvements in several areas that count.
Highlights include better fuel efficiency, greater interior space and advanced cabin tech and driver-assistance.
The new A4 is only a little longer and a fraction wider than the car it replaces but Audi says it beats the competition for
cabin length and front shoulder width. Feels that way, too.
The front seats are roomy, the rears truly excellent, with base and backrest perfectly angled and shaped for security and comfort. There is generous space for heads, knees and, under the front seats, toes.
Improving efficiency involved a two-pronged attack. That seemingly little-changed shape slips through the air more easily — for technical trivia types, its 0.24 coefficient of drag is better than such slick rivals as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and new Jaguar XE.
Audi also shaved the weight of one hefty adult from the A4. The best-case improvement is more than 100kg.
The instrument panel, a clean and uncluttered design, is similar to the basic layout seen in many current BMWs but packs newer tech.
The A4 will join the TT coupe and Q7 SUV with fitment of Audi’s superb Virtual Cockpit, though not as standard. This displays instruments as graphics on a hi-res screen in the instrument binnacle, and the driver can choose from a menu of several layouts.
Audi has installed more computing power behind its centre-screen infotainment system. Inductive charging (working only with compatible smartphones) will be available.
The maker threw in pretty much every driver-assist item in the book. There are about 30, many of which are sure to appear in dearer versions or as expensive options.
Every A4 made will come standard with autonomous emergency braking, which scans the road ahead for things you don’t want to run into, and slams on the brakes if there’s danger of a collision. In the A4, it operates at up to 85km/h — and at anything up to 40km/h it should avoid impacts completely.
With five months to the local launch, Audi Australia has yet to decide which of the seven engine and drivetrain combinations it will import.
Audi’s smooth, quiet and muscular 3.0 V6 turbo diesel might make it. Its economical 140kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel is sure to.
A petrol 110kW 1.4-litre four, basically as used in many other VW Group models, is being considered.
Count on Audi taking the 140kW and 185kW versions of the 2.0-litre turbo four. The first will go into the front-drive A4, while the second will be reserved for the all-wheel-drive quattro. Everything except the big turbo diesel will come standard with a seven-speed double-clutch auto.
As usual with Audi, the larger petrol fours are the sweetest in the range. Based on a test drive at the international launch in Italy, the pick is likely to be the 2.0 TFSI quattro.
Audi has really lifted its game with comfort and agility. Especially on the smaller 17-inch wheel and tyre combination, the ride is lush.
This is a car with a well balanced, secure connection with the road, combined with precise steering. Handling is superior to any of it ancestors.
With the 185kW turbo four and quattro traction, this is an Audi to challenge the 3 Series, C-Class and XE for driving pleasure. Audi has made genuine progress with the A4 — only to camouflage the achievement under an inexcusably evolutionary exterior.