Audi’s shock of the new

“Evo­lu­tion­ary” A4 fits su­pe­rior tech un­der the fa­mil­iar pan­els

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE - JOHN CAREY

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.

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