Great leap sideways
The A4 bristles with safety tech ... under new yet so-familiar bodywork
CAN’T distinguish the new Audi A4 from the old one? Surprised to learn this ninthgeneration model is a cleansheet design from the wheels up? You’re not alone.
Not a single panel is the same in the new A4, which also is loaded with technology not seen before on other mid-size luxury sedans. Audi hails it as a massive leap forward yet almost tragically hasn’t matched the new model’s advances with a more daring design.
There is much to like, starting with the price. The A4 range starts from $55,500, which is $600 dearer than the cheapest (and lesser equipped) BMW 3 Series, and $5400 cheaper than the top-selling Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Standard fare includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection (up to 85km/h), eight airbags, rear cross traffic alert, “vehicle exit warning” to detect cyclists and cars, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, rear-view camera, 8.3-inch “tablet-style” display screen and, a rarity in this class, a space-saver spare.
LED headlights, standard on all models, automatically adjust the beam to the conditions. At freeway speeds, the beam is directed as high and as far down the road as is allowed.
In city and suburban driving the LEDs spread a broader beam to illuminate footpaths, driveways and side streets.
The A4 will even mitigate a
rear-end crash. Sensors in the rear bumper detect an impending impact and strobe the brake lights to try to alert the incoming driver.
In the case of an imminent impact, it will activate the seat belt pre-tensioners and close the power windows to protect occupants from debris.
A $1900 option on all A4s is a package that includes radar cruise control with “stop and go” traffic jam assistance up to 65km/h, lane-keeping and automatic braking if you attempt to turn in front of an oncoming car (technology first seen on the Volvo XC90).
A head-up speed display reflected into the windscreen and Audi’s awesome “virtual cockpit” 12.3-inch wide-screen instrument display are bundled as a $2100 option.
LED “Matrix” headlights, a $1700 option, dim narrow portions of the high beam in the direction of oncoming cars so as not to blind them — while still providing a high beam around the vehicles.
The list goes on. So long, in fact, that one A4 we tested during the preview (with a high output 2.0-litre turbo engine and all-wheel drive) started at $69,900 but reached an eyewatering $92,791 with options.
ON THE ROAD
The new range of engines, starting with a 1.4-litre fourcylinder petrol engine, claims class-leading efficiency.
The smallest engine to date in an A4 sold in Australia, the 1.4 is no slouch thanks to turbocharging and the weight savings in the car’s design.
Audi has trimmed 65kg from the body despite it being longer, wider, roomier and better equipped than its predecessor.
The 1.4, fine for city and suburban commuting and cruising at freeway speeds, is left wanting a little on long steep hills.
The top-end petrol 2.0-litre has ample urge and, paired with all-wheel-drive, catlike grip.
The 2.0-litre diesel sounds like a Mitsubishi Triton at first but once it is warmed up it’s one of the quieter diesels around. It also has plenty of oomph.
The cabin of the new A4 will feel familiar to current owners; it’s very German and utilitarian, rather than classy or elegant.
Some will prefer this type of simplicity but it lacks the class of the Mercedes.
Downsides? The road roar from the tyres is much louder than we’d expect from a luxury car and, while the Audi steers well and handles corners and bumps with the usual ease, it lacks the C-Class’s suppleness .
I’m also not a fan of Audi’s new automatic gear lever — until you’re accustomed to it, it’s easy to leave the car in gear inadvertently.
As a safety backup, other cars automatically lock the gearbox in Park if the driver’s door opens and “park” is not engaged. If it’s not selected, the Audi will roll away — so much for all that safety technology.
Audi builds a quality car with a sharp price and class-leading technology and fuel economy — and wraps it in a bland package.