Safe, strong, smart

It’s easy to see the new A4 in the Car of the Year top 10

The Advertiser - Motoring - - LAUNCH PAD -

reckon I know what to ex­pect. It’s like a Volk­swa­gen Pas­sat, with bling, right?

But that’s way wrong be­cause the two cars, al­though com­ing from the same ex­tended Ger­man fam­ily and with sim­i­lar di­men­sions, could not be more dif­fer­ent. Even their me­chan­i­cal plat­forms are dif­fer­ent.

From the ini­tial set­tling into the driver’s seat, I can see and feel the dif­fer­ence. The top of the dash­board is lower than in the Pas­sat, the shape and fin­ish­ing of the dash it­self is dif­fer­ent, even the shape, sup­port and cov­er­ing of the seats is a big step up.

The rea­son is that the A4 is built from (par­don the tech- speak) VW’s MLB plat­form. In con­trast, the Golf, Pas­sat and nearly two dozen oth­ers use the MQB un­der­pin­nings.

The ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ence is the for­mer is for north-south en­gine in­stal­la­tions but there is more.

The MLB pack­age is used all the way up to the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne and a bunch of heavy­weight lux­ury cars. That means the ba­sics are over-en­gi­neered for the A4, which is the starter car in the MLB range.

So there is a lot of hid­den gear that makes the car bet­ter than I ex­pect, and bet­ter than a Pas­sat, from the sound in­su­la­tion to the work­ings of the sus­pen­sion.

The shape is not hugely dif­fer­ent un­less you’re an A4 fol­lower but the body has been mod­ernised and there is a lit­tle more us­able space in­side.

The boot is big and out­ward vi­sion, at a time when so many cars are pinched at the back, is good and help­ful for easy park­ing.

The punchier of two petrol turbo en­gines avail­able for the car is both strong and ef­fi­cient, which means solid per­for­mance and im­pres­sive econ­omy.

Audi ex­tracts 185kW with a com­bi­na­tion of di­rect fuel in­jec­tion and the tur­bocharger and claims 6.3L/100km. In coun­try tour­ing I got an even bet­ter fuel re­turn, still with the ex­cel­lent over­tak­ing shove that comes with 370Nm.

I’m not a huge be­liever in quat­tro drive un­less you have big power or very greasy roads. How­ever, the new A4 is well bal­anced and the sus­pen­sion pack­age — with 19-inch al­loys and sports tun­ing in this car — com­bines good grip with solid feel through the steer­ing.

It’s not a hot rod in cor­ners but good enough for the job. It will crank up to 100km/h in only 5.8 sec­onds, which is good for the class.

There is not much to like on the tow­ing front and the spare is only a space-saver.

The real job is done in the cabin, which is a great place to travel. The fin­ish­ing is first­class, the au­dio is good and the in­fo­tain­ment pack­age and screen work well.

I love the vir­tual dash­board, which puts all the info — up to a full-width satnav im­age — di­rectly ahead of the driver.

Thanks to a big suite of pas­sive safety gear, the new A4 is an easy five-star win­ner in ANCAP test­ing. There are ac­tive cruise con­trol, blind-spot warn­ing and such break­throughs as three types of auto safety brak­ing and an “exit warn­ing” to pre­vent open­ing a door into the path of a ve­hi­cle — or cy­clist.

VER­DICT

The new A4 is safe, strong and smart.

WHEN the hon­our roll is called for our Car of the Year judg­ing in De­cem­ber, I will be very sur­prised if the Audi A4 is not among the 10 con­tenders for 2016. It’s that sort of car.

The new A4 is re­fined and classy. It’s not as sporty as the lat­est BMW 3 Se­ries, or as rock­solid on the road as the lat­est C-Class from Mercedes-Benz, but it does ev­ery­thing very well.

It could be a bit cheaper, since the petrol turbo quat­tro lined up for The Tick is just on $70,000 be­fore op­tions and on-roads, but it’s not as costly as many and gives a lot of en­joy­ment for the money.

Pleas­ant is a word that can be taken two ways but the A4 is a pleas­ant place to be and a very pleas­ant way to cover kilo­me­tres. There is lit­tle to fault and much to like.

The A4 makes choos­ing a car at the bot­tom of the lux­ury sec­tor even harder. This is where the Ger­man brands get earnest about their cars and where the se­ri­ous shop­per is spoiled for choice in Aus­tralia.

For as far back as I can re­mem­ber it was the 3 Se­ries that ruled, then the C-Class spoiled the show for BMW. Now Audi’s mak­ing the big move with the A4.

When I get to the car I

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