2016 appears to be a big year for motor manufacturers.
Toyota recently launched the successor to its legendary Hilux bakkie, Hyundai has brought back the Tucson name with its new SUV while Honda unleashed its beastly Civic Type R on our poor, unsuspecting roads.
Although they couldn’t be any more different, Audi has now countered with the launch of their brand-new A4.
There’s no doubt that this new B9 model is hugely important, especially when Audi execs at its recent launch underline this with sobering statistics.
The brand recorded a global 3.6% year-on-year growth but their comparatively old A4 lost 18.6% to its competitors on the southern African market (at 14,953 units).
South Africans (and Namibians) love their compact luxury sedans so this B-segment enjoys a 70% sedan occupation where the A4, 3-Series and C-class have been battling it out for decades.
The segment makes up almost half of the (overall) luxury market which is currently experiencing a steady annual decline.
Nonetheless, Audi is confident in its new product and has premium plans which focus less on bulk / fleet sales and emphasize quality service on individual levels.
All new A4’s are built in Germany and will be followed in the next year by a new Q5 (SUV), A5 Coupé, A5 Cabriolet and A5 Sportback.
To trace its history, the compact Audi premium sedan sold over 12 million times since the Audi 80 arrived in 1972.
A4 made its debut in Southern Africa around 1994 and racked up 110,000 sales. This new model may look surprisingly like the preceding version but is actually made of 90% new parts.
The drive trains are up to 25% more powerful and 21% more efficient, there’s a wide range of infotainment systems and driver aids available while a lot of time was spent on aeroacoustics – how quietly it drives.
In this regard it had a superb starting point by being closely related to cousin Passat from VW. Audi threw words like “sporty”, “functional” and “understated” into the launch presentation, all of which are absolutely true.
I would also add “spacious” as it’s 16mm wider and 25mm longer than before.
“Comfortable and solid” certainly wouldn’t go amiss either as this seems to be the hallmark of the Mqbplatform.
The easiest way to spot a new A4 on the road is by its door mirrors, which are actually planted on the doors. You could also employ a scale to find differences of up to 120kg.
Most notably though, all fresh A4’s have slightly different front and rear light clusters where Xenon headlights are standard on all models; and Matrix LED’S are an option.
The A4’s interior leans on the design of the Q7’s with its stubby gear lever doubling as a wrist rest for MMI infotainment controls; all models feature Bluetooth.
Occupants can expect a 24mm increase in head room, 11 and 23mm more leg room ( front, back) and a 480L boot to stow their luggage.
You also get the choice between three models lines – Standard, Design and Sport – with optional S-line or Design packs.
Audi also offers A4 customers the fabulous Virtual Cockpit (fully digital instrumentation) with 3D navigation and enhanced vehicle information but this requires the inclusion of their full-fat MMI system option.
Other optional goodies include Audi’s smartphone interface for IOS and Android devices, as well as Audi- developed 32- gigabyte removable Android tablets for the entertainment of anyone residing in the rear seats.
There are many more options so check with your nearest Audi dealer for detailed specs, colour and trim combinations, extras and engine choices.
At the moment you may opt for either a 110kw / 250Nm 1.4 TFSI or 140kw / 320Nm 2.0 TFSI (both turbo-petrol) with a 185kw / 370Nm 2.0 TFSI expected soon and a 140kw / 400Nm 2-litre turbo-diesel arriving in October.
Avant station- wagons are not expected locally but an S4 arrives in 2017 and RS4 a year later.
The launch route took us into the Karoo via mountain passes where this A4 showcased its solid and comfy ride with amazing frontwheel-drive agility in the corners.
Steering feedback isn’t pin-sharp but praiseworthy for a luxury sedan with a further drive select option to remedy this.
All models were fitted with dualclutch automatics but the 1.4T can be had with a six-speed stick.
While it may not develop heaps of power, my co-driver and I happily agreed to call its efforts “adequate” with superior fuel efficiency.
Go for the 2-litre petrol or diesel model if you’re always in a big hurry.
In summary, Audi has played it very safe with the looks of their latest A4 while improving almost every other feature.
The Mercedes C-class may get you more looks and BMW’S 3Series creates whiter knuckles but this car walks a sophisticated path for the marque with four rings; which is exactly what they wanted.
Audi’s A4 needed to catch up to its competitors - which it has.