Audi A4

NZ Autocar - - Contents -

An abysmal weather fore­cast failed to dampen the spir­its of the Audi folk who pre­sented the ninth gen­er­a­tion of their A4 to me­dia in Taupo. Af­ter a cou­ple of stints in the quat­tro vari­ants we can un­der­stand why they were re­laxed about weather con­di­tions.

It’s not the quat­tros but the base front-drive Design A4 model ($72k) that Audi wants to be its poster child for the sec­tor, keen to raise the pro­por­tion of sales it con­trib­utes to an­nual over­all Audi re­tails (ex­pected to be around 1800 this year). It’s much less ex­pen­sive than the former 2.0L starter. The A4 con­trib­utes roughly 11 per cent of rev­enue lo­cally, level-peg­ging with each of Q3 and Q5. The new model, on a new plat­form, is ex­pected to give the brand a boost lo­cally, given its at­trac­tive ap­pear­ance, im­proved per­for­mance and econ­omy through weight re­duc­tions, and bet­ter spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

The A4 has been around since the 90s, although its her­itage dates back to the 70s and the Audi 80. Its shape has long been pop­u­lar amongst those dis­af­fected with styling of its ri­vals, and the new design con­tin­ues the con­ser­va­tive but shapely, so­phis­ti­cated theme. This it­er­a­tion is wider, longer and lower, with pleas­ing char­ac­ter lines, and slim­line head­lights. It is also amongst the most slip­pery of sedans, with a Cd of 0.23.

In­side, Audi’s Vir­tual Cock­pit ap­pears in the up­per tier mod­els. The range con­sists ini­tially of four sedans, three of them quat­tros. The base Design front driver is

pow­ered by a 2.0 TFSI en­gine, good for 140kW and 300Nm. A ma­jor lightweight­ing pro­gramme has seen the A4 lose roughly 100kg reckon Audi, ben­e­fit­ing both per­for­mance and econ­omy. The Design model is rated at 5.3L/100km, while the base 2.0 TDI con­sumes just 4.3L/100km of diesel over­all. The next in the range is the higher out­put ver­sion of the 2.0TFSI, dish­ing up 175kW and 350Nm, and round­ing out the quar­tet, the bruiser V6 TDI with even fig­ures of 200kW and 600Nm.

We kicked off pro­ceed­ings in the Design model, sim­ply be­cause the rain had abated tem­po­rar­ily. Lo­cal prod­uct guru, Jar­rod Ho, be­lieves its re­plete spec­i­fi­ca­tion will give the A4 an ad­van­tage over its three rear-drive ri­vals, the 320, XE 2.0 and C 200. It fea­tures pow­ered leather-trimmed seats, four drive modes, pad­dle shifters on the wheel, and three zones of cli­mate air. Be­ing front drive it has a pack­ag­ing ad­van­tage over those men­tioned. The new A4 adds 23mm of rear seat legroom and of­fers boot space of 480L. The en­gine is said to be vir­tu­ally a com­plete re­think and is friendly in nor­mal mode, and more ag­gres­sive in the dy­namic set­ting, the seven-speed S-tronic trans­mis­sion also hyped. That said, it does like a few revs for best ef­fect.

On the go you tend to hear mainly tyre noise, with lit­tle wind rus­tle and en­gine clam­our, as you’d ex­pect given it’s turn­ing a pal­try 1600rpm at 100km/h. Fixed sus­pen­sion of­fers a calm, ab­sorbent ride. We found in tighter go­ing we needed sec­ond gear oc­ca­sion­ally but it runs to roughly 80km/h which is suf­fi­cient. The gear­box might be short­changed a cog against the eight-speed­ers of the op­po­si­tion but seven is enough. Given the damp con­di­tions, we no­ticed a bit of scrab­bling at times and had to back off a bit in tighter go­ing. That was im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent step­ping into the base tur­bod­iesel, the $80k 140kW/400Nm 2.0 TDI quat­tro. By this point, around Ben­ny­dale, it was fair hos­ing down, and quat­tro se­cu­rity was grat­i­fy­ing, the 2.0 TDI un­rav­el­ing Wai­mate Rd in dra­matic fash­ion. This is a real test of grip and dy­nam­ics, not to men­tion wiper abil­ity, and it fared well on all counts. At no time was sec­ond gear re­quired, just third through slower turns, the added grunt of the TDI read­ily ap­par­ent at lower revs. En­gine noise is sim­i­larly well hushed, with lit­tle in the way of diesel clat­ter. Our car fea­tured the S line up­grade with sports sus­pen­sion but gone are the days of this mean­ing an un­com­pro­mis­ing ride. It proved a tad more set­tled over the rough stuff and in cor­ners than the Design model, the quat­tro sys­tem clearly adding grip and con­fi­dence in the wet. The S tronic box is a nice ac­com­pa­ni­ment and we had fun pad­dling the car through this highly tech­ni­cal sec­tion of road. You get from A to B quickly in this ma­chine, and eco­nom­i­cally too.

The fi­nal drive back to Taupo via the west side of the Great Lake was in the $106,400 V6 tur­bod­iesel, an ef­fort­less flyer. With so much torque on hand it re­ceives an eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion in­stead of a twin-clutch gear­box. Both 0-100km/h time and over­all fuel use rate around 5.3 (L/100km and sec­onds, re­spec­tively). It gets LED head­lights, a 360 de­gree cam­era and 19-inch al­loys.

More vari­ants are ar­riv­ing this year, in­clud­ing es­tate ver­sions (add $3500) along with a Quat­tro 2.0 TFSI ($85,900), all road, and an S4 ver­sion likely here by Septem­ber sport­ing a new 3.0L tur­bocharged en­gine.

ABOVE-Audi in­te­ri­ors are al­ways well sorted. Drive Select op­tions can be cho­sen by MMI or push­ing a but­ton on the dash. Ac­tive damp­ing comes stan­dard in higher level mod­els, is op­tional in the oth­ers. Audi Vir­tual Cock­pit a vis­ual feast, user se­lectable, and is stan­dard on all but the base model.

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