Bench­mark sa­loon has raised the bar

Macclesfield Express - - SEARCH -

THERE are some cars which have be­come a bench­mark in their par­tic­u­lar sec­tor – the Fi­esta, Golf and Range Rover for ex­am­ple.

The same can be said for this week’s test car – the 2016 Audi A4 – as for over two decades the A4 has been the bench­mark compact ex­ec­u­tive sa­loon.

Look­ing back over those 21 years the ba­sic shape of the A4 has not changed rad­i­cally, even though this is the ‘Mk Five’. Put a 1995 car along­side this lat­est ver­sion and the two are clearly re­lated.

I re­mem­ber when the A4 re­placed the Audi 80 and it seemed a quan­tum leap for­ward in terms of de­sign – so much so that the ba­sic over­all shape pretty much sur­vives to this day.

An­other rea­son for that bench­mark tag is the sheer longevity of the model – 20-year-old cars are still a com­mon sight on our roads and tales of well-ser­viced mo­tors with 200,000miles plus on the clock and still go­ing strong are not un­com­mon. Also one in ev­ery five Audis sold is an A4, so the lat­est ver­sion has a lot to live up to.

It may not look too dis­sim­i­lar to the pre­vi­ous ver­sion, but the fifth gen­er­a­tion A4 has had a rad­i­cal over­haul. Audi say 90 per cent of the com­po­nents are new.

It is also more fuel ef­fi­cient and our test car – the best-sell­ing 2.0TDi ul­tra SE 150 – is the most eco­nom­i­cal (83mpg on a run, 63 around town and 74 com­bined) and has a ba­sic price of £28,465 - which is very com­pet­i­tive. In ad­di­tion, our car had the no-cost op­tion larger fuel tank mean­ing a range of over 600 miles.

Un­veiled last sum­mer, the first cars are now ap­pear­ing on our roads and, thanks to that ‘evo­lu­tion not rev­o­lu­tion’ ap­proach to de­sign, they don’t jump out at you as an all-new model.

But the 2016 cars are lighter (up to 120kg) thanks in­creased use of alu­minium in the bodyshell and sus­pen­sion. The new A4 is also longer and wider and Audi have used that ex­tra space for those in the back with a more roomy cabin.

There are three trim lev­els - SE, Sport and S-line. All mod­els get plenty of equip­ment with 17-inch al­loys, xenon headlights, three-zone cli­mate con­trol and a 7in in­fo­tain­ment colour screen as stan­dard. There is also an Avant es­tate ver­sion.

There are three TFSI and four TDI en­gines de­liv­er­ing max­i­mum power of be­tween 148 bhp and 268. Com­pared with the pre­vi­ous model, fuel con­sump­tion has been re­duced by up to 21 per­cent, while power out­put has in­creased by up to 25pc.

The two 2.0 TDI en­gines are avail­able as ul­tra ver­sions – the most ef­fi­cient with mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the trans­mis­sion ra­tios, bodywork and sus­pen­sion as well as the use of tires with op­ti­mized roll re­sis­tance to re­duce fuel con­sump­tion even fur­ther. Our 2.0 Ul­tra diesel, de­spite be­ing the least pow­er­ful, can still hit 62mph in 8.6 sec­onds and go on to a top speed of 136mph.

Six-speed man­ual is stan­dard, with the op­tion of a eight- gear S-tronic, in­clud­ing a free­wheel coast­ing op­tion to save fuel by dis­en­gag­ing the drive. Front-wheel drive is the base­line, but Quat­tro is avail­able on many mod­els.

The driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is def­i­nitely im­proved over the pre­vi­ous car and there are five driv­ing modes ef­fi­ciency, auto, com­fort, dy­namic and in­di­vid­ual, where you can set the car up as you pre­fer. Af­ter a while in ‘dy­namic’ I found my­self waft­ing along in ‘com­fort’ mode, en­joy­ing the new elec­tronic power steer­ing, su­perb driv­ing po­si­tion and sur­pris­ingly quiet diesel en­gine.

Nice touches in­clude pud­dle lights in all 4 doors and am­bi­ent in­te­rior light­ing.

The A4 range starts with the 1.4SE TFSI 6-speed man­ual (148bhp) at £25,900 and goes up to the Avant 3.0 V6 TDI Quat­tro 8-speed tip­tronic (268bhp) at £40,350. Our 2.0 TDi FWD Ul­tra is £28,465 but had a num­ber of ex­tras (in­clud­ing spe­cial LED ex­te­rior and in­te­rior light­ing packs, park­ing plus and ‘acous­tic’ front side win­dow glass) which pushed the fi­nal on-the-road price to £33,565.

It also had win­ter tyres (£1,596) which, de­spite a lack of snow at the mo­ment, are a re­ally good idea. I re­cently re­turned from a ski trip to Switzer­land and was amazed at how our stan­dard 2WD VW Pas­sat taxi coped with the re­sort’s very steep, snow and ice cov­ered roads with ease thanks to be­ing fit­ted with the right rubber!

First UK de­liv­er­ies of the best-sell­ing Audi Avant are also now un­der way priced from £27,300 on the road.

●● The new Audi A4 2016 model

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