Price range: $52,100 – $119,900
Good: Stylish, class leading interior; spacious compared to competitors; impressive range of engines; build quality and refinement levels.
Not so Good: Evolutionary exterior styling is on the conservative side; average visibility; large turning circle.
Design and Engineering
Good : Launched in Australia in April 2008, the current shape B8-Series Audi A4 is significantly larger than its predecessor with an increase in length by 11cm and width by 5cm.
The front wheel drive platform remains (plus all-wheel drive is still available on upper spec grades) yet compared to previous A4’s the engine is positioned further back over the front axle which should equate to improved handling and weight balance.
The evolutionary styling is smart and classy and as it does without any excessively over the top design traits this A4 will age well.
Not so good : An overall conservative shape means the A4 doesn’t stand out as much in traffic as the competing Mercedes C-Class or Audi’s newer A5 Sportback. The A4’s large ‘single-frame’ grille has a lot of vertical height which visually reduces the width of the vehicle, making it look less sporty. A number of brands (including VW) have recently moved away from this design trait.
Interior and Styling
Good : A beautifully crafted and finished interior. Highlights include a very cool dash design which is best in class, the high quality materials on show and the amount of room on offer. The space inside is roomier than most rivals with generous amounts of headroom front and rear, a sizeable glovebox and a huge 480 litre boot. Fold the rear split-folding rear seats down and cargo capacity grows to almost 1,000 litre!
The driving position is comfortable thanks to supportive seats and a steering-wheel that adjusts for both rake (up and down) and reach (in and out) adjustment.
Not so good : Rear visibility is only average, the turning circle is larger than we expected and whilst rear seat space betters the competing BMW 3-Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class it is by no means super-sized. The MMI system is good however it could be more logical to use, and one of the cupholder up front is very small – forgot carrying two large coffee’s than.
Good : Nine different engines to choose from – four turbo diesel’s and five petrol offerings. The entry level grade is the TDI e, a super frugal 4-cylinder 2.0L turbo diesel that uses approximately half the amount of fuel as a 6-cylinder Commodore or Falcon! We like the power on offer – thanks to a maximum torque output of 320Nm it’s a willing performer, happy to zipp through traffic or overtake with zest on the highway.
For a diesel it’s also impressively refined and the Start-Stop feature (the other 8 grades are yet to be offered with this) means when you’ve stopped at the lights or in heavy traffic the TDI e’s engine also stops – inner-urban fuel consumption is amazingly low.
At the other end of the scale is the S4 which is powered by a supercharged 3.0L petrol V6 engine producing 245kW of power and 440Nm of torque. Combined with All-wheel-drive, this grade offers impressively fast performance, good fuel economy and excellent grip.
Not so good : The super frugal TDI e grade (the official combined fuel economy is 4.8L per 100kms!) is only offered as a manual. Audi is still working on how to incorporate start-stop technology with an automatic transmission. This being said the ‘regular’ 2.0 TDI comes with a self shifting gearbox and its combined fuel economy is still impressive at 5.8L per 100kms.
The S4’s supercharged 6-cylinder engine doesn’t have the low-down effortless torque of a V8 (i.e. BMW’s M3 or Mercedes C63 AMG) and the soundtrack is nowhere near as addictive.
Ride and Handling
Good : Overall the A4 has impressive handling attributes. The ride is good across the range, feels impressively solid, and is quiet inside the cabin and a worthy improvement over previous A4’s. The TDI e features low rolling resistance tyres, lowered suspension and some aerodynamic tweaks – yet it still drives as comfortably as the ‘regular’ 2.0L TDI grade over most road surfaces.
The S4’s all-wheel-drive system is rear biased and features a high tech differential which can shift torque from either wheels – equating to excellent handling, yet still providing more than a little fun for the driver.
Not so good : Whether you choose a front-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive A4, you’ll still miss out on the level of driver communication that the current 3-Series or C-Class offer. (However, the gap is now narrower than previously and for most buyers this isn’t a big enough reason not to lean towards the Audi). The TDI e grades’ low rolling-resistance tyres generate more tyre noise over coarse-chip roads and the standard sports-tuned suspension is noticed over poorer surfaces as well.
The S4 can be accused of being overly clinical, at times you feel a little disconnected from this go-fast A4 as it goes about its business.
Buying and Owning
Good : Ticks the safety box with standard equipment including eight airbags, traction and stability control, ABS with EBD and brake assist. To further personalize the A4, Audi offers an extensive options list.
Not so good : The TDI e grade (launched Down Under in February 2010) lacks an automatic option, which will cross it off the list of many medium prestige segment buyers.