New kit, new engines for Audis
NEW A4 ASHORE IN SA: The range is large and includes an S4 Avant. Picture gallery
Since the launch of the original A4 in 1995 as the successor to the Audi 80 more than nine million units have been sold. Now in its eighth generation, the German automaker’s latest offering receives a facelift, more kit and new engines.
The A4 has always been the least ostentatious of the Bavarian triumvirate, although not the most timid. Audi's German rivals seem to have a better grasp of the premium sedan segment but with each generation of the A4 the guys at Ingolstadt show growing potential. The revised A4 range will go up against the new BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class: let battle commence.
MAJOR ENGINES, MINOR TWEAKS
The latest A4 range offers five engines (three petrol, two diesel) and four derivatives (Sedan and Avant) plus an S4 range - on which high-performance model we'll have a separate article after Day 2 of the South African launch. The engines can be mated to a six-speed manual or eight-speed auto on front-wheel drive models; "quattro" all-wheel drive models drive through a seven-speed auto.
The outgoing model’s trim lines - Attraction, Ambition and Ambiente - have been replaced by S, SE and Quattro. In terms of pricing, the sedan variants run from R309 000 for the base model to R500 000 for the range-topping Quattro. The Avants cost from R349 000 to R370 000.
The one-model S4 Quattro costs R620 000.
The new entry-level engines area 1.8 TFSI capable of 88kW/320Nm and a tweaked version, available for the Sedan and Avant, and good for 125kW/320Nm. The mid-ranged petrol engine is the 2.0 TFSI capable of 155kW/350Nm. Topping the range is the three-litre unit powering the new S4 capable of 245kW/440 Nm.
Two four-cylinder diesel engines are available; a 2.0 TDI 105kW 'efficiency' model and a 2.0 TDI 130kW variant. At the top of the range is the powerful six-cylinder 3.0 TDI capable of 180kW and a monstrous 500Nm.
The cars' front bumper is slightly changed, the bonnet’s updated and the headlights now use a single-strip LED. The subtle changes continue with the redesigned tail lights and tweaked bumper. There are some subtle (notice the theme here?) changes inside but I’ll get to that.
Audi’s design gurus will probably tell you how each component was carefully considered but let’s call a spade a spade, this IS a facelift; sure, it looks more assertive than the outgoing model, but you’d still be hard-pressed to tell them apart at first glance. I understand the logic behind a “family face” in that all your models will look the same… but therein lies the problem.
The A4 shows plenty of signs of being a true sport sedan (especially the one-model, 4x4 S4) in the way it accelerates, steers, and corners at high speeds. The steering feels firm and reassuring but unless you’re in a quattro there’s marginal feedback and you’re left feeling disconnected with the road. It’s not quite as visceral as a BMW 335i but it’s on par with the refinement of a C-Class.
The A4 performs admirably in any driving scenario, whether cruising in traffic or slaloming through undulating bends. A minor is the offset pedals; the three-pedal units get loads of room for a foot rest but you have to angle your foot to operate the clutch. This is mitigated in the auto since you’re not going to use your left foot.
The S4, much like rest of Audi superb S-models, is a beast and continues to build on its sport sedan legacy. Out on the open road, the blistering acceleration and road-hugging handling doesn’t disappoint.
The A4 is offered with a range of new steering wheels and the steering arm and ignition key have been modified. The cabin has lots of glossy and chromed finishes.
The MMI navigation-plus system is easier to use than its predecesssor with four buttons instead of eight. The A4's strength lies in its high-quality cabin and the restrained design aesthetic serves to create a pleasing atmosphere with excellent craftsmanship. There’s a fair amount of standard kit; raiding the options list will soon see your vehicle's price shoot up by R50 000.
The cabin’s a pleasing space to be, though a little tight in the back. The boot is still good for 480 litres, increasing to 962 with the rear seats folded. The Avant wagon has 490 and 1430 litres respectively.
Earlier in 2011 we reported on Audi’s Connect system; this week's launch sees the SA debut of this new MMI system. In collaboration with Google, you are now able to view maps and even Google StreetView on the full colour LCD screen. What’s more, is your car can become a wi-fi hotspot with passengers able to connect to the internet.
A word of caution: make sure you have a large data cap - browsing videos and downloads can chew through MBs fast. Fortunately GoogleMaps is preloaded so you won’t be stranded should you run out of data.
Audi connect will also feature later in 2012/13 in the A1 and A3 ranges.
MONSTER RS4… AVANT?
Yes, Audi will launch an RS4, but bizarrely only in Avant guise and will use the same engine in the RS5. Should you wish to own this monster station wagon you’d better book soon since Audi plans to bring only about 50 to SA. Sticking with the Avant theme, Audi plans to launch its new A4 Allroad 4x4 here early in 2013, a model based on the Avant but with a higher ride and a beefier design.
So, purists will probably want a C-Class, weekend racers will stand behind the more-balanced BMW 3 Series. As if Audi's German rivals weren’t enough competition, there’s the Swedish and Korean automakers’ offerings to contend with, too - the Volvo S60 and Hyundai Sonata.
The new A4 is a great, but bland, package, at least in terms of the driving experience.
The new A4 is ideal for those looking for a German-engineered sedan with a touch of luxury but sans the negative connotations that some of its rivals attract. Despite its timid design changes, it’s still an elegant vehicle with a great ride, good features and liveable fuel consumption - a viable alternative to its more-costly rivals.
A4 1.8T FSI 88kW S - R 309 500
A4 1.8T FSI 125kW S - R 332 000
A4 1.8T FSI 125kW S multi - R 349 000
A4 2.0 TDI 105kW S - R 336 500
A4 2.0 TDI 130kW S multi - R 353 500
A4 1.8T FSI SE 125kW - R 347 000
A4 1.8T FSI SE 125kW multi - R 364,000
A4 2.0T FSI SE multi - R 390 000
A4 2.0 TDI SE 130kW - R 351 500
A4 2.0 TDI SE 130kW multi - R 368 500
A4 2.0T FSI quattro S tronic - R 456 500
A4 3.0T FSI quattro S tronic - R 504 000
A4 3.0 TDI quattro S tronic - R 503 000
S4 quattro S tronic - R 620 000
Audi A4 Avant
A4 1.8T FSI S - R 349,000
A4 1.8T FSI S multi - R 366,000
A4 2.0 TDI S - R 353,500
A4 2.0 TDI S multi - R 370 500