The Audi A4 is a premium saloon that fights against the immensely popular BMW 3-Series, the Mercedes C-Class and Volkswagen Passat, along with the sharply-styled Lexus IS. Where the BMW majors on providing an engaging driving experience and the C-Class and Lexus are more comfort-oriented than the A4 is renowned for its high quality interior and slick styling.
This model was launched way back in 2008, while all its main rivals have been updated in the last two or three years. Therefore the question is whether the A4 can still compete with younger and fresher competitors, or if it’s been left behind over the years.
The Audi A4 is a medium-sized saloon which features a high price tag and an upmarket interior. It is available with a huge number of petrol and diesel motors varying from a 1.8-litre petrol with 118bhp and a diesel with 134bhp to the four-wheel drive 242bhp 3.0-litre diesel and rapid S4 saloon which can accelerate to 62mph in a scant 5.0 seconds.
All versions are turbocharged for the best combination of power and economy and the most economical version,the 2.0 TDI Ultra is capable of 67.3mpg. Prices start at just over £24,000 and rise to a substantial £39,310 for the S4 sports saloon.
The A4 is available in SE and SE Technik forms which focus on comfort and equipment, and S Line and Black Edition versions that put looks and handling above comfort.
In S Line trim the overriding impression from the A4 is the car’s firm suspension – especially on its optional 19-inch alloy wheels. For a grown-up medium saloon some will find this setup too firm for long jaunts down the motorway. While fine on the smoothest roads, you can always feel the surface of the road and big bumps are noticeable in the cabin.
We also found it difficult to get comfortable behind the wheel, with all three pedals significantly offset to the right. Compensate by moving your feet to the right and those with larger feet may clip the brake pedal when going for the clutch. Pressing the clutch all the way down can be a challenge too, as the footrest can get in the way. Potential buyers would be wise to see if they can get comfortable behind the wheel in the A4.
As for the 2.0 TDI 177 engine in our car, there’s a lot of power on tap with 175bhp to play with and most of the time the engine feels punchy from low engine speeds and is also reasonable quiet. The engine revs smoothly and is nicely refined, though you won’t forget that it drinks from the diesel pump.
Accelerate from very low engine speeds and the car can take a second to pick up, but most of the time you won’t want for more power. One thing that will take some getting used to is the steering – it is very light at parking speeds, though it weights up significantly at speed, giving you a reasonable impression of how much grip is left. The firm suspension also means that there isn’t much roll around corners, though it’s not the most engaging car to drive.
The gear change is slick and the clutch is easy to balance. The brakes are powerful enough too and easy to modulate. With the large wheels on our test car a reasonable amount of tyre noise is audible, though there is little wind noise and the engine is whisper quiet unless you’re accelerating hard.
One of the A4’s trump cards is its interior; it feels nicely designed and beautifully put together with high quality materials and a soft touch dashboard. The chunky steering wheel is nice to hold and everything feels like it’s built to last. Even the seat fabrics seem several rungs above those than in most cars.
Though the piano black trim on the dash looks good we found the dashboard controls unnecessarily tricky to use on the move, requiring you to look away from the road for a long time to change the cabin temperature for instance. The sat nav system could also be slightly easier to navigate with many similarly sized nondescript buttons cluttered in front of the gearstick.
The A4 offers a similar amount of space, with more than enough room in the front and back seats for most passengers. Taller passengers may find the rear seats a little cramped and headroom is limited for those who sit in the middle rear seat, with the transmission tunnel cutting down on foot room too.
The boot is large though it’s not as deep as it could be. It should work perfectly fine for most family car trips however. Front and rear visibility isn’t great and it’s hard to judge where the front and back of the car is. All-round parking sensors come in very handy.
The A4 is a beautifully built, stylish machine. However, it does have its flaws, with an overly firm ride, and driving position that some drivers will find quite uncomfortable. As the car has been on sale for a number of years, it does also feel a little dated when compared with rivals from BMW and Mercedes for instance, which beat the 2.0 TDI 177 model for both economy and power.
If you avoid the firm sports suspension and largest alloy wheels, the A4 is an appealing machine with a nicely designed interior. Considering the premium pricing though, it would be wise to check out rivals before signing on the dotted line.
Don’t want to buy new? You can browse for a used Audi A4 in our classifieds here.
Audi A4 2.0 TDI 177 S line
List price: £30,875
Engine: 2.0-litre, four cylinder diesel
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 8.2 seconds
Fuel economy: 51.4mpg (urban), 68.9mpg (extra-urban) 61.4mpg (combined)
Emissions: 120g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Five stars
September 5, 2014