The once cavernous gap between compact executive and range-topping luxury cars has narrowed considerably over the years, and the new Audi A4 is one the starkest examples yet of just how far the bar has risen in this ultra-competitive sector of the market.
Inside and out, the fit, finish and quality of materials used in the new A4 are such that one could easily be sitting inside an A8.
Audi’s latest minimalistic and tech-laden interiors set the standard across nearly every class in which they compete, and the A4’s cabin is certainly no exception, and just when for the briefest of moments, the new Mercedes C-Class was the standard bearer. Even the cigarette lighter is a beautifully sculpted item that belongs as much in a display cabinet as it does in the cockpit of a modest compact executive car.
The A4’s cabin represents yet another derivation of Audi’s ‘virtual cockpit’ interior, with a 12.3″ customisable TFT display sitting under the instrument binnacle and a central dash-mounted 7″ monitor allowing passengers to partake in the enjoyment.
The optional “MMI Navigation Plus and MMI Touch” package adds another dimension to the interactivity of the car’s ‘virtual cockpit,’ enabling the navigation system (displayed on a larger 8.3″ central screen) to be controlled via a touch-sensitive pad mounted on the centre console which can even recognise letters drawn by hand. Another useful feature is the optional “Audi Phone Box” which enables wireless smart phone charging.
The colour of the car’s interior LEDs can be changed to suit your mood, while the Bang and Olufsen 3D sound system can while away the even most monotonous of motorway journeys. Rear passengers are also not neglected, with optional Audi tablets mounted behind the front headrests providing entertainment.
On the outside you are probably thinking that the new A4 looks quite similar to both its predecessor and its Audi siblings. However, in the metal one can appreciate the fresh and sharp lines of this latest generation, pulled even tauter over its purposeful bodywork, lending the car a sophisticated yet sporting appearance.
S-Line trim adds greatly to the aggressive appearance of the car with more heavily sculpted bumpers and side-skirts and larger 18″ wheels. Audi have remarkably come up with yet another design for the car’s signature LED daytime running lights – surely the ultimate picture round for any car spotters pub quiz!
Yet it is not just in design and finish that the A4 resembles much more expensive metal, but in terms of technology too. The car is available with a host of driver assistance systems ranging from “Active Lane Assist” which gently intervenes to keep the car steering between road markings if necessary, to “Adaptive Cruise Control” which mirrors the acceleration and braking of the car in front. “Traffic Jam Assist” is particularly interesting as the car uses the white lines of the road to steer itself momentarily. It could of course steer and drive itself for the entire journey were it not for regulations prohibiting fully autonomous cars for the moment at least.
The new Audi A4 is available with a choice of two petrol and three diesel engines. The 2.0 TDI diesels range in power output from 150 bhp to 272 bhp, while the 1.4 TFSi and 2.0 TFSi petrol models produce 150 bhp and 190 bhp respectively.
Nearly all models are available with a choice of a 6-Speed manual or 7-Speed S-Tronic transmission, while the range topping 272bhp 3.0 V6 TDI Quattro is fitted with an 8-speed gearbox. Prices before optional extras start at €35,800 for the petrol 1.4 TFSi, rising to €60,250 for the aforementioned flagship model in Avant estate form.
Even in 1.4 TFSi guise, the new A4 is an impressively capable and refined car. While the 150bhp TDI is likely to be the volume seller in Ireland, the 3.0 TDI is a much more impressive proposition with its 272bhp six-cylinder power-plant providing oodles of torque and sending power to all four wheels via the car’s Quattro system.
So does the new Audi A4 have the compact executive class sewn up? Right at this moment in time I am inclined to say it does. While I prefer the more svelte and aggressive styling of the new Mercedes C-Class, particularly in AMG spec, like the BMW 3-Series and Jaguar XE it looses out to the A4’s uber-cool and tech-laden ‘virtual cockpit.’ It is a close one as always, but the A4 gets the nod this time around.