AUDI’S all-new A4 has arrived on the island, and looks set to take the market by storm: as well as a choice of 6-speed manual or 7-speed S tronic automatic transmission, there’s a good range of powertrains, starting in the petrol variants with a 1.4 litre with 150 bhp, a 2.0 litre with 190bhp and the top of the range 2.0 litre delivering 252bhp; diesel engines come in 2.0 or 3.0 litre, with 150, 190 and 218 bhp.
Being Audi, you can also opt for Quattro all-wheel-drive on some of the models.
All models come as standard with alloy wheels, xenon headlights, climate control and a 7-inch colour display screen. Daytime running lights and light and rain sensors are also standard across the range.
Audi says that, during the development work, high priority was placed on the reduction of CO2 emissions, and all technologies were focused on reducing drive resistance. As a result, the A4 sedan has the best drag coefficient in its class at 0.23.
Compared with the previous model, the car’s dimensions have grown, but its weight has been reduced significantly – by up to 120 kilograms, depending on the engine. The body of the new models is one of the lightest in its class which Audi says is due to “an intelligent material mix and lightweight construction”.
Last weekend I tested the 1.4 litre TFSI with the Sport package, and found it both extremely comfortable and a pleasure to drive. The suspension feels softer than what I recall in previous A4s, although you can make it stiffer if you select ‘Dynamic’ from the options on the display screen (and if you want to have fun, then I’d recommend it – although if the road is a tad bumpy your rear seat passengers may be rather less enthusiastic). For normal driving, especially with passengers on board, the ‘Comfort’ setting is probably preferable.
A Stop-Start function means the engine cuts out when you are stopped, say at traffic lights, thereby cutting fuel consumption, and though it takes a split second to start up again, the ‘hold assist’ ensures that you don’t roll backwards in the meantime.
There’s a speed limiter for drivers who tend to take their eyes off the speedometer, and highway driving is simplified by the adaptive Cruise Control.
The first thing I noticed when I got into the car was how comfy the seats were: these are the Sports seats, and they have great lumbar and thigh support, as well as being easy to adjust to the desired height with the electric buttons on the side.
There’s a lot to take in when you first sit behind the wheel – the centre console houses the MMI control concept, which is a newly designed feature and acts as the main control element. The entire MMI control logic is similar to that of a smartphone and includes an intelligent free-text search function. You use it to change the car’s settings, and to adjust the infotainment and radio functions. It seems complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it it’s very user-friendly.
The cockpit is classy and beautifully finished, with aluminium inlays contrasting with the dark leather trim. It spacious too, with plenty of handy storage spaces.
As with so many cars these day, there’s no key – just a fob and a push-button start/stop switch.
My test car performed admirably when driven hard and although it’s quite a big car it hugged the road on sharp bends taken at speed, accelerated promptly when I floored the pedal and came to a smart, straight-line halt in emergency braking. The automatic gearbox is remarkably smooth, and if you want to override it you can use the steering wheel mounted paddles to shift up or down.
The test car was fitted with an anti-glare rearview mirror, which made night-time driving less of a strain on the eyes.
The lighting took a bit of getting used to: as I switched on the ignition for my night-time test, the entire cockpit suddenly lit up as all the dials and switches were illuminated in a fairly bright white light – it felt rather like being in an aeroplane! Once I adjusted, though, they were all easily visible when I needed them.
A nice touch is the ‘follow-you-home’ exterior lighting at night – press the key fob to unlock the car and each door handle is illuminated, for ease of entry, and when you lock the car as you leave, the headlights and door handle lights stay on for a few seconds so you can see where you are going.
The boot is enormous – it has a capacity of 505 litres and the loading sill, which is scratch-protected by a stainless-steel cover, is just 63 centimeters high – so loading heavy cases shouldn’t be a problem.
Prices start at €30,900 for the entry level 1.4 petrol variant with six-speed manual gearbox rising to €42,300 for the 252 bhp 2-litre Quattro with 7-speed automatic transmission. Diesel versions start at €32,500 up to €42,500 for the 3-litre Quattro automatic. Whichever you choose, you get a lot of car for your money.