Audi A4 Ultra first drive

Audi A4 UltraWith consecutive record years of UK sales behind them and with a record first six months of sales this year, Audi looks on course for yet another record year of sales. Much of the increase in demand can be attributed to the increase from 17 to 51 models in 13 years.


From January to June this year Audi sold 83,761 new cars in the UK, 13.5% more than the same period last year. Their 2013 UK record year sales were 142,040 units, almost 15% more than the previous record set in 2012.

Arriving in time for the new ‘64’ registration month of September comes their latest additions to their range, the Ultra diesel versions of the A4, A5, A6 and later this year the A7 models. Eventually Audi will have Ultra versions with petrol and diesel engine options in almost every model in their range except for the hard-core sports cars and their e-tron plug-in hybrids.

Mike Bennett, Audi’s UK product manager for A4 and A5 ranges, said the Ultra models will be the most fuel and tax efficient versions in each of their model ranges and will appeal not just to fleet and company car drivers but to retail customers as well as due to their reduced taxation costs. But the Ultra models are not just about the significant fuel savings, lower CO2 and NOx emission levels, it is about the materials and paints they use during construction and the way the engine produces its power and how that reflects in the vehicle’s performance and driveability.

He added that although the Ultra versions are just arriving, already they are claiming 3.8% of all Audi’s UK sales. In the case of their second best selling range, the A4 Saloon and Avant estates, the order level for Ultra versions is running at 3.5%. Last year the company sold 12,908 A4 Saloons and 7,047 Avants, 18,139 of them were diesel powered and 1,816 were petrol models. Overall 69% of A4 total sales went to fleet and business user chooser customers. Audi’s best selling model range is the A3 with 23,089 diesel models and 8,326 petrol versions sold in the UK.

Mile Bennett concluded by saying that as new or revised models and Euro-6 compliant engines are brought to market so more Ultra diesel and petrol versions will join their line-up.

Audi A4 UltraAudi A4 UltraAudi A4 UltraThe A4 Ultra Saloon, Avant and A5 Coupe use a new version of the Audi 2.0-litre, four-cylinder TDI engine with 163PS (161bhp) but with a significant increase in torque, now 400Nm (295lb ft) from just 1,750rpm. The higher torque means that higher gears can be used during driving so improving fuel economy and lowering emissions without any loss in performance. All Ultra models use a 6-speed manual gearbox.

With up to 67.3mpg possible in the Combined Cycle for the A4 Saloon 2.0 TDI Ultra and with CO2 emissions of 109g/km, both Benefit-in-Kind company car tax and VED road tax are each one group lower than the standard non-Ultra 2.0 TDIe 136PS model which has CO2 emissions of 112g/km and fuel economy of 65.7mpg. The new UItra version costs £0 for the road tax First Year rate then £20 for Year Two onwards with BIK tax at 17%. The TDIe version is £0 First Year then £30 Year two onwards with BIK tax at 18%.

Small amounts perhaps but every little saving helps. However there is a significant price premium to be paid for the Ultra version over the standard model. An A4 2.0 TDI 163PS Ultra SE model costs £28,320 on-the-road, by comparison a 2.0 TDIe 136PS SE model costs £27,300 but of course the Ultra model offers more power and torque, slightly improved acceleration, better fuel economy and lower taxes.

Using the A4 2.0-litre Ultra Saloon as an example of the new Ultra model line-up, this version is available with two levels of specification, SE and SE Technik. The SE equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels and a lowered suspension to reduce aerodynamic drag, Audi Concert CD audio system with DAB digital radio linked to a 6.5-inch colour monitor, automatic lights and wipers, rear parking sensors and electronic climate control. The SE Technik specification adds Milano leather upholstery, MMI Navigation, iPod connection, the Audi automatic parking system and front and rear parking sensors. The SE version is priced at £28,320, the SE Technik at £29,320.

With higher tax levels forecast for older and non Euro-6 engines the Ultra versions are important new models. This revised engine qualifies for ‘clean diesel’ status thanks in part to its NOx reducing Selective Catalyst Reduction system. But cleaning up emissions hasn’t dulled the direct injection, turbocharger with intercooler engine’s overall free-revving performance and responsiveness.

Top speed for the A4 Ultra Saloon is140mph and zero to 62mph takes 8.3 seconds. Officially the Combined Cycle fuel consumption figure is 67.3mpg and on a brief test drive around the busy Warwickshire A/B roads my figure was a real-life 55.5mpg. A longer run would be even better but in any case for a roomy four door saloon it was impressive, as was the driveability.

Audi A4 UltraWith more torque, now 400Nm, this allows higher gears to be used during driving even in busy traffic conditions. Just 1,500rpm allows 60mph cruising and the acceleration response was good without having to go down the gears. Cruising at 70mph uses just 2,000rpm. At the other end of the scale it was quite possible to cope with 30mph moving lines of traffic in fifth gear and then accelerate away without dropping into fourth gear or lower.

The ride comfort, despite the lowered suspension, was good helped by retaining 17-inch wheels rather than 18-inch ones. Apart from the Ultra badging on the A4’s rear little else in terms of visual looks has changed over other versions in the range and the car retains it premium quality interior. It’s a good quality product and now benefits from lower running costs and taxes but unfortunately you have to pay a bit more to go to the Ultra level.

MILESTONES: Audi A4 Saloon 2.0 TDI Ultra SE Technik. Price: £29,320. Engine/transmission: Euro-6, 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, direct injection turbodiesel with intercooler and start-stop, 161bhp, 295lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 140mph, 0-62mph 8.3 seconds, 67.3mpg (55.5mpg on test), CO2 109g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £20 Year Two onwards, BIK company car tax 17%. Insurance group: 27. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. For: Cleaner engine with lower running costs and taxes, responsive performance, supple ride, remains a classy premium quality car. Against: Exhaust cleanliness with more power and torque pushes up the purchase price of course.    Miles better news agency

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