New Audi A4 first drive

Audi A4

Audi A4 Whilst the giant VW Group is mired in its ‘dieselgate’ issues, to survive it has to be business as usual for the numerous car brands operating under its umbrella.


So it’s definitely business as usual for Audi UK who will be delivering the first of their all-new A4 Saloons to waiting UK customers from 21 November. The A4 Avant estate models will join the line up in January, the AllRoad models next Spring and the S4 versions next Summer.

When complete Audi UK expects the A4 range of two wheel drive and quattro all wheel drive models to achieve around 28,000 UK sales in a full year, an 18% increase over current demand.

There will be 54 variants of the new ninth generation compact executive saloon, known as the A4 for five generations, with a choice of seven TFSI petrol and TDI turbodiesel EU6 compliant engines, 12 of these units being the lower CO2 emission Ultra TDI units. Power outputs so far range from 150 to 272hp with emissions starting as low as 99g/km and fuel consumption up to 74.3mpg.Customers will also have the choice of three specification levels, SE, the new Sport and the S-line. Depending on the engine chosen there is the availability of a redeveloped six speed manual and seven or eight speed S tronic auto transmissions plus two and four wheel drive. Prices start from £29,900 for the Saloon and £27,300 for the Avant estate.

Katie Purcell, Audi UK’s A4 product manager said at the media launch this week that the new A4 is expected to have a 60% sales uptake by fleet and business user-chooser customers, 92% of all buyers will choose a TDI turbodiesel powered model with 60% of those being Ultra versions. With regard to the choice of engines, initially 40% of UK customers are expected to opt for the 2.0-litre TDI 190hp turbodiesel, 20% for the 150hp TDI, 32% for the 3.0-litre TDI and just 8% for the 1.4/2.0-litre TFSI turbocharged petrol engine options.

She added that 60% of A4 customers will choose a Saloon model, 50% of customers will choose the new Sport level of specification, 30% will opt for S line and 20% for the SE with around 17% choosing a quattro model.

Although the A4 is globally Audi’s best selling model range, in the UK the A3 family of models – Hatchbacks, Cabriolets, Saloons and Sportbacks, is the best selling range accounting for around 40,000 units a year. Audi UK expects to achieve another record sales year in 2015 with a target of 160,000 registrations from their range of over 50 models.

In the new 65 plate registration month of September Audi’s UK sales were 28,437 – an 11.4% increase over September last year and sales year-to-date are up by 5.4% with 133,300 registrations. The recent VW Group’s ‘dieselgate’ issues appear at this stage not to have dulled demand. Since the Audi brand was introduced to the UK market 50 years ago it has achieved over two million sales.

The all-new Audi A4 range uses their new MLB-evo longitudinal engine platform, the same as that used for the new Q7 SUV models. The A4, built from high strength steel is up to 120kg lighter than before, 21% more fuel efficient and the engines average 25% more power. Although it is marginally larger the rounded body design is more efficient with the lowest-in-class 0.23 drag coefficient.

Audi A4 Audi A4 Audi A4 Audi A4 Audi A4 Audi A4 Visually from the outside the design could only be an A4, it is more of an evolution than a revolution and perhaps not as memorable as I might have expected. It is one of the biggest and certainly roomiest cars in is class where the main competitors remain the revised BMW 3 Series, Jaguar XE and the Mercedes C-Class. There is 24mm more headroom in the front of the cabin, importantly 23mm more rear passenger legroom and there is a 480-litre boot at the rear which increases to 965-litres with the rear seats folded down. The Avant estates will offer 505 and 1,510-litres of load carrying space. Under the skin in addition to the new platform is a new five-link front and rear suspension for improved ride-refinement and handling.

As always from Audi the interior is impeccably high in design and quality. It adopts their latest intelligent cockpit features including the virtual instrument binnacle introduced with the Audi TT and now used on the new Q7. This replaces the traditional speedometer and rev counter with a digital display that can also show the sat-nav. The information is also displayed on the centrally positioned 7.0-inch MMI monitor. There is also a function called Audi Phone Box which offers inductive wireless charging for a Smartphone, improved Bluetooth reception through the car’s aerial, Wi-Fi and the many functions/Apps from the phone are replicated onto the MMI screen.

On board communication and driving technologies are now the biggest must-haves in this premium brand sector, especially for company car drivers. The new A4 is probably the nearest we now have to an autonomous driving car if all the options are added to the specification. The high-tech functions include Predictive Efficiency Assistance which helps fuel saving using sat-nav data to anticipate hills, bends, speed limits and junctions. There is also Traffic Jam alert, a system able to drive, steer and brake the A4 at speeds up to 38mph. These are just a part of the integrated on-board systems together with radar, ultrasonic and camera functions that are the big steps towards autonomous driving. As usual there are the usual lane assist, auto parking, automatic braking and emergency braking that stops the car even if the driver doesn’t react in time. It is a technology tour-de-force but many of these functions are options. Fitted as standard to all versions is the usual Audi Drive Select function which allows the driver to choose between modes such as Economy, Comfort and Dynamic performance.

My first test drive with the new A4, only Saloons were available, was the 2.0-litre TDI Ultra SE with the 150hp TDI turbodiesel engine and a six-speed manual gearbox priced at £29,150 which is the least expensive diesel model in the range. Audi, always willing to up-sell their models and option, said most UK customers will choose the 190hp version of the engine with Sport spec which costs £31,000. But the 150hp version appeals more with lower VED road tax of £0 cost, the lower Benefit-in-Kind tax rate of 17% versus 18% and the £1,850 saving in purchase price would make my test car’s specification more appealing to a considerable number of customers.

The 150hp turbodiesel unit in Ultra low emission form and manual gearbox has CO2 emissions of just 99g/km so VED road tax is no-cost and officially this will return 74.3mpg in the Combined Cycle. On our test driving routes using motorway sections and winding rain-drenched Cotswold winding and hilly roads the figure was 51.4mpg, well short of the official figure. Top speed is 130mph and zero to 62mph takes 8.9-seconds.

With 320Nm of torque from just 1,500rpm the engine is responsive in most gears except for the overdrive sixth gear ratio which is best kept for open road cruising speeds. Driving on winding country roads changes between fourth and fifth gears was most often the case to keep up momentum. The engine was generally smooth and quiet with noise being well suppressed in the well insulated A4 bodyshell. It was made better to some extent by the acoustic glazing option for the front side windows which is part of the privacy glass package and costs £450. For those travelling daily long high speed journeys on motorways I would recommend this option because it made our test A4 as quiet as the A8 luxury saloon. On its standard fit 17-inch alloy wheels the ride was compliant and comfortable in most of the Drive Select optional settings. On the larger 18-inch wheels fitted to the 190hp version I also tried the ride was definitely not as comfortable or compliant and the more powerful engine in reality didn’t offer any great advantage over the less costly to buy and run 150hp TDI Ultra unit.

Overall the new A4 might not look that much different from the outside but the technology it contains both as standard or as part of the many extra cost options puts it marginally in front of the competition. The latest BMW 3 Series is still the most rewarding to drive but in all other respects, apart from the exterior styling, it is the A4 that excels.

MILESTONES: Audi A4 Saloon 2.0 TDI 150hp Ultra SE manual. Price £29,150. Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, TDI direct injection turbodiesel, EU6 compliant, 6-speed manual. Performance: 130mph, 0-62mph 8.9-seconds, Combined Cycle 74.3mpg (51.4mpg on test), CO2 99g/km VED road tax £0, BIK company car tax17%. Insurance group: tbc. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,726mm, W 1,842mm, H 1,404mm, boot 480 to 965-litres, 4-doors/5-seats. For: Impressive on-board driver support technologies, low emissions, low running costs, superb cabin design and quality, comfortable and more rear legroom than before. Against: Conservative styling, adding options comes with a wealth warning, real-life driving fuel economy was well short of the official figure, conservative exterior styling. Miles Better News agency 

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