Audi A4 Saloon – Review
By Liam Bird
When one car amounts for 20% of a manufacturer’s total production output you can perhaps understand why they might be cautious when the time comes to replace it. Since it first went into production Audi have shifted over 12 million A4s, and thus a car that might once have been seen as something a BMW 3 series driver might buy simply for a change is now the de-rigueur choice of the modern middle manager. Audi obviously found a winning formula. You can’t blame them for not wanting to meddle with it too much.
Despite very familiar appearances, the A4 you’re currently looking at is in fact all-new – not exactly easy to tell is it? As are the engines, chassis, and body, believe it or not. It sits on parent company Volkswagen’s MLB platform, the one that will go on to form the base of all of their forthcoming larger models (the Bentley Bentayga already uses it) and as result it’s both larger and lighter (by 120Kg) than the outgoing A4.
The new Audi A4 Saloon says Audi is 21% more fuel-efficient, they also claim it is the most aerodynamic and silent car you can buy in its class. It’s also got the biggest boot apparently, but I’m reliably informed that arch rivals, the BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-class both have an identical boot capacity whilst the Jaguar XE’s trunk is just a tad smaller. That said, there is more room for rear seat passengers in the A4 now than there ever was.
Conservative exterior styling changes aside what really impresses is the new A4’s interior. Audi have long had a reputation as being the cabin-maker masters and even if they haven’t quite manged to usurp the Mercedes C-Class’s air of luxury, the technology that’s on offer (albeit most of it optional; Audi don’t even offer a sat-nav as standard and heated seats in the test-car were notable by their absence) is extraordinary.
Should your fleet manager allow it, you can specify Audi’s innovative virtual cockpit. It replaces the conventional instruments with the same huge screen TFT instrument pack. Which, like the gorgeous knurled knobs for the heating and air-conditioning, was first seen in the Audi TT. With the flick of a flat-bottomed steering wheel-mounted switch it can be configured to display the satnav map, DAB radio station, trip-computer, the tyre pressures… you name it.
There’s also the option of Apple CarPlay, which essentially mimics your i-Phone and, if you’ve downloaded Google Maps too, gives you yet another means of electronic navigation or musical entertainment. If you think of the A4’s interior as a supremely comfortable and serenely quiet, technical tour-de-force all wrapped-up in Bauhaus-inspired and unapologetically German minimalist industrial design, then you won’t too be far wide of the mark. It really is the A4 Audi Saloon’s trump card.
Where you don’t feel quite so well-connected however is behind the wheel. Granted, the 187-bhp 2.0 litre turbo-diesel fitted to the A4 TDi S-line Audi lent me provided more than enough performance for just about every situation; it’s quiet, smooth, refined, and effortlessly torquey, especially when coupled to the 7-speed S-tronic gearbox, plus it’s economical to boot. The way the A4 now rides is in a different league to Audis of old, soaking up bumps with aplomb. The steering is accurate and well-weighted, the drive select modes well judged; comfort is comfortable, and Dynamic instantly more, well… dynamic. And there’s grip aplenty. But, you never feel truly involved.
In their quest to refine the A4 evermore it’s as if Audi have left out one essential thing: You. The A4 is so precise, so well-engineered, so well executed, that the only thing left to do as a driver is guide it. You never actually drive it. It may exude class, but somehow it leaves you feeling a little cold.
“One of the best in the business”
But then that’s not really what this Audi A4 Saloon or any A4 for that matter was ever really for. A4s are bought (or perhaps more accurately lease-hired) as business tools first and drivers’ cars a long distant second. You can even get a sub 100g/km diesel version and the tax breaks that go with it. It’s something in which to cover huge distances with the minimum of fuss. Probably whilst contemplating what you’re going to say in your next meeting. It’s a four-wheeled office.
View the Audi A4 Saloon in the same unemotional state as you’ll find yourself in after driving it and, there’s no getting away from it: it’s one of the best in the business.
A4 Saloon 2.0 TDI S-line 190 PS S tronic
Engine: 1,968cc 16V turbo-diesel 4 cylinder
Transmission: 7 speed dual clutch man sequential auto mode
Power: 187 bhp @ 3,800 rpm
Torque: 295 lbft @ 1,750 rpm
0-62MPH: 7.7 Sec
Max Speed: 147 mph
MPG: 67.3 combined
Price: From £33,345 (car driven £40,230)