Audi A4 3.0 TDI SE Quattro (2008) review

Published: 20 May 2008

Audi A4 3.0 TDI SE Quattro (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

Pick the optimum combo for a compact exec and the Audi A4 3.0 TDI SE Quattro might spring to mind: V6 diesel grunt and smoothness, the handling promise of four-wheel drive, suave looks and finish and a tempting equipment level. It costs nearly £30k (more like £42k, optioned-up like the test car) – and there’s stiff competition at that level, so the Audi A4 3.0 TDI will have to be good to get noticed.

Forget Quattro, it’s an Audi, so does it handle?

Let’s get the disappointment out of the way first: in a word, no. Jump out of the old A4 into this and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by its poise and alacrity. Problem is, if you’ve jumped out of a 3-series or a C-class (even a Mondeo) you’ll be gutted. There’s just no fun to be had punting this Audi hard, and that’s a real shame.

It feels leaden. You might think that's just impressively solid build quality until you enter a corner and find the A4 strangely reluctant to turn in. The ride is firm too, even in ‘comfort’ mode, yet still it tends to bobble and lurch over long-wave imperfections, so it never feels truly tied down, even if you accept a numbed spine and shift the Drive Select mode to ‘dynamic’. Yes, Quattro keeps it all secure through the twists, but the numb steering (too light at a canter, too heavy once you turn it in anger) thwarts any engaging interactivity you might otherwise have enjoyed.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Audi A4 3.0 TDI first drive

So what’s the point of this ‘sports’ saloon, then?

Maybe we need to stop thinking of the A4 as a sports saloon. It’s a compact exec and it fulfils a lot of desires as a static object, oozing class, desirability and straightforward driveway appeal. Park this up outside the family homestead and the Joneses will be envious. Period.

It’s also swift and exceptionally refined. There’s a modicum of diesel grumble at idle but it disappears as soon as you make forward progress, becoming progressively quieter as the revs increase. It’s masked a little by (typically Audi) road noise but motorway travel is incredibly subdued and there’s ample, instantaneous thrust on offer at any speed.

What’s it like inside?

As you might expect, Audi leads the class for cabin ambience. It makes the 3-series feel stark and the C-class angular and sterile. It’s also genuinely spacious for five adults, thanks to a wheelbase and body length that are notably long for the class.

Yet there’s a sense that Audi is paying for tech advances elsewhere by notching back on trim quality here and there. Some of the obsessively anal detailing has gone; in come silver-painted plastics (instead of aluminium), unlined door pockets, and some hard plastic finishes where once you’d have had more finger-friendly surfaces. Even the doors slam with a more lightweight clunk than of old. Yes, it’s still gorgeous and not quite like the switch from VW Golf Mk4 to Mk5, but the commanding lead that Audi once had in this department feels as if it’s being eroded, and with it goes Audi’s cast-iron USP.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Audi A4 3.0 TDI first drive

Verdict

I really wanted to love this A4 and, in fact, the oomph and silence of its engine nearly won me over completely. But it’s just too wooden dynamically in the face of the 330d and co, and it doesn’t reward you by being silken over bumpy surfaces in recompense. The clunky six-speed manual conspires against smooth progress too. Lack of torque-steer aside, it’s difficult to justify splashing out on the Quattro hardware.

The 3.0-litre TDI might work better as an auto, but none is available. Instead, save yourself a couple of grand and go for the 2.7 TDI with its standard ‘eight-speed’ CVT system, itself no less refined and still brisk.

Until Audi fits Tiptrronic to the 3.0 TDI and softens the suspension, it will remain as satisfying as bedding your pin-up dream and discovering she’s frigid.

Specs

Price when new: £29,500
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 2967cc 32v V6 turbodiesel, 237bhp @ 4000-4400rpm, 369lb ft @ 1500-3000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Performance: 6.1sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 40.9mpg, 183g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1655kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4703/1826/1427

Rivals

Other Models

Photo Gallery

  • Audi A4 3.0 TDI SE Quattro first drive car review: interior picture
  • Audi A4 3.0 TDI SE Quattro first drive car review: side picture
  • Audi A4 3.0 TDI SE Quattro first drive car review: boot picture
  • Audi A4 3.0 TDI SE Quattro first drive car review: interior picture
  • Audi A4 3.0 TDI SE Quattro first drive car review: rear three-quarter picture
  • Audi A4 3.0 TDI SE Quattro first drive car review: interior picture
  • Audi A4 3.0 TDI SE Quattro first drive car review: side picture
  • Audi A4 3.0 TDI SE Quattro first drive car review: boot picture
  • Audi A4 3.0 TDI SE Quattro first drive car review: interior picture
  • Audi A4 3.0 TDI SE Quattro first drive car review: rear three-quarter picture