► Facelifted Audi A4 driven
► Tweaked looks and techier interior
► Driven in 40 TFSI specification
The A4 is big business for Audi. Ignore all the new SUVs and crossovers joining the line-up in recent years – the A4 is still its biggest seller, with one in five Audis sold having an A4 badge on the boot. Pretty important, then, so it’s little surprise to see the car’s mid-life updates aren’t especially extensive.
Audi will tell you there have been significant changes made to the A4 and, on the face of it, you might not believe them. It’s quite clearly still an A4, but apparently everything has changed outside apart from things like the bonnet, roof and boot lid.
Up front, the grille is now wider and looks flatter, a set of new LED lights are present and the new nostrils from the A1 have been grafted on to S Line models. At the side, there are fewer lines to keep things simple, while at the back a new set of LED lights can be found, along with a new chrome strip linking the two. See? Extensive. It all adds up to a slightly more aggressive look on higher-spec cars, and gives the A4 a little more street cred than it had before.
Inside, Virtual Cockpit is now standard on all models, while the infotainment screen protruding from the dash has grown to 10.1 inches in size and features the firm’s latest operating system. While that’s good news if you’re a fan of touchscreens (it’s easy to operate and close to hand), it’s not so good if you liked the old system – the rotary dial has gone. It’s not quite the fancy system found in the A6/A7/A8 with haptic feedback – it’s a simpler version, like that on the Q3.
Other than that, very little has changed inside. But that’s only a good thing. The A4 still has a fantastically-built interior with simple heating controls and a pleasant feel. No complaints.
What about the engines?
There’s a new 2.0-litre TDI with a choice of 134bhp or 161bhp outputs (badged 30 TDI and 35 TDI respectively) replacing the old 147bhp unit. In the higher output form, it begs the question why you’d pay more for a diesel A4, unless you go for the new S4 TDI.
Audi’s love for diesel doesn’t mean it’s left out the petrols – the pick of which we’d say is the 40 TFSI. It’s a 2.0-litre turbo with 187bhp paired with a seven-speed S Tronic auto ‘box.
Without sounding cliched, it’s the kind of engine where you’d wonder why you’d bother buying anything else. There’s a more powerful 45 TFSI, but we’re not sure it’s worth the extra outlay over the 40. If you want to be hooning around in an A4, go the whole hog for the S4. Otherwise, the 40 TFSI is a very smooth and refined performer that demonstrates enough get up and go (if you want it) by switching between different drive modes.
The priority for A4 drivers is long-distance refinement and comfort, and this engine excels here. It’s barely audible at most speeds, and will pick up to overtake with enough shove should you require it.
It comes with the firm’s tried-and-tested S-tronic gearbox, but it falls behind the auto boxes found equivalent BMW or Mercedes models. It just isn’t as quick and smooth to react.
Question is… is the 3-series still better to drive?
Yes. If you want the finest handling compact exec, head for BMW or Jaguar. However, the A4 isn’t far behind – certainly not in agility terms.
It feels light on its feet when you throw it into a corner, and while the steering feedback isn’t as communicative as a BMW or Jag, we’ve got few complaints about the weighting of it. You just feel a little more removed from the action – like the car is doing the hard work for you.
Body roll is kept in check nicely, and it doesn’t feel like the A4 will come undone too easily on a twisty set of roads; it took quite a bit to get it to misbehave in the form understeer. If you’re planning on going wild all of the time, the availability of Quattro will appeal, but most of the time you’re not going to notice or really benefit from it. Unless you’re trying to get up a slippery gravel track.
What else do I need to know?
Not much else, really. The trim structure now consists of Technik, Sport, S Line, Black Edition and S4, with the entry-level model coming rammed with so much kit you probably don’t need to get any other model.
That includes full LED headlamps, Virtual Cockpit, a 10.1-inch MMI Navigation Plus system, reversing camera and sensors, three-zone climate control, cruise control and heated front seats.
The only issue with that is you’re limited with engine options and – let’s be honest – you’re going to want an S Line or Black Edition to benefit from that sharper look.
Audi A4 saloon: verdict
The 3 Series is still the choice for the most involving drive from your saloon car, but the A4’s talents are just as broad. It now has a sharper look, a suitably tech-heavy interior to keep you entertained, and a wide selection of engines to pick from.
As long as you specify the adaptive suspension, it also manages to blend comfort and control very well indeed. If you don’t the ride does get a little fidgety, especially on models fitted with larger wheels.
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