Despite not looking dramatically different to its predecessor, the all-new Audi A4 has been entirely reworked to be more efficient, safer and more high-tech than any version of the brand's best-selling model that has come before it, and it needs to be given it competes in a highly competitive segment of the market that includes the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series, not to mention the Lexus IS and Infiniti Q50 (and soon the Jaguar XE).
The new body, for example, is most aerodynamic of any A4 yet, with a co-efficient of drag of just 0.23, which the company claims is the best in the mid-size luxury car class. However, it is larger than before, measuring 4726 millmetres long and riding on a wheelbase that spans 2820mm - the current car measures 4701mm long and sits atop a 2808m wheelbase. It is marginally wider than before (now 1842mm wide, was 1826mm) but its height is unchanged at 1427mm.
In comparison to the sedan, the A4 Avant is 1mm shorter (4725mm) in length, and sits 7mm higher (1434mm).
As for the styling, Audi says the bold horizontal line across the front and the rear of the car emphasise the width of the new model, and its signature single-frame grille, while there are optional LED and Matrix LED headlights available that "make technology a visual trademark".
So it's bigger, it's sleeker, and it's also lighter. Audi claims the new A4 is up to 120 kilograms lighter than its predecessor, depending on the engine.
The engine range consists of four- and six-cylinder power units, with seven to choose from when the car launches in Germany: three petrol and four diesel, with front-wheel drive standard across the range (though quattro all-wheel drive is available for the high-end 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines).
The A4's power outputs are said to have "increased significantly" but with fuel consumption drops of up to 21.0 per cent.
On the petrol side, the entry-level engine is now the 1.4 TFSI, which produces 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque. It offers acceleration from 0-100km/h in 8.9 seconds in either the sedan or the Avant fitted with the S tronic automatic, while fuel use is claimed at 4.9 litres per 100km for the sedan, which is down 21.0 per cent compared to the previous 1.8 TFSI base model.
The next petrol model up is the 2.0 TFSI which is available in two different versions.
The standard version produces 185kW of power and 370Nm of torque, which "allows sporty driving". Accordingly, Audi claims the 0-100km/h time for the seven-speed S Tronic quattro all-wheel drive model at 5.8 seconds for the sedan, where the Avant is claimed at 6.0sec. No fuel figure is quoted for the quattro, but the front-drive auto sedan is said to use 5.7L/100km.
The second 2.0 TFSI engine is a new "groundbreaking" Ultra model with 140kW and 320Nm of torque. This version is focused on economy over performance, and features an "absolutely new combustion method" that sees it claim to use just 4.8L/100km in sedan guise and 5.0L/100km in the Avant bodystyle. Audi claims the S tronic-equipped sedan will hit 100km/h from standstill in 7.3 seconds, with the auto wagon 0.2sec slower (7.5sec).
On the diesel side, there are two versions of the 2.0 TDI engine - again, one focused on performance, the other on efficiency.
The performance model has 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque, with claimed performance times of 7.7sec for the front-drive S tronic sedan and 7.9sec for the S tronic Avant. Audi claims the S tronic sedan will use just 4.1L/100km, where the Avant claims 4.2L/100km.
The low-output 2.0 TDI has 110kW of power and 320Nm of torque, and in seven-speed S tronic sedan guise it can hit highway speed from standstill in 8.7sec (9.0sec for the wagon). There's no consumption figure for the auto versions, but Audi claims the manual sedan uses 3.8L/100km, while the manual wagon claims 4.0L/100km.
The other two diesel engines are derivatives of the 3.0 TDI, which is powered by a six-cylinder turbo diesel engine, with the high-spec version gaining all-wheel drive as standard.
The entry-level version produces 160kW/400Nm, and the consumption for front-drive versions is claimed at just 4.2L/100km - which, according to Audi, makes the 3.0 TDI "the world’s most efficient six-cylinder engine".
The high-spec 3.0 TDI quattro with standard S tronic is the performance king of the range, pumping out 200kW and 600Nm, with the sedan version offering a rapid 0-100km/h time of just 5.3sec, while its claimed consumption is 4.9L/100km. The Avant 3.0 TDI quattro is slightly slower (5.4sec) and a touch thirstier (5.1L/100km).
Audi claims the new A4 will drive better than ever before, with its handling making "a great leap forward: on the one hand sporty and performance oriented, with a focus on comfort at the same time". The new model has seen redeveloped five-link axles, and a new electro-mechanical steering system that help in the weight loss department. The company says the combination of these elements "lay the foundation for dynamic handling and first-class ride comfort while also reducing fuel consumption".
All models from the 140kW point upwards will come with a dynamic steering system that has a variable ratio system that changes the resistance according to the car’s speed and the steering angle, and also adjustable suspension with sport or comfort settings. These are controlled through the Audi drive select system.
The interior of the new-generation A4 has also seen massive changes, with Audi adopting its 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display in front of the driver, which is supplemented by a new 8.3-inch monitor on top of the dashboard (the standard version will be a 7.0-inch unit). That screen is driven by the rotary controller with touch-pad that sits in front of the gear shifter.
While it appears that there are vents running across the width of the dashboard, the fins in front of the passenger are for decoration only. That said, there are areas of colour ambient lighting inside the cabin, and the car also features the "Audi phone box" with wireless charging (using the Qi standard).
Audi claims the new A4 Avant offers the best boot space of any car in this class at 505L, while with the rear seats folded there is 1510L of space. A couple of enticing items for wagon buyers include an electric luggage compartment cover, and electric opening and closing tailgate, both of which are standard on the Avant.
Safety is also in focus for the new-generation A4, with Stop&Go adaptive cruise control one highlight. It features a traffic-jam assist system that "eases driving in slow-moving traffic" by taking into account parameters including road markings and the amount of traffic in front. Other safety items such as semi-automated parking, rear cross-traffic alert, collision avoidance with automatic braking, and lane keeping assistance will also be offered, as well as a camera-based speed sign recognition system.
Audi Australia has not yet confirmed exact timing for the arrival of the new-generation A4, other than to say the car will arrive in 2016.
While "everything is on the table" for the new model in Australia, expect all local details including engines, specifications and pricing to be revealed in the coming months.