After driving the new 2016 Audi A4 range at its international launch in Italy, we surmised that the gentle evolutionary step forward in the A4’s lineage was indeed a success, and while the tweaked styling was far from avant-garde, the step forward in refinement and efficiency more than made up for it. As such, we scored the new A4 range an eight overall.
The same sentiment rang true during our local launch drive, where Anthony Crawford concentrated on our pick of the A4 range, the 2.0TFSI quattro, and gave it an overall rating of nine. We remain convinced that the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine is the premium option within the A4 portfolio, but now we get to spend some time with the efficiency (with a sprinkling of performance) option, the 2.0TDI quattro S tronic variant. For sanity’s sake, let’s call it the 2.0TDI quattro.
The premium mid-size sedan segment is (and has always been) a serious battleground for the Euro brands, and historically in Australia, it’s always been a fight between BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Audi has edged ever closer to that battle over the past decade and while the brand may still have some ground to cover, in a premium sense at least, Audi is now closer than ever before. Taking the fight up to 3-Series and C-Class is no easy task, you can be sure.
Some potential A4 owners will care less about dynamics and instead care more about outright efficiency, and that’s where the 2.0TDI quattro slots into the range. Despite being a capable performance tool when pushed, the oiler is also a solid daily driver option given its relative efficiency.
It’s another reason why we believe the A4 is close to the best all-rounder in this segment, with an important caveat. That caveat relates to options – and not just the cost of them or how quickly they add up. More than one CarAdvice tester appreciated the ride comfort and bump absorption of this A4 for example, but it’s fitted with optional adaptive suspension. We haven’t tested an A4 locally without adaptive suspension, so we can’t say for sure whether the platform is as solid without it. That’s why we say there’s the options caveat. Without a solid list of options, the 2.0TDI quattro A4 might in fact present as a different proposition.
Let’s take a look at those aforementioned options then…
As tested here, pricing for the 2.0TDI quattro starts at $66,900 plus on-road costs. Not bad you say? Seventy grand is fair for a premium Euro sedan you say? Well, the pricing onslaught doesn’t stop there so strap yourselves in.
Our test A4 has plenty of options added to that base price including: metallic paint ($1420); the Assistance Package, which brings with it Audi active lane assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go including traffic jam assistant, distance indicator and Audi pre-sense front, turn assist, collision avoidance assist and high beam assist ($1900); Audi Matrix LED headlights ($1700); the Technik Package, which includes Audi virtual cockpit – fully digital instrument cluster with 12.3-inch high-resolution colour display and head-up display ($2100); adaptive sport suspension ($1700); and, finally, a sunroof ($1950).
Added to the base price, those options help bring the price to a hefty $78,427 plus on-road costs. It starts to quickly drag the A4 into a more expensive realm, not to mention different competitive set than you might have believed at the outset. It’s why we’re adamant that any praise this A4 gets should be weighed against the options that absolutely make it a better vehicle.
Of those options, the addition of Audi’s excellent virtual cockpit – for the princely sum of $2100 as part of the Technik Package – is perhaps the most jarring. Stay with me, we’re not luddites here by any means, it just seems to be overkill in this particular sedan. We absolutely loved virtual cockpit in the TT, for example, but it’s an addition that doesn’t seem necessary in an A4 sedan fitted with a whopping, crystal clear, centrally mounted screen, that with navigation selected, displays exactly the same mapping screen as the virtual cockpit screen.
We could quite easily flick the sunroof and the metallic paint, but the safety technology that comes with the assistance package is something we wouldn’t want to have to do without. Given we haven’t tested an A4 with standard suspension and the adaptive seems to be so capable, we’d have to wear the cost of that option too.
Whichever way you slice it though, the price of your ‘ideal’ A4 is going to quickly divert from the quoted base pricing without you having to try too hard. Premium sedan ownership doesn’t come cheap then.
While we can quibble about whether virtual cockpit is necessary, there’s one subject we won’t quibble about – the quality of the A4’s cabin. The flawlessly executed interior, trimmed in black and finished to the highest standard is beautiful, understated and elegant. It’s comfortable, too, and the rationalising of various buttons and switchgear makes for a classier appearance and a much less cluttered centre console.
What the two-screen set-up of our test vehicle does do however is allow me as driver to monitor the sat nav, while the passenger controls the media system for example. It’s not a major buying decision by any means, but it is a tangible benefit to having two screens.
The seating position is excellent and allows you to sit low into the cabin or higher up depending on your preference, while you can also rack the seat back far enough to get longer legs into the footwell. Slim pillars make visibility from the driver’s seat exceptional. The second row is similarly comfortable, although really tall front passengers will eat into rear leg space.
The interior features just enough storage space without either underdoing or overdoing provision. The forward cupholders aren’t perfectly positioned, but they work and we’d like a little bit more room in the centre console storage bin, but they are minor niggles. The boot is practical, too, offering up 480 litres of storage space.
One of the A4’s highlights – regardless of whether you choose petrol or diesel – is the inherent quality of the powerplant. The 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine as tested here generates 140kW between 3800-4200rpm and 400Nm between 1750-3000rpm, is matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and uses an ADR-claimed 4.6L/100km. On test, we used an average of 6.0L/100km over the course of a week.
We didn’t make any special effort to drive efficiently either, making that real world figure genuinely impressive especially given the urban traffic we spent plenty of time negotiating. There’s once again little argument, then, that the diesel option is the most efficient, if saving money on fuel is your primary concern.
Above rolling speeds, the engine and gearbox are sublime, so much so that you could easily fool passengers into believing it’s a petrol engine. The oiler is smooth, quiet and refined. It’s also got plenty of grunt from low speeds, too, given the chunky torque figure.
There is a strange flat sport or hole in acceleration below rolling speeds though that seems to be a combination of the gearbox and the way the diesel generates its torque. It’s not brutal or incredibly invasive, but it is noticeable. The other occurrence we took issue with is the way the A4 shakes when the engine comes back to life after shutting down in traffic. It jars – no pun intended – with the otherwise refined nature of the 2.0TDI A4.
The consequence of the otherwise smooth seven-speed gearbox and the thick wave of torque, is an impressive turn of speed in regard to roll on performance, an extremely solid mid-range and effortless highway cruising. Eating up the distance is never tiresome behind the wheel of this A4. The excellent quattro AWD system plays its part too, and while we didn’t get to test this A4 in the wet, it comes into its own even more on slick surfaces with such a competent drivetrain underpinning the vehicle.
There’s comfort and insulation to the ride and bump absorption around town, too, which is why we say the adaptive suspension is a must. While you can switch between comfort, auto and dynamic modes, we left the system in comfort most of the time – especially around town. The A4 is capable of handling nimbly enough when you need it to, but also capable of sailing over poor road surfaces with enough comfort to ensure the cabin is rarely affected. We appreciated its all-round abilities in terms of suspension tune.
The steering deserves mention, too, as it’s perfectly weighted for just about every driving scenario you can concoct, and while it works beautifully at speed, we loved it around town at parking speeds. The precision on the move translates to ease of use at lower speeds, and Audi has definitely nailed the balance between both.
The Audi A4 is covered by a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with roadside assistance included. You can also opt to add to that warranty and cover your new vehicle for longer periods. Over the first three years or 45,000km, whichever comes first, the Audi A4 will cost $1620.00 to service.
Is the A4 2.0TDI quattro perfect? No, it isn’t that, but it’s not a mile off either, especially when it comes to fulfilling the premium mid-size sedan brief. We think the dual-clutch gearbox works better with the petrol engine, too, meaning the diesel isn’t quite as refined as it’s sibling.
An overall score of 7.5 still reflects the fact that this A4 is a damn fine car though and you’d be mad not to consider it if you’re also looking at the competition. Audi continues to do what it has been doing well for some time now and the evolutionary improvements made to the A4 are perhaps the best example of that.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos.