Audi A4 2020 35 tfsi mhev
launch-review

2021 Audi A4 review

Australian first drive

Rating: 8.2
$55,600 $72,900 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    6.1L
  • Engine Power
    110kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    140g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars
The refreshed 2021 Audi A4 is now more affordable across its simplified range.
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The newly refreshed 2021 Audi A4 range has lobbed in Australia, bringing a revised skin, updated tech, and lower prices across the range with the entry-level sedan now starting under $60,000.

Audi says the A4 continues to be an important vehicle in its passenger car line-up by accounting for 32 per cent of sales within Ingolstadt’s A4/A5 range. Only the A5 Sportback accounts for more, with 40 per cent of sales.

Little wonder, then, Audi is keen to keep interest in its premium mid-sizer high, making this comprehensive midlife refresh more than just skin deep.

The range kicks off with the A4 35 TFSI at $55,600 plus on-road costs. That’s $500 cheaper than the model it replaces, and a trend mirrored across the simplified range. Next rung on the A4 ladder is the 35 TFSI S line that starts at $59,900, again cheaper than the model it replaces – the now deleted 40 TFSI – by $1500.

The A4 45 TFSI quattro S line starts at $68,900 (plus on-roads), some $1400 cheaper than the outgoing model.

Audi has also trimmed its range of wagons to just three. The A4 Avant 45 TFSI quattro S line is priced at $71,400, making it $1900 cheaper than the model it replaces, while the Audi A4 allroad 45 TFSI quattro starts at $72,900, also $1900 cheaper than the outgoing model.

And making a return to our roads is the Audi A4 allroad 40 TDI quattro priced at $69,900.

That’s pretty sharp pricing from Audi Australia, which is keen to point out at the local launch that neither of its German rivals can boast a sub-$60K buy-in point for either the BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Nor can they offer all-wheel-drive underpinnings at this pricepoint.

The most obvious changes come externally. Taking inspiration from its larger (and all-new in 2019) A6 sibling, the Audi A4 gets new LED headlights across the range, a lower and wider single-frame grille, and tweaked (functional) air intakes and details on the front bumper. Additionally, S line variants feature slots along the bonnet edge; a nod to the original Audi Quattro of 1984.

At the side, Audi claims all the body panels are new. The wheel arches have been pumped up and out, while the sharp creases found along the side of the previous A4 range have been softened to enhance those flared arches and offer, according to Audi, a visually lower centre of gravity for a sportier aesthetic.

Still in profile, the C-pillar is thinner than in the previous generation, while the rearmost glass panel abutting that C-pillar has a steeper rake, again to enhance the sporty aesthetic while also more closely resembling the new A6.

At the rear, new tail-lights feature a new LED signature. Those lights are linked by a horizontal line across the lower boot lip. The rear diffuser has also been reworked and houses trapezoidal tailpipes.

The overall effect is of a slightly more muscular and sportier-looking A4 – no bad thing.

Inside, all A4 variants get Audi’s latest infotainment set-up, now anchored by a 10.1-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, smartphone mirroring, and DAB+ radio. Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is standard across the range bar the entry-level 35 TFSI, which makes do with traditional dials with a smaller TFT driver display nestled between.

Click here for full details of specification across the A4 range.

Audi brought a fleet of refreshed A4s to the (socially distanced) local launch. We had the opportunity to drive some of the variants, starting with the 35 TFSI S line. It’s important to note Audi has ditched the incumbent’s 1.4-litre petrol, swapping it out for a lower-tune version of the 2.0-litre turbo petrol found in the broader range.

In 35 TFSI trim, it’s good for 110kW (3900–6000rpm) and 270Nm between 1350–3900rpm; a bump of 20Nm over the older model. Power remains the same.

Sending those outputs to the front wheels (there’s no quattro variant for the 35 TFSI) is Audi’s seven-speed dual-clutch auto, and when conditions are perfect and your reaction times spot on, Audi claims it can complete the run from standstill to 100km/h in 8.6 seconds.

That’s not exactly rapid, but it’s certainly enough mumbo for most situations. We spent most of our time in the 35 TFSI on the highway, where it proved an effortless cruiser sitting on 110km/h. With a compliant ride, if not exactly supple, the 35 TFSI gobbled up the kays with unflustered ease. And yet, despite its inherent calm, there was enough pep left in the newton-metre tank for overtakes.

A stretch of twisting country roads provides a nice foil to the highway run, and while not exactly a bona-fide corner carver, the front-wheel-drive A4 sedan offers enough sportiness – just – to allow for some playfulness.

That playfulness comes at a cost, though, the 35 TFSI chewing through 8.1L/100km against Audi’s 6.1L/100km claim. Still, what price a bit of fun?

Stepping into the A4 45 TFSI quattro S line ($68,900) ups the ante in terms of driver engagement, its 2.0-litre turbo four making a healthy 183kW (5000–6500rpm) and 370Nm between 1600–4500rpm. The same seven-speed dual-clutch auto sends drive to all four wheels, and it’s at once apparent this is a more settled car under spirited driving. As you would expect.

Audi says the sprint to 100km/h will take just 5.8 seconds, and by the seat of the pants that feels about right. The 45 TFSI simply hunkers down and leaps forward in a beautifully controlled and linear manner. Predictable.

The ride on the standard-fit Sport suspension (not adaptive, not even as an option) helps give the 45 TFSI a slightly menacing air thanks to its 23mm lower ride height over the 35 TFSI. And again, the ride remains compliant, the A4 settling quickly over bumps and lumps. That lowered ride height, married to low-profile rubber on 19-inch wheels, does make for the occasional fidgety ride over crappier B-roads. It’s certainly not jarring, not by a long stretch, but it’s worth noting.

Out on the highway, the A4 45 TFSI remains composed and quiet at 110km/h with plenty in reserve for overtakes. The seven-speed dual-clutch auto remains impressively refined and intuitive, too, although offers the merest hint of hesitation when heavy throttle demands a downshift.

Impressively, the 45 TFSI returned a fuel reading of 5.8L/100km against Audi’s 7.1L/100km claim. Admittedly, a fair chunk of that was spent on the highway – prime real estate for Audi’s 12V ‘mild-hybrid’ system to kick in. Still, even short bursts of coasting, thanks to the system, couldn’t account for the 1.3L discrepancy between indicated and claimed.

Audi says the 12V system (larger models use a 48V system) can save up to 0.4L/100km. It does recommend you take your foot off the accelerator via the driver display when optimal coasting conditions are reached. It’s unobtrusive, too, the stop-start barely felt on the fly.

The A4 Avant 45 TFSI quattro S line offers a very similar driving experience to its three-box stablemate, if fractionally slower. Audi claims 6.0 seconds to 100km/h against the sedan’s 5.8sec, no doubt partially because of the 45 extra kilograms it's carrying unladen.

Cargo capacity for the Avant is rated at 495L (against the sedan’s 460L), expanding to 1495L with the rear seats folded flat. Roof rails come standard, too, as does an electric gesture-control tailgate.

We saw an indicated 8.1L/100km after our time in the Avant against Audi’s 7.3L/100km claim. Like the broader range, the Avant scores Audi’s 12V stop-start coasting function.

For those after a slightly more rugged countenance and an elevated driving position, the A4 allroad 45 TFSI quattro certainly presents as a decent option. It’s distinguished visually by its 46mm taller ride height, cladding around the wheel arches, and Audi’s single-frame grille featuring chromed vertical garnishes.

It sits on 18-inch alloys (against the wider range’s 19s), and on the road it’s at once more compliant and settled, thanks in part to its higher-profile rubber. Additionally, the front track is 6mm wider than its Avant sibling and 11mm wider at the rear. The net effect is of a surprisingly capable and engaging drive, that wider track helping to counter body roll under harder cornering. It really is a pleasant driving experience.

Audi says the allroad 45 TFSI will scoot to 100km/h in 6.1 seconds while using 7.4L/100km. Our short time in the allroad saw an indicated 7.5L/100km over a mix of urban, highway and rural back roads. Not bad.

Inside, every A4 looks and feels refined as Audi continues with its slightly less-is-more approach to interior design. While not exactly minimalist, there’s an inherent premium feel that doesn’t try too hard with garish features to make an impact.

The use of materials and the way everything is laid out and ergonomically sound is a boon. However, while I’ve been critical in the past of Audi’s rotary dialler controlling the prime infotainment functions instead of a touchscreen, the switch to that tech has come at a cost.

Yes, it looks great, with crisp resolution and sharp graphics, but a lack of shortcut buttons and its positioning atop the dash makes for a less-than-ideal user experience while on the fly. The touchscreen diverts attention and focus away from the road. Something to be aware of.

The entire A4 range carries a five-star ANCAP rating thanks to a decent list of standard safety and assistance tech. Eight airbags, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, and an exit warning system that alerts the driver if a cyclist or car is approaching from behind when opening doors.

Those wanting even more advanced tech like adaptive cruise control, active lane-keeping assist, a head-up display, high-beam assist, 360-degree cameras, and parking assist will need to stump up $2900 for the Assistance Plus package.

Audi offers a three- or five-year service plan across the A4 range priced at $1710 and $2720 respectively for all petrol variants, including the allroad. The soft-roading diesel comes with its own service plan priced at $2050 for three years or $3190 for five. Audi continues to provide buyer surety across the range with its three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Slim.

There’s no question the refreshed (and now more affordable) Audi A4 range represents a step up for the mid-sizer. Whether a sedan or wagon, the A4 continues to impress with its – mostly – friendly ergonomics, cabin refinement and, most importantly, driving experience.

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