Audi is clearly looking to move the dial in 2020 despite the pandemic and economic downturn, introducing a raft of new and updated cars in a bid to get the jump on its prestige German counterparts.
It seems like few weeks ago it launched a fresh range of RS models, and now it’s bringing a significantly-refreshed Audi A4 and A5 line-up to showrooms. Not that you would notice, at least at first glance.
They’ve always been neat and tidy, nicely polished automobiles with clean lines and high-end cabins. But they’ve always been a bit plain against the competition despite the Quattro advantage – a feature more relevant in markets like Europe and the United States some might argue.
Now, Audi thinks it has the answer with a completely refreshed A4 line-up, from sedan to high-riding Allroad.
Technically the A4 is now in its fifth generation but if you count the Audi 80, it’s actually in its ninth generation. That’s evolution for you.
Despite the fact you won’t immediately pick up the myriad changes between old and new, there are plenty of new parts to satisfy discerning buyers in this extremely competitive segment.
Almost all the body panels are new and Audi’s signature grille is now flatter to emphasise its greater width. It’s all the better for it, given its sleeker profile.
And like most new models these days the new A4 Sedan and A4 Avant have grown in size. They’re longer and wider by 24mm and 5mm respectively, while the A4 Allroad gets pumped-up wheel arches.
It might be larger but it’s a sportier look, no question, thanks to the stronger-looking guards and lower-set shoulder line – all of which are supposed to accentuate the car’s Quattro genes if you buy the designer’s spin.
The front and rear light signatures are new, too, thanks to standard LED headlights and taillights across the range.
Overall, it’s another good, clean look from Audi but with a slightly sportier skew that should make it a more appealing against the latest BMW 3 Series and older Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
The new A4 range effectively deletes the 40 TFSI variant from the previous sedan line-up, and instead skips from the base 35 TFSI straight to the 45 TFSI versions. It’s a simpler approach based on previous sales data.
The good news is the new car is cheaper despite the fact it’s effectively a new model (given the new look), with fresher tech and more kit included in the standard inventory.
Kicking off the A4 line up is the entry $55,900 before on-roads 35 TSFI sedan. The old model would have cost you $56,100 before on-roads with less torque.
Stepping up to the $59,900 before on-roads 35 TSFI S line Sedan yields no changes to the drivetrain but adds a host of additional features, including the S line interior package among other kit.
From there it’s a $9000 jump to the significantly more powerful $68,900 A4 Sedan 45 TFSI Quattro S line with 183kW and 370Nm, and more features to boot.
The $71,400 Audi A4 Avant 45 TFSI Quattro S line is the only wagon (bar the Allroad). It has the same powertrain and features package but commands a $2500 premium for the extra load space and specific five-door styling.
Additionally, the $69,900 A4 Allroad 40 TDI quattro is the only diesel-powered A4 in the range with 140kW and 400Nm from its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine.
The $72,900 Audi A4 Allroad 45 TSFI Quattro is the petrol version and the A4 range-topper, and is lighter by 20kg than its diesel sibling.
While equipment levels have increased in the latest Audi A4 line-up there are still a stack of options, mostly bundled into the four available packages.
They’re the Assistance Pack ($1900), Assistance Plus Pack ($2900), S line interior Pack ($2100), and Carbon and Black Pack from $2900 – with pricing dependant on which specific variant you choose.
The entry-level BMW 320i is priced from $68,900 before on-roads, while the base Mercedes-Benz C200 costs from $65,800 plus on-roads. Both use the same 2.0-litre displacement and turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engines.
Of the 11 paint colours available for the new Audi A4, only Ibis white and Brilliant black are offered as no-cost options. The nine other colours cost between $1531 and $1990.
For those who want 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo power with standard all-wheel drive and eight-speed auto, there’s the $99,900 S4 with 260kW of power and 500Nm of torque, or the $102,400 S4 Avant using the same drivetrain.
Almost every Audi A4 we drove was equipped with the $3770 Assistant Plus Pack that beefs up active safety systems by adding features such as adaptive cruise with stop and go, active lane assist with steering intervention, and Audi pre-sense front which provides collision warnings.
There’s also collision avoidance assist, turn assist, high beam assist, a head-up display, and a 360-degree camera using four wide-angle cameras for parking assistance.
It begs the question as to why some of this stuff isn’t included as standard, at least on the more expensive variants.
We cycled through most of the range on the local drive program commencing with the 35 TFSI S line, given there was no entry-level 35 TFSI on the launch.
Even the base Audi A4 boasts features such as 19-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, leather upholstery, electric driver’s seat with four-way electric lumbar supports, MMI navigation with a 10-inch touchscreen, three-zone climate control, and DAB Digital radio.
Front and centre in the cockpit is the new 10.1-inch touchscreen, replacing Audi’s rotary dial system which, frankly, wasn’t bad. But these days it’s become a bit old-school.
While the screen is ultra-high-definition and just 13mm thin, it’s not exactly perfectly integrated into the dash.
There’s a lot of kit apart from the highlights listed above but as the entry variant, it does miss out on the brilliant Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display, which boarders on a deal-breaker for me.
All Audi A4s get a space saver spare wheel and sport suspension (lowers the ride height by 20mm) as standard.
Interestingly, there were no options on our S line 35 TFSI A4 Sedan tester with the exception of metallic paint at $1531.
Either way, it does add quite a bit more kit such as S line exterior styling details, sports front seats, ambient lighting, auto-dimming side mirrors with kerbside dipping, and an auto-dimming and frameless rear-vision mirror.
There’s also a flat-bottomed sports leather steering wheel with paddle-shifters and electric front passenger seat with increased adjustment, and wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.
Stepping up to the more powerful Audi A4 Sedan 45 TFSI Quattro S line adds all-wheel drive to its more powerful turbo-four engine, as well as different wheels.
Apart from a beefed-up 10-speaker, 180W sound system and a driver’s seat memory function it’s all about the engine at this A4 level.
This particular 45 TFSI quattro S line was also equipped with the $3770 Assistance Plus Pack.
On top of that, it was also equipped with the tasty $2730 S line interior package that spruces the car up with super-supple Fine Nappa leather and contrast stitching throughout, along with an S line flat-bottomed steering wheel with perforated leather sections, stainless steel pedals, and a 30-colour ambient lighting package.
A4 Allroad 45 TSFI quattro buyers also get a few extra bits like roof rails, sun blinds for the rear door windows, an electric rear tailgate with electrically operated luggage cover, and hill descent control.
The A4 has a five-star ANCAP safety rating. The tests recorded a 90 per cent score for adult occupant safety, 87 per cent for child protection safety, 75 per cent for pedestrian protection, and 75 per cent for safety assist.
It’s important to note this latest model gets additional safety features as standard above those on board at the time of the crash test.
Either way, standard safety equipment includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian protection, eight airbags, side assist, lane change warning, rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors with reversing camera, pre-sense rear, and tyre-pressure monitor.
There’s also exit warning system which detects cyclists and cars when opening doors, and adaptive cruise control.
Whichever Audi A4 you choose, you’re guaranteed a tasteful, classy cabin with the latest tech and high-quality switchgear. Audi has been the benchmark in this regard for so long, but that’s not to say BMW and Mercedes-Benz haven’t caught up.
The dash is clean and its layout is uncluttered and neat, but you’ll want to be careful in your choice of trim – some of which is a bit off, to be honest. Not Audi’s best work, at least in a few of the cars we drove.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say none of the aluminium inlays were all that appealing. Far too bright for that.
By far the best (and a must have in my opinion) is the genuine carbon twill as part of the Carbon and Black Pack that suits any of the A4 models to a tee. There’s lots of it too, throughout the entire cockpit as well as the exterior bits mentioned earlier in the piece.
The seats, regardless whether they’re the sports seats or standard pews, are beautifully comfortable even after hours behind the wheel – make sure to try out the Nappa leather versions for their extra supple qualities.
If there were any complaints about space in the previous A4 sedan (and I don’t recall any) there are unlikely to be any such issues in this latest version. Importantly, there’s good rear legroom and plenty of elbow space throughout.
All-round vision is good, too, thanks to the lower belt line, while luggage capacity is 460 litres for the sedan and 495 litres for both the Avant and Allroad models, expanding to 1495 litres with the rear seats folded in a 40/20/40 split.
All new A4 variants with the exception of the yet-to-be released S4 are powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder engine under various states of tune and mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The four petrol engines also get 12V mild hybrid technology (MHEV).
The diesel engine powering the Audi A4 Allroad 40 TDI is a turbocharged in-line four-cylinder motor making 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque. It can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 7.9 seconds
The entry-level A4 35 TSFI generates 110kW and 270Nm driving the front wheels. It can sprint from 0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds, with a top speed of 224km/h.
Stepping up to the more popular 45 TSFI gets you 183kW and 370Nm driving all four wheels. It claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.8 seconds for the sedan (6.0 secs for the Avant) with a top speed of 250km/h.
While the Audi A4 Allroad 45 TFSI uses exactly the same drivetrain as the Avant, it’s 70kg heavier and needs 6.1 seconds for the 0-100km/h dash.
We kicked off in the lower-spec A4 Sedan 35 TSFI S line, where the first thing that hits you is the refinement of this engine. It’s super smooth and very quiet for a turbo-four – quietest in the segment I would suggest.
Sometimes you can’t hear the motor at all, even at cruising speed, and while this lower-powered variant is no firecracker, there’s very little turbo lag from the get-go, which made it feel entirely tractable around town.
The seven-speed dual-clutch – standard fitment across the A4 board – is utterly seamless, in that you can barely detect the shifts unless you put the boot in. Even then, there’s little or no fuss.
Ride comfort is impressive with the passive sport suspension set-up fitted to all the Audi A4 variants we drove. Mind, not nearly enough time to provide a definitive report, but even over some of the rougher-edged roads the ride was pleasant with all but the most severe broken surfaces effectively neutralised by the fixed-rate set-up.
Impressive, too, was the car’s roadholding when pushed in the tighter bends. It responds well to quick directional changes (remembering the 35 TFSI is front-wheel drive), maintaining its composure despite me trying to unsettle the car with mid-corner throttle inputs.
The steering, too, is nicely weighted and quick enough for those that want to have a bit of fun in their new Audi. It might not offer genuine punch, but the 35 TFSI is a capable car no matter what the driving conditions.
Hop into the uprated 45 TSFI Quattro and you’re immediately aware of the extra power on hand. It’s very satisfying and even more tractable on our route out from the Sydney CBD to Garie Beach.
There’s just so much more grunt available to the driver for quicker overtaking and rewarding getaways from the traffic lights, but without compromising handling or ride.
It feels substantially quicker than the 35 TFSI. Prior to driving it, I would have said the entry-level engine is a well-rounded unit with enough poke to get the job done, the 45 TFSI will likely have you smiling a lot more.
Not to mention the added benefit of quattro all-wheel drive. You can feel the grip as you squeeze the throttle out of the tighter corners, and in the wet it’s bulletproof.
The engine is still wonderfully refined and the transmission still seamless, but punch it and there’s a satisfying rort that adds more character to the soundtrack without spoiling the premium nature of this powertrain.
While the 45 TFSI Avant is a tad slower off the mark (0-100km/h in 6.0 seconds as opposed to 5.8 for the sedan) it’s still punchy when needed, but with a slightly more forgiving ride despite using a same passive suspension setup.
Put that down to its extra 45kg and larger dimensions, perhaps.
The Allroad 45 TFSI feels more substantial. Perhaps it’s the taller ride and seating position which gives that impression, but it’s only 25kg heftier than the A4 Avant.
It uses a unique suspension system for 46mm more ground clearance than the Avant. As well, the front track is also 6mm wider than the regular model, while the rear is 11mm wider.
While we didn’t get to use the Offroad mode on the drive program, it’s available through the drive select menu and combines the functions of traction control, stability control, ABS, and hill descent control for improved traction on unsealed roads.
Ride comfort is nonetheless excellent and with the 45 TFSI powertrain it’s nicely versatile when it comes to performance. Lean on it – and we did plenty of high-speed overtaking – and there’s more than enough go.
It’s still a satisfying engine, given it’s only a tenth slower to 100km/h than the Avant with the same powertrain.
First and foremost, Audi’s latest four-pot turbo range of engines is very efficient. The 35 TFSI claims just 6.1L/100km on the combined cycle, while the more powerful 45 TFSI range achieves 7.1L/100km.
The Allroad 45 TFSI uses a tad more at 7.4L/100km, where the 40 TDI Quattro version (which we didn’t get to drive) is more efficient again claiming just 5.2L/100km.
Above 55km/h the engine switches off if conditions allow and the car will coast, saving more fuel. Below 22km/h the A4’s start/stop is also activated and it’s one of the quickest and most seamless systems I’ve experienced to date.
Audi offers a three-year, unlimited-kilometre factory warranty on all new cars, although buyers can extend that by up to 48 months to five years or a maximum of 160,000 kilometres.
The entire A4 petrol range is offered with prepaid service plans priced at $1710 for three years or $2720 for five years. For diesel buyers the plan is priced at $2050 for three years and $3190 for five years.
With SUVs now making up more than 50 per cent of cars sold in Australia it’s truly refreshing to see a premium range of cars and wagons that are good enough to render the SUV redundant. If only that were the case.
Audi has seemingly taken back the lead in this segment with superb refinement, loads more kit, and largely cheaper prices. Not to mention the new finely-honed bodywork.
Complaints are few and far between, though we’d like to see the option of adaptive suspension given it’s available in other markets.
Stay tuned for more comprehensive reviews on individual A4 variants as we get them through the CarExpert garage over the coming weeks and months.