First Drive: Audi A4

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Significant updates, including a core focus on connectivity and electrified drivetrains, will keep the Audi A4 popular with fleets, thinks Martyn Collins.

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SECTOR Compact Executive PRICE TBC FUEL 34.9-55.4.mpg (provisional WLTP) CO2 101-166g/km (provisional NEDC Correlated)

The changes made to the latest A4 are officially a mid-generation facelift but with just the bonnet, roof and tailgate carried over, the revisions are actually extensive. While our ‘Spotlight’ feature describes the updated model as “evolution, not revolution”, there’s still no doubt this facelift has been more thorough than most.

This includes exterior design. The A4 now has a more aggressive look and includes new, all-LED headlights, plus a broader, flatter version of the ‘Singleframe’ family grille and a re-sculpted front bumper with extra horizontal elements to emphasise the A4’s width.

The side of the A4 is softened with the distinctive new details around the arches; these hark back to the blistered arches of the original Quattro hatch, but also bring the styling in-line with the bigger A6.

Changes for the rear of the A4, largely follow the front with new, sharper LED rear light clusters.

The biggest change for the interior is the adoption of the Volkswagen Group’s third-generation modular infotainment platform – MIB 3. The most obvious result of this is the larger 10:1-inch touchscreen display, which is standard across the range.

Gone is the old rotary controller, and the MIB 3 system includes preloaded Audi connect infotainment services, available on a three-year subscription basis and bringing Google Earth mapping, street view and flight, weather, traffic and fuel pricing information. The Audi Connect plus portfolio adds in a host of extra services, such as online traffic sign and hazard information and an on-street parking search function.

Elsewhere inside the new A4, the all-digital virtual cockpit is also standard, and there are also new three-spoke multi-function steering wheels to finish the look.

All models are well-equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, three-zone climate control, front seat heating, front and rear parking sensors and reversing camera.

The first of the new A4s we tried was the 2.0-litre 190hp, Avant Quattro 40 TDi, with seven-speed S tronic transmission, in a specification similar to S-Line. Despite the performance, NEDC Correlated CO2 emissions are predicted to be 140g/km, with an expected WLTP combined mpg figure of 44.1mpg. On the road, this A4 feels unchanged from the outgoing pre-facelift car. Noisy at idle, yet willing and torquey (400Nm) on the move. This engine is well matched to the smooth S Tronic transmission too.

On 18 rather than 19-inch alloy wheels the ride was comfortable, although there was some obvious road noise from the low-profile rubber. With Quattro four-wheel drive, the handling is predictably tidy – rather than being a keen handler. There’s plenty of grip, body roll is well contained, and the steering is reasonably precise. But it’s hard to tell the difference between the different Drive Select modes.

We then moved on to the 245hp 2.0-litre 45 TFSI, with the 48V mild-hybrid system, this time in pseudo off-roader Allroad guise, again with seven-speed S tronic transmission. Power is up to 245hp, C02 is up to a predicted 155g/km, but torque is down to 370Nm. On the road, the 45 didn’t seem any more powerful than the 40 TDi diesel – but the Allroad’s taller stance and more upright dynamics might have something to do with this. It’s best described as tidy and grippy, but the taller stance certainly equals more body roll and sacrifices some steering precision. Even on 19-inch wheels the ride was comfortable.

Finally, we got to drive the very un-fleety performance range-topper, the S4, in Avant form. The S4 is now powered by a new 3.0-litre V6 diesel pumping out a heady 347hp and 700Nm. Still, despite 0-62mph acceleration in just 4.8 seconds, and a distinctly illegal 155mph top speed, C02 is still just an estimated 166g/km and the anticipated WLTP combined consumption figure is 39.8mpg.

It might be a diesel, but the S4 doesn’t behave that way – power comes in strong from 2,000rpm and it’s happy to rev. This was the firmest riding A4 I tried, but that equalled added dynamism, which made it the most fun.

Verdict:
The facelifted A4 adds sharpened looks and more technology to an already proven, well-executed, high-quality, compact executive package.

Key Fleet Model: 40 TDI S Line

Strengths: Tidy drive, sharp design, technology

Weaknesses: Tidy rather than involving drive

Star rating: 4/5

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Martyn Collins

Martyn has 18 years experience as a motoring journalist, working across a wide selection of B2B and consumer titles. A car enthusiast since his early years, Martyn has a particular interest in the latest models and technology and in his spare time enjoys driving his own Minis.