Spotlight: Audi A4
Advanced connectivity and electrified drivetrains are the headlines for the heavily-updated A4 range, explains Alex Grant.
Evolution, not Revolution
It’s not all-new, but this is a significant update. The bonnet, roof and tailgate are the only exterior parts carried over from the outgoing A4, while the new, animated, all-LED lighting and the swage line that breaks across the top of the doors bring it in line with the larger A6.
Audi also hasn’t changed the line-up much between generations. UK demand is almost equally split between the saloon and ‘Avant’ estate, though slightly weighted towards the former. Take-up is strongest for S line, which includes the biggest visual changes compared to the old car, now marked out by colour-contrasted intakes on the bumper and triple air inlets at the leading edge of the bonnet – a nod to the Sport Quattro rally car of the 1980s. Around 5% of UK customers opt for the Allroad Quattro, which features a 35mm raised height, wider tracks, larger wheels and under-body protection for light off-road use.
The Fuel Picture
Attitudes towards diesel are shifting, even in the compact executive class. So you might be surprised to hear that Audi has no plans yet for a plug-in hybrid A4, despite strong fleet uptake in rival products. The launch line-up includes three ‘mild hybrid’ petrol engines, but the only electrified diesel is the 344hp S4. None of the diesels are certified to RDE2, though this will follow within months, ahead of the January 2021 deadline.
In the UK, the entry-level 148hp petrol engine is expected to remain the best-seller both in retail and fleet. At launch, this will be the only version not fitted with an automatic transmission as standard, though Audi will offer a manual option for the 188hp shortly afterwards. Two ‘mild hybrid’ diesels, at 134hp and 161hp, are also due to be added to the range in the near future. No fuel economy or CO2 data has been released yet.
Audi set the benchmark for cabin aesthetics with the outgoing A4, so there’s no need for radical updates here. The biggest change inside is the new MMI infotainment system, now featuring a touchscreen instead of the old rotary controller. It’s better suited to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity than hopping from icon to icon using a wheel, and offers simpler search function using natural phrases – either voice commands or typed into the screen.
The A4 also has the foundations of more advanced connected services. It can receive live information about forthcoming hazards, parking availability and (in selected cities) traffic light sequences transmitted via short-range data transfer. In turn, it will recommend an average speed based on the next green light, said to encourage smoother driving. Optional technology includes the ability to add new software features via a subscription, and a smartphone app for keyless access and engine starting.
The A4 is a fleet staple – half of UK cars are sold to businesses – and that sector has changed significantly since the outgoing model arrived in 2015. So it’s surprising to see the updated version introducing neither RDE2-certified diesel engines, nor a plug-in hybrid. While that’s unlikely to topple it out of this sector’s best-sellers, both soften this familiar fleet car’s competitive edge. AG