The all-new 2017 Audi A4 is a terrific car. If you don’t believe me, believe US News and World Report which ranks it the best among 20 luxury small cars it tested, calling it a “perfect balance of agility and ride comfort.” Consumer Reports rates it as the “top of its class.” What Car? magazine awarded it as its Best Executive Car of 2017. Top Gear says it’s the “best A4 ever.” Kelly Blue Book USA cites it as the Winner of its Best Buy Award 2017. And the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety in the USA gave its highest safety recognition for 2017 to the new Audi A4: Top Safety Pick.
What makes a car model so deserving of so many accolades, not only for its latest model, but for every new A4 generation since it was first launched in 1994? This is what I wanted to find out for myself.
Technically, Audi’s A4 entered the market in 1994, but it did not exactly break new ground at the time. Aside from a new name and new skin, the A4 was simply an evolution of the Audi 80. This was not a bad thing, really, as the Audi 80 had always been a highly acclaimed model. Audi launched a second-generation A4 in 2000, a third in 2004, and a fourth in 2009 before launching its present fifth-generation A4 in June 2015. This new A4 became available in the market late last year.
Although completely redesigned for 2017, one would be hard put to tell the difference between the exterior of the new A4 from that of its predecessor. The A4’s exterior has always been understated throughout five generations and has never been what one might call eye-catching. Still, there is something to be said for a car that has never needed to be anything other than what it has always tried to be: unobtrusive, low-key, more interested in function over form, to whom a slippery 0.27 drag coefficient is more important than gaping hood scoops or flaring fenders.
Look closer, though, and you can discern some subtle styling changes. The front end has been given a more powerful, more muscular look. The running lights have been redesigned and headlights are now all LED. The styling and the look, however, remain distinctly and unmistakably Audi A4.
The new Audi’s interior is likewise true to Audi form, which is a compliment as Audi has always been praised for its interiors, some even saying it has the best among the three German sedan makers. Rear-seat space is improved, the new model’s wheelbase being 12mm longer, resulting in longer legroom and more rear-seat space than many of its rivals. The interior is as posh as ever with first-class leather, metals, as well as plastics used throughout. Car and Driver Magazine even claims the new Audi A4 has less interior noise than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, and Lexus LS600.
Audi has completely redesigned the instrumentation in its new A4 with its Virtual Cockpit. This consists of a huge, panoramic 12.3-inch LED screen smack in front of the driver’s line of vision. The driver uses the steering wheel switches to choose between two display modes: Infotainment, which presents a large centre window to highlight navigation (consisting of a detailed Google map and trip data), media, and sound system, flanked by a rev counter and speedo on either side; and the Classic mode which emphasises and focuses more on instruments such as fuel consumption, water, and out temperature, while minimising navigation, phone, and sound systems.
Add to that another 8.3-inch infotainment display located in the centre of the dashboard so that navigation, phone, and the sound system (a 180-watt, 10-speaker system with a single CD player) can also be managed by the front-seat passenger as well. Below the centre display are manual controls for the three-zone climate control system. Below that is the centre console housing the auto-manual gear selector lever (there are also paddle shifters on the steering wheel), a scratchpad to control the centre display, the park brake, and brake-assist switches.
While the new Audi A4 has a number of power variants, the combination I favour for normal, everyday use is the 2.0 TDI - a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre, turbocharged diesel engine mated to a seven-speed S-tropic dual-clutch transmission driving the front wheels. This engine produces 150 horsepower and 320Nm of torque from 1500 all the way to 3250 rpm. With it, the A4 accelerates from 0 to 100 mph in 8.7 seconds and can hit a t op speed of 220 mph. This new A4 is certainly no slouch. It also helps that the new car is 100 kgs lighter than its predecessor. And best of both worlds, fuel consumption, at 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres, is up to 21 percent lower than that of the previous generation A4, while power is up to 25 percent greater. I have, thus far, always advocated choosing a diesel engine for everyday use. Diesel fuel is about 25 percent cheaper at the pump than gasoline. With the A4 diesel engine, fuel consumption is some 25 percent less than that of its gasoline engine counterpart, with no meaningful difference in acceleration or top speed.