You can blame Indian fuel quality for the delay in Audi launching the new A4 with a diesel engine. Audi’s sophisticated new 2.0-litre TDI unit that powers this A4 was built to run only on Euro 6 grade diesel, which is not available in India. As a result, the carmaker had to undertake the long and costly exercise to retrograde the engine to run on India's Bharat Stage 4 grade diesel.
In Audi-speak, the '35 TDI' badge on the trunk is there to tell you this version of the A4 comes powered by a four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel engine. Peak power is a strong 190hp and max torque is an impressive 400Nm. These figures are identical to the BMW 320d’s engine and also put the A4 diesel right between the Mercedes-Benz C220d and C250d diesels on the power scale. However, where its rivals are rear-wheel drive, the A4 diesel is front-wheel drive only; there’s no Quattro version in India either. Transferring the power from the engine to the driven wheels is a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Remember, the last A4 diesel featured a CVT, so the driving experience promises to be better here.
Badge aside, there’s only the twin exhausts at the rear that distinguish the diesel A4 from its petrol sibling. It’s a smart-looking car whose design errs on the side of understatement.
What’s it like on the inside?
Again, there’s nothing new to report about the diesel A4 here; the cabin is identical to the A4 30 TFSI petrol car. That is to say it’s a very modern Audi cabin that scores big for material quality and ambience. Audi’s brilliant ‘Virtual Cockpit’ digital instruments (only on this top-spec Technology trim car), MMI infotainment system and haptic buttons for the air-con that preview the function as you run your finger on them make the cabin look and feel cutting-edge. Front seat comfort is good and passengers in the back also get plenty of room to sit comfortably. The all-important rear seat is well padded but it’s a place best suited for two occupants; the middle passenger will find space tight.
What’s it like to drive?
The last-gen A4’s diesel was the quietest in the class, and the new engine keeps that flag flying high. It’s really quiet at idle, and though there is a mild grumble at low revs and you can hear the engine when you floor the accelerator, it’s never loud or harsh. In average driving, especially engine and overall cabin noise levels remain admirably low.
Performance is really impressive. Sure, its 8.08 second 0-100kph time is well off the BMW 320d M Sport’s launch-control-enabled 7.25 second benchmark figure, but you’ll never feel left wanting for power in the A4. The A4 responds well to even mild taps on the throttle and generally feels peppy and light on its feet. It’s alert at low revs but comes into its element as the engine revs on crossing 2000rpm. The mid-range is strong and if you keep the pedal to the metal, the engine will rev happily to 4700rpm before the electronics step in and upshift automatically. As always, the dual-clutch gearbox is quick in gearshifts and adapts well to your driving style. You can also use the paddle-shifters and the chunky gear lever for manual control of gearshifts.
As mentioned, the A4 is available in India in front-wheel drive only. Launch the car hard and you will feel some effects of torque steer and, honestly, it’s not as exciting around the bends as its rivals either. However, you always do get a good feeling of control at the helm and handling is always safe and predictable, which should be enough dynamic prowess for the majority of A4 buyers. You can fine tune the experience to the extent thanks to the four driving modes on offer – Normal, Dynamic, Auto and Individual. Were it up to us, we’d go for the Individual setting and put the steering in Dynamic and engine in Normal. The compromise brings in the more feel-some steering from the sporty mode while doing away with its mildly jerky low-speed power delivery. The driving modes don’t alter the A4’s suspension characteristics, but the stock setup is rather nice as is. Bump absorption is excellent and the overall ride quality is largely free from that typical firmness we’ve come to expect from European cars. That the suspension does its work quietly is also something that helps maintain the calm in the cabin. If there’s something to bring up, it’s that there is perhaps a bit more up and down movement at triple-digit speeds compared to the petrol engine car. But even so, the A4 diesel feels well damped at all times.
Should I buy one?
Recommending the new A4 to anybody so far has always included a caveat about the petrol engine. It’s a good engine, no doubt, but comes across as a bit underwhelming for a luxury car. With this diesel engine, the A4 finally gets the power it always deserved. The diesel engine is strong, refined and, with an ARAI-tested fuel-economy of 18.25kpl, promises to be fuel efficient too. In fact, the diesel engine immediately makes the new A4 feel more complete and elevates it in terms of desirability. Also, with a price tag of Rs 40.2- 43.3 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the A4 35 TDI is competitively priced by class standards. The long wait for the A4 diesel has been worth it.