Sportscar performance, diesel saloon practicality
From the outside, it looks like a regular A4 — even the wheels and tyres are the same size as on the A4 2.0 TDi. The only clue is the 3.0-litre badge on the bootlid, which tells of the extra aggression under the hood. It means there’s a 2967cc V6 diesel, breathing through 24 valves, making 240bhp and a huge 51kgm of torque. To make sure all those horses are headed in the intended direction, Audi’s famed Quattro all-wheel-drive system with a 40:60 front/rear split is standard.
To be frank, the only figure that really matters in this car is the 51kgm at 1500rpm. It’s this easily accessible torque that makes the car react like a racehorse out of the gates every time you stomp on the throttle pedal. It’s what makes it growl past the 100kph mark in just 6.7 seconds. It’s so quick, it pretty much makes a light snack of the A4 3.2 petrol, eats the Porsche Boxster for lunch and makes dessert of the BMW 530d.
We had to search extensively through our road test archives to find a faster car. We found three — two are powered by big 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8s and one a supercharged 3.0-litre motor. All three run on petrol.
This one is diesel, which means diesel running costs. It’s the result of taking the 240bhp 3.0-litre motor from the Q5 and slipping it into a car that is 175kg lighter. So, the car has real poke anytime you want it. Because it makes its torque so early in the rev band and has a six-speed auto instead of the Q5’s DSG, there’s almost no lag between you pressing the throttle and the car lunging ahead like it’s been stung by a bee.
You see, it is very effortless. It will potter around town all day, and all it takes is a simple dab of the throttle to send the speedo needle arcing towards the crazier numbers on the dial. The engine’s got a wide powerband and so pulls hard and strong almost all the way to its redline. Gearshifts are smooth and the gearbox is pretty accommodating, the way it downshifts when you ask for one. Keep your foot down and it’ll fly past the 160kph mark in a truly quick 16 seconds. The best part? It deals out this aggression in a calm, composed manner.
This engine is very smooth and very quiet when you are not being silly with the throttle. Once it’s spinning fast, you can only hear a muted growl from somewhere ahead of you, and there’s absolutely no vibration. It’s this refinement and its free-revving nature that make this A4 stand out as something really special.
The rest of the car is typical A4, which is no bad thing. Except for the weirdly weighted steering, the driving experience is something to truly revel in. The Quattro system gives the car phenomenal grip, body roll is negligible and now, with the extra power, you can fully enjoy the car’s high limits.
Happily, none of this is at the expense of the ride. Despite its low-profile tyres, the Audi rides comfortably and does a good job of isolating the passengers from the road. It’s only the larger bumps and potholes that catch it out.
Inside, the cabin is classic Audi. The seats are large and comfy, and space is good. While it is pretty well specced, this car didn’t have paddleshifts, which we really missed. Also optional is Audi’s drive select system, which gives you adjustable dampers; it costs Rs 2.45 lakh. The car rides and handles well without it, so spend the extra cash only if you want to add that extra edge to your handling. As is, the 3.0 TDI costs Rs 36.40 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai), which makes it a lakh dearer than the 3.2 petrol. But for this money you get genuine sportscar performance, diesel economy, four seats and a large boot. Powerful and practical. Could you possibly want more?