New Audi A4 review, test drive
4th Jun 2012 3:08 pm
Mid-life facelift brings with it a whole lot of subtle improvements.
The new A4 comes with three engine options, the potent 3.0-litre V6 diesel, the staple 2.0-litre diesel, and the base 1.8-litre petrol, which we have tested here. This direct-injection, turbocharged motor was also present in the old car, but has now been significantly revised. With the upgraded engine comes better performance, driveability and emissions. The key changes lie in the cylinder head – it’s now got two injectors per cylinder, one for direct and the other for indirect injection. The direct-injectors work at startup and with big throttle inputs, while the port injectors work under periods of low loads and speeds, and this helps improve particulate emissions and fuel efficiency.
The improved driveability is thanks to an electronically controlled turbocharger wastegate that responds faster and quickens the engine’s response to throttle inputs. This engine now makes 168bhp (10bhp up from the old engine) and a healthy 32.6kgm of torque all the way from 1400rpm to 3700rpm.
The transmission is not the expensive twin-clutch gearbox that’s almost de-rigueur on Audis these days. What it does have, though, is an eight-step continuously variable transmission that sends power to the front wheels – a combination that works in unexpectedly entertaining ways.
This base A4 doesn’t get Audi’s Drive Select system, which means it has regular, non-adjustable dampers. This, for most purposes, is a good thing as this car rides really well. At low and medium speeds, it isolates you from the road brilliantly, the suspension absorbing imperfections and sharp bumps with equal aplomb. Up the speed and there is some float and some pitching over long undulations, but never to the point of being uncomfortable. We did wish the brakes, though strong enough, had a bit more pedal feel.
Around town, the new A4’s electrically-assisted steering feels extremely light making it easy to park and manoeuvre. But like most in most Audis the steering has inert feel to it and isn’t particularly entertaining. It weighs up the faster you go and at highway speeds, there’s enough communication from the road filtering through to be keep you reassured. There’s tremendous grip from the 225/50 R17 tyres and the electronic differential lock that unobtrusively applies the brakes on the wheel that’s slipping, tightens your line and quells the understeer to give you a fair amount of entertainment through corners.
You don’t really notice at first, but the door mirrors are smaller than before. They don’t really compromise visibility but their smaller size reduces wind noise and more importantly, drag. In fact, this, along with the flat underbody help the A4 return 12.5kpl on the highway and a not too bad 8.5kpl in the city.