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The Top Gear car review: Audi A4
For:Interior space and quality, economy, SE Technik’s equipment for the money
Against:Cool, clinical, and still beaten by the BMW
2.0 TDI 163 Ultra SE Technik 4dr
If you were stuck with this car for the rest of your life, you’d be entirely happy. Cold, rational brilliance
The greenest A4, and also one of the best to drive. Surely that contravenes some sort of fundamental law of nature?
What we say:
The rep's new favourite hustle-mobile. Look out for these bold lights in your rear-view mirrors...
What is it?
Audi’s best-selling car was refreshed in 2012. This was to give Audi a fighting chance against the brilliant latest BMW 3-Series – but in typical Audi fashion, the facelift was understated. The biggest differentiator is the distinctive LED daytime running light pattern for models with xenon headlights. If it ain’t broke, etc.
Audi did know it had to do something about the efficiency of the A4, though. The old BMW 3-Series had it beat here, and the new one was only likely to improve. In come revised engines, with an average 11 per cent better fuel economy, plus a TDI that now does over 67mpg. Job done?
It is entirely possible for a car to be that bit too competent: the A4 is proof of this. If you’re after an efficient, premium, mid-size saloon, we can offer few reasons not to buy an A4, particularly one of the superfrugal diesels (the best-selling 2.0 TDI, bafflingly, spans four power outputs: 136bhp, 150bhp, 163bhp and 177bhp). But, like a goody-two-shoes teacher’s pet, the A4 is so irritatingly correct. It’s coldly, rationally competent in just about every department, which does leave it lacking in character.
At least this thorough competence means it is a sight better than older Audis, although it still can’t ride with a Jaguar’s lightness of touch, nor offer the fingertip engagement of a BMW 3-Series. Even the fact it trades a few microns of dynamism for such fine motorway refinement is disarmingly sensible though. It’s a machine bigger on function than driving fun.
On the inside
Quality is up inside, says Audi, with the optimised line of SE, SE Technik, S line and Black Edition trims all showing better quality throughout. As it was already arguably the best interior in the junior exec sector, this bodes very well indeed. Audi also says it’s easier to use, with fewer buttons and greater logic for the MMI control system.
There’s a brace of new online features which brings in-car internet to the A4 for the first time. Busy salesmen will love it, and may also appreciate the new Break recommendation driver fatigue system that’s standard on all A4s. Maybe this is Audi belatedly recognising how low-effort and fuss-free the A4 actually is.
Efficiency is one of the key improvements with the latest A4. Details like the fitment of stop/ start across the board improves economy. Most 2.0 TDI diesels top 60mpg: the A4 averages up to 67.3mpg and emits 109g/km CO2 in latest ultra-eco, er, ‘ultra’ guise. This looks like the one you should go for – unless, that is, you happen to stray past a BMW dealer…