They may only have 1bhp, but that's all these angry little cars need...
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The Top Gear car review:Audi A4
For:Cabin insulation,ride comfort, slick drivetrains, class-leading interior
Against:Little engagement, most of the tech kit is optional
What’s this, then?
Audi’s new A4 saloon, with a £50,000-plus price tag.
Wooah. And it’s not the S4?...
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:
Your eyes are deceiving you: the new A4 is a big improvement on before
What is it?
What do you mean ‘what is it’? Can you not tell the all new A4 apart from the A6 and A8? Of course you can’t – Audi’s Russian doll styling technique does a fine job of baffling onlookers. OK, we’re being deliberately myopic and when we allow our eyes to focus properly we can tell that this all-new A4 does look a bit more mature.
But hardly revolutionary. That’s because Audi was busy investing all its pennies in less obvious places. 90 per cent of the A4’s components are new, up to 100kg has been lopped off the kerbweight, and the focus isn’t on the driving, but the technology.
When we say the focus isn’t on the driving, we mean Audi has decided not to chase BMW and Jaguar down the ‘keen driver’ route. So no, the A4 is nothing like as richly satisfying as a Jaguar XE or as nimble and playful as a BMW 3-Series.
The electric steering is sharp but you’re never exactly sure precisely where the front wheels are pointing and there’s precious little dynamic involvement or sense of enthusiasm from the inert chassis.
Instead, what the Audi does, and does very well indeed, is deliver a wonderfully refined, relaxed and comfortable experience that makes the miles slip effortlessly past. The bushing and damping is fabulous: no clonks thunk back through the rigid structure, no shudders or rattles or steering kickback either. It’s perfect isolation.
The ride is placid, the engine smooth, the seven-speed double clutch slick, the body level. It’s extremely composed. Just not a lot of fun. As such, stick with a 2.0-litre TDI, rather than a V6 or turbo petrol.
On the inside
More good news. Audi has donated the TT’s interior design template to this saloon. Yes, all cars in this class have lovely interiors made from great materials, but even with that taken into account, the Audi is a step ahead.
The integration of tech is convincing, too. It’s easy to navigate the menu systems and connectivity includes twin Bluetooth links, wi-fi, wireless phone charging, smartphone interface (both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported) and to go with that, plenty of safety systems to stop you spearing into the back of the car in front while trying to rearrange your Spotify playlists.
If this all sounds appealing to you, there’s just one thing to be aware of – much of the technology Audi boasts about isn’t standard (although both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are, surprisingly). Apart from that, the A4 will be a very nice car to own and run. Residual values are predicted to be among the best in class, and if you go for the 148bhp TDI Ultra, you slip below the 100g/km CO2 limit. If such things matter, that’s something the BMW 3-Series struggles with. It’s still the better car, though.