At the risk of undermining the very principle of a car review and sending TopGear into a self-consuming spiral, is it possible for a car to be too competent?
Case in point: the superfrugal, eco-tastic new Audi A4 2.0 TDI. If you’re after an efficient, premium, mid-size saloon, we can offer few reasons not to buy this entry-level diesel. But, at the same time, we’d sort of prefer it if you didn’t. Not because we hate the polar bears and wish to see their natural habitat destroyed (though Frozen Planet’s depiction of the fluffy white gimmers as evil seal-murdering bastards has damped our ice-cap-saving instincts) but because, like a goody-two-shoes teacher’s pet, the A4 is so irritatingly correct.
For starters, it’s so frugal that, with careful driving, filling the tank once should last you until old age. The A4 officially returns 112g/km of CO2 and a freakish 66mpg: until the new 109g/km 320ED arrives in February, that, at least, gives Audi something to boast about.
It doesn’t feel like a wheezy asthmatic, either. The diesel is strong and broad, easily capable of hauling the A4′s bulk, and smooth with it. If we’re nitpicking, the A4 – though a sight better than older Audis – still doesn’t ride with a Jaguar’s lightness of touch, nor offer the fingertip engagement of that pesky BMW. Most will see the Audi’s class-leading, gadget-laden interior and fine motorway refinement as a fair trade-off for a few microns of dynamism.
But the A4 is so coldly, rationally competent in just about every department that it’s in danger of turning Audi into the Toyota of the exec sector: a purveyor of cars as white goods: objectively excellent, emotionally cold. OK, so the A4 would be a brushed-steel fridge-freezer not an off-white washing machine, but, even so, it’s a machine bigger on function than fun.
Clearly, the diesel A4 will sell in droves, proving that, no, it is not possible to be too competent, and that we are being unreasonable: a shortage of drama is a damning fault in a supercar, but in a diesel schlepper it’s probably a bonus. But we never claimed this reviewing process was reasonable or selfless. To keep our roads vibrant and diverse, we’d love you to buy a Chrysler 300C, an Alfa 159 or even a Suzuki Kizashi, inferior though they are. We’ll understand if you don’t.
1968cc, 4cyl, FWD, 134bhp, 236lb ft, 27.9kmpl, 112g/km CO2, 0-100kmph in 9.3secs, 215kmph, n/a kg
If you were stuck with this car for the rest of your life, you’d be entirely happy. Not thrilled, but thoroughly satisfied. Cold, rational brilliance