As we explained while lambasting the Polo BlueMotion last month, an eco-car must combine the thrills of its full-fat brethren with the drinking habit of a teetotal camel. Dullness in the name of green will not be tolerated. But what if - perish the thought - the eco-car was better to drive?
Say a thought-perishing hello to the Audi A4e, the third e-suffixed Audi after the A3e and A6e. Armed with the full smorgasbord of eco-measures - long gearing, aero trickery, KERS and the world's quickest stop-start system - it manages over 60mpg and 120g/km of CO2 (yes, that's £35-a-year road tax). That means the A4e matches the awesome BMW 316d on economy and emissions, but trumps the Beemer in the power stakes, returning 134bhp and 236lb ft of torque to the Beemer's 114bhp and 192lb ft. Outscoring BMW in Efficient Diesel Top Trumps is some feat in itself, but more importantly the ‘e' is one of the sweetest diesel A4s we've tested.
The revised suspension and 17-inch wheels (posh ‘S-Line' Audi A4s we've driven have ridden on 18- or even 19-inchers) and low-resistance tyres serve to smooth out the A4's occasionally knobbly ride, while the less intrusive power steering system gives more directness. OK, we're not talking RS4 levels of feedback - this is, after all, a 2.0-litre diesel saloon - but it's in no way... ecompromised.