464bhp in a hot hatch… stand back everyone
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Ooh, a 2.0-litre VW Group diesel. Can’t imagine that’s going to be very popular… This isn’t the EA189 engine that writes its software on the back of a ruler before it goes into the exam room. No, while Audi’s old A4 was implicated in the scandal, the new one is not. What do I need to know? Well, we’ve already driven the new A4 abroad, but British roads create problems for suspension systems that no other country gets close to replicating. That alone is reason to give the A4 an extra workout, plus this is the first time we’ve had a chance to drive the 2.0 TDI that will form the sales bedrock.
How are its emissions? Behave. There are two versions available, a TDI Ultra that has 148bhp, 236lb ft and returns 74.3mpg and 99g/km of CO2, or the faster TDI that has 187bhp, 295lb ft, 67.3mpg and 111g/km. You don’t need me to point out that real-world drivers won’t achieve the claimed figure. Both should do an easy 50mpg, though as the new A4 is around 100kg lighter than its predecessor, and in its slipperiest trim, with the skinniest tyres, has a drag coefficient of just 0.23. But what you notice is how quiet it is at speed. This is the new A4’s trump card. It’s super-silent, barely any engine noise, not a trace of wind or suspension intrusion. I reckon it’s the quietest and most refined car in the class, which, when you remember what its target audience will use it for – commutes and motorway-pummelling – is pretty much spot-on. Not very sexy, though… Nor particularly exciting to drive. The electric steering is sharp, but you’re never exactly sure precisely where the front wheels are pointing and there’s precious little involvement or sense of enthusiasm. This is partially because it’s so quiet, but also because the A4’s chassis is so inert. It’s nothing like as richly satisfying as a Jag XE, or as nimble and playful as a BMW 3-Series.
It’s a fuss-free machine, though, and it does get down difficult roads with comparative ease. God knows what they’ve done to the bushing and damping, but it really, really works. 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. A traditional Audi, then? True, but this does feel a real step on from the old A4. That always felt like it was playing catch-up with the 3-Series or C-Class. With this one Audi appears to have abandoned the pursuit of BMW, instead fully focusing on more traditional Audi strengths. It’s a courageous move and the result is a car with a genuine USP: the lowest NVH levels in the class. And on the inside? The cabin is beautifully designed and executed, faithfully following the example of the TT. It’s a really nice place to spend time, and navigating your way around the various screens and settings is, for the most part, pretty logical. Audi also makes great claims about the car’s connectivity: twin Bluetooth links, wi-fi, wireless phone charging, smartphone interface (both Apple Car Play 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. All well integrated? Of course, that’s Audi’s schtick. Very little jars, although there is a bit of confusion if you want to use your phone’s nav then revert to the car’s. Still not convinced there’s any point to Car Play. Moneywise, it’s as you would expect – a TDI 190 in Sport trim with the twin clutch gearbox costs £31,845. Knock off £1,530 if you want a manual – not really in keeping with the car’s character, that – or add on another £1,500 if you want the tastier S Line trim you see in these pics. The new A4 will do 50mpg, keep you safe in a very pleasant, magnificently insulated cocoon and offers enough toys to keep you occupied when the traffic grinds to a halt. So should I buy one? I didn’t think I’d find myself saying this, but I’m more impressed than I expected to be with the A4. For the sort of driving you and I spend most of our time doing, it would be a better bet than a 3-Series. Would I take the Audi instead of the BMW, or an XE or C-Class for that matter? Not sure. Because occasionally I want a car to give something back.