Audi A4 S4 TDI 341 Quattro 4dr Tiptronic
With the latest A4, Audi took a conscious decision to stop pretending its front-wheel drive contender, which shares a platform with the VW Passat, could go grille-to-grille in the handling stakes with the rear-drive BMW 3 Series, Alfa Giulia and Jaguar XE. Those cars are so deep down the driver satisfaction rabbit-hole it’s not worth Audi’s time chasing them when it could create its own niche elsewhere, for a more comfortable, refined and cultured contender. As a result, the A4 strikes a much less thrusting, aggressive balance (not that many of its drivers appear to have noticed). The chassis is obedient and biddable, but hardly rewarding. No, you’ll appreciate time in the A4 for its hushed road and wind noise, its rounded-off ride, and great engines.
The 40 TFSI – yep, Audi’s persevering with its idiotic numberjumble badging code – is a shining example of a trend we’re seeing more and more in the industry – of petrol being reinvested into a segment where diesel was dominant.
Time was when a 2.0 TDI was the default choice in this class, but with the tide turning against diesel, plenty of A4-ites will be giving petrol a second look next time around. The 40 TFSI is, if your mileages aren’t high enough to justify a diesel’s range, a real gem. It’s torquey, revs smoothly and matches well with the seven-speed S-tronic twin-clutch gearbox. You’ll actually have to concentrate to make it do 40mpg, as opposed to the diesels which do that by accident, but you’ll appreciate the less leaden nose and subdued hum under acceleration. It’s so good, we’d question anyone’s need to upgrade from the 197bhp 40 TFSI to the 242bhp 45 TFSI. Save your money for some toys.
As for the hybridification of the A4, well, you wouldn’t know it – in either the 12-volt or 48-volt applications. You can’t sense the extra weight, and since new WLTP economy testing regulations came into force, most auto gearboxes have nosedived in responsiveness. So the extra boost afforded by the on-board generators only serves to paper over that, rather than add any meaningful urge. Regardless, the A4 has a powertrain range that defeats the likes of the Volvo S60 and Jaguar XE’s, and is easily the measure of the best in the class from Mercedes and BMW. That said, it’s a real pity there’s no plug-in hybrid option.
The only model that escapes bootlid semantics is the S4. There’s not even a TDI legend back there to betray the fact the 3.0-litre turbo petrol V6 had been swapped out for a turbodiesel engine of the same size and configuration. You might wonder why Audi has bothered, given both engines produce over 340bhp, and get the four-wheel drive S4 from 0-62mph in under five seconds, and on to 155mph. Well, Audi still sees a future in diesel, and thinks S-car drivers will be the ones who appreciate it most. Because S-car drivers want to hide their performance under a bushel – to get where they’re going fast and yet discreetly. So, upgrading from 360lb ft to a massive 516lb ft ought to be most helpful. And hauling economy from low 30s to the gallon to high 40s is a major boon for GT ability. Meanwhile, CO2 drops from 171g/km to 166g/km.
It’s easy to take pot-shots at the new S4 TDI for not feeling as instantly quick or sounding as special as other £50k sports saloons, but you’d have to be ludicrously desensitized to how people actually use these cars not to respect how effective it is at covering ground fast. What you’ve lost in turn-in corner bite with the heavier engine, you gain back in on-demand, overtaking insta-punch.
Plus, it’ll help Audi separate the RS4, which has felt very much like an ‘S4-Plus’ since it too switched to turbo V6 power.
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