Launched in India in February this year, the new Audi A4 is available with a choice of TFSI petrol and TDI diesel engines, both of which are refined, powerful and efficient. We recently had an opportunity to drive the A4 35 TDI, and here’s our take on the car.
Design and Styling
The new, 2017-spec A4 isn’t very different to look at, compared to its immediate predecessor – think subtle evolution rather than disruptive revolution. And that’s all right, because the A4 is a handsome, well-proportioned car that’s actually quite good looking in typically restrained, Germanic manner. Like every modern Audi sedan, the A4 is lean and pared-back, with an athletic stance (its 5-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels certainly help with that) and muscular wheelarches. There are no unnecessary design flourishes here – just a sense of purpose, and family design cues that make the A4 instantly recognisable anywhere.
Speaking of evolution, there has indeed been some – the new A4 boasts a coefficient of drag of just 0.23, which is just about the best in class. Audi must have conducted some extensive wind tunnel testing to achieve this figure and the company says that among other things, the ORVMs were mounted lower on the door panels and the underbody was smoothened in the interests of reducing drag. Sure, it doesn’t help too much when you’re stuck in a traffic jam but should certainly be a factor in the 237 km/h top speed that Audi claim for the A4 TDI.
Other notable bits on the new A4 include its redesigned LED headlamps, revised hood and front grille, and a weight reduction of around 40 kg, thanks to increased use of lightweight materials for suspension components, braking hardware and the monocoque Bodyshell. The weight reduction is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the new A4 is 1 in longer, 0.6 in wider and has a wheelbase that’s 0.5 in more than its predecessor.
Engine and Transmission
The A4 TDI's 2 l four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine is pretty impressive. With an output of 190 hp at 3,800-4,200 rpm and 400 Nm of torque at 1,750-3,000 rpm , there is no shortage of stomp – the engine is more than capable of hauling the car’s 1,640 kg weight (unladen weight), which it does with remarkable alacrity. Claimed zero to 100 km/h time is 7.7 seconds, which is not too bad for a diesel-engined family sedan, while the claimed fuel efficiency figure of 18.25 km/l just makes the deal sweeter.
At low- to mid-rpm, the engine’s torque delivery is creamy smooth, with the A4 picking up speed quickly and relentlessly when you floor the throttle. It’s no supercar, of course, but is capable of swift, decisive overtakes, with the turbodiesel snarling away happily and pulling with authority. What makes the package even better is the transmission which the engine is mated to – a dual clutch, 7-speed 'S-tronic' automatic, which replaces the earlier A4's CVT unit. While the older CVT was just a tiny bit dull, this new ‘box provides sparkling performance, changing the driving experience for the better, in a big way. The gearbox works in perfect harmony with the engine, executing shifts with speed and precision for effortless forward progress.
The A4 also has four driving modes – Normal, Dynamic, Auto and Individual. According to the mode chosen by the driver, the car's on-board computers alter steering response, throttle response and the gearshift pattern. Normal mode is actually good enough for relaxed, every day driving in the city, Dynamic mode offers grittier, edgier and more exciting responses from the engine, transmission and steering, while Individual mode is for the super-choosy, who prefer customised settings for each parameter. The latter allows you select separate settings for engine and steering response, so that even very picky drivers can be entirely happy when really pushing things hard.
Notably, the driving modes do not alter suspension behaviour. That said, the A4’s multilink suspension (with coil springs and stabiliser bars, front and rear) is set up quite nicely, remaining at least reasonably pliant on broken roads and while going over our infamous ‘speed breakers,’ while still offering high levels of grip, dynamic ability and stability at higher speeds. As long as you remember that the A4 is not a sports car but a family sedan, and treat it accordingly, you can actually push it quite hard. There’s no Quattro all-wheel-drive here – the A4 is front-wheel-drive only, and can sometimes display a hint of understeer in fast corners, but on the whole the handling is pretty neutral. Yes, we do wish there was more feedback from the steering wheel, and while the Michelin Primacy tyres are adequate, better (softer, stickier) rubber will easily help push the A4’s performance envelope even further.
Interiors, Infotainment and Safety
The A4 features Audi's latest multi-media interface (MMI) controls, with a high-resolution 8.3 inch colour display for navigation and infotainment related information. With smartphone-like functionality, the MMI system is also fully compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto platforms, with full smartphone connectivity. The top-spec ‘Technology Edition’ A4 that we drove also features Audi's ‘virtual cockpit,’ which features a fully digital instrument cluster with a high-resolution 12.3-inch colour display. With multiple viewing options, the virtual cockpit is able to transform the instrument cluster, allowing you to view navigation maps or infotainment-related information, with the instrument cluster minimised within the overall view itself. It’s actually quite useful, since it puts all the relevant information right in the driver’s field of view, negating the need to look at the central display to access information.
Apart from the MMI infotainment system, which can be controlled via steering wheel-mounted buttons and/or via a rotary controller mounted on the central console, other notable elements include the very comfortable leather-upholstered seats (full power adjustability for the front thrones), a great sound system that takes USB input for playing your MP3 collection, and high-spec build quality with all the metal and wood that you’d expect from a car in this segment. The A4’s cabin is also a very safe place to be in, since the car features eight airbags, a tyre-pressure monitoring system and a full complement of electronic safety aids, including anti-lock brakes and advanced traction control.
At around Rs 42.66 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), the Audi A4 35 TDI is actually a pretty good deal. Sure, it doesn't get Audi's acclaimed Quattro all-wheel-drive system, but still drives very well and has high levels of dynamic ability, along with good ride comfort. Plus, with its host of safety features, advanced MMI navigation and infotainment system, elegant styling and solid build quality, it's a car that you can cherish for years.
Text: Sameer Kumar
Photo: Sameer Kumar, Vasu Anantha