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First drive: Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi AG.

First drive: Audi A4 Avant
Audi updates the A4 to keep pace with the new BMW 3 Series and the Merc C-Class. Itís a mild update, but does it keep Audi in the game?

 



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Audi A4 Avant 35 TDI

4 4 4 4 4

A new diesel engine, some mild-hybrid tech and an exterior upgrade for the Audi A4 keeps it in the hunt with newer rivals.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi A4 2.0 35 TDI Avant SE
Pricing: starts at circa £30,000
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: seven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 102g/km (VED Band 101-110: £150 in first year, £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 53.3mpg
Top speed: 138mph
0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
Power: 163hp at 3,250-4,200rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1,500-2,750rpm
Boot space: 505-1,510 litres

What's this?

It's Audi's new A4 saloon and estate. Well, not quite new-new, more updated and upgraded. It's a thorough mid-life facelift for the family of cars that currently accounts for one-fifth of all Audi sales worldwide. Given that level of importance (and isn't it refreshing to know that in this SUV-hungry world, people still like to buy saloons and estates in big numbers?) Audi has managed to tread a fine line between giving the A4 some newness, but still not changing it so much that existing customers might be put off.

The first thing that you're going to notice is the new styling, which gives the A4 a new grille at the front and new lights. Those lose the notch that was cut into the shape of the old model's headlamps, which gives a cleaner but arguably less distinctive look. Around the back, there are new brake lights, with segmented LEDs so you can tell what you're driving behind at night, and the saloon gets a reprofiled rear pillar.

In the cabin, the A4 looks and feels much as it did before, which is perhaps no bad thing. Quality sure hasn't lapsed - the A4's interior looks and feels more like hewn rock than assembled plastic - but there is some new stuff, mostly in the shape of a 10.1-inch touchscreen for the MMI multimedia infotainment system. This does away with the old twist-and-click controller that used to live between the front seats, which is a bit of a shame - that always felt like a sensible way to manage things. Prodding a screen with your finger might be more tech-y, but it also might prove more distracting when driving...

There are new Audi Connected services to keep you entertained, though, including live feeds for traffic, parking, fuel prices and even how fast to drive to catch the next green light (well, in cities where the traffic lights can talk to the cars, that is). Cabin and boot space are unchanged from the previous A4, so that means it's still decently, rather than exceptionally, roomy.

Under the bonnet of our rather handsome Avant estate car is a new diesel engine - not merely an update, say the Audi engineers, but a new engine architecture. A 2.0-litre unit, in this '35 TDI' form it develops 163hp and 380Nm of torque, which is pretty healthy. Both 136- and 190hp versions will also be available. There are 2.0-litre TFSI petrol models too, which gain a 12-volt mild hybrid system, and range-topping V6 diesels in the shape of a '45 TDI' 231hp model and a sporting S4 TDI model, which gets a new V6 diesel engine with an electric turbo, 347hp and a whopping 700Nm of torque - more than the hotter RS 4 petrol V6 turbo.

How does it drive?

I think if one word sums up the driving experience of the A4, it's 'pleasant'. It's not as thrillingly agile and engaging as the new BMW 3 Series, but it is smooth and soothing, comfortable and quiet, and yet still manages to raise a small smile when the road becomes challenging.

Steering feel is a touch remote, but the weighting and speed are both rather lovely, and even without optional quattro four-wheel drive this front-drive diesel A4 Avant feels poised and reasonably communicative when the road turns twisty. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's a car that feels rather more at home on a rather straighter road - up on a motorway or even just a broad two-laner, the A4 cruises in imperious silence. The ride quality is very good too - sufficiently tightly damped to stop any feeling of slop, but without the irritating constant jiggle that you'd find in a stiffer, M Sport 3 Series.

The new engine is a good one, contributing to that cruising silence with an impressive ability to stifle its diesel gurglings. Mid-range punch, as you'd expect with 380Nm of torque on tap from just above idle, is more than adequate. It also seems to sidestep that low-speed hesitancy that has been a recent issue with Audi (and all Volkswagen Group) 2.0-litre diesels, when fitted with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions are good, as well, which only adds to the A4's impressive repertoire.

Verdict

There's no dramatic change for the A4 this time around, which is probably just how most Audi customers want it. The new styling you can judge for yourself, while that new 35 TDI engine is an impressive thing, if diesel is still your bag. Better yet, while the A4 hasn't quite closed the gap to the rival BMW in driver entertainment terms, it is carving out its own pleasant niche, balanced between agility and comfort. Oh, and the Avant estate remains the model of choice, with its clean lines and useful family-friendly practicality.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Neil Briscoe - 16 Jul 2019









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2020 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi AG.2020 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi AG.2020 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi AG.2020 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi AG.2020 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi AG.

2020 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi AG.2020 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi AG.2020 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi AG.2020 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi AG.2020 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi AG.








 

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