With rivals getting better and brawnier, what does the new Audi A4 do differently to woo luxury sedan buyers?
If you’re a keen driver, the BMW 3 Series and the Jaguar XE are the sports sedan for you. If you’re after a more opulent, more comfortable, and more elegant sedan, the C-Class, with its three-pointed star, still has no match. And if you don’t want to run with the pack, just wait for the all-new Volvo S60, which is going to be here soon and, without a doubt, is a fabulous looking car. We drove it recently and it ticks all the right boxes.
And in case you don’t care much about an expensive badge on the bonnet, the Skoda Superb is a phenomenal car, which does full justice to its name. It recently won our ‘Best of 2020’ award for a reason, you know.
So, why am I giving you all of this gyan today? Simple, that's because the updated Audi A4 has now arrived here. With so many capable rivals around, a few questions seem to be in order. Where does the new A4 fit in? Who does it cater to? What’s its speciality, if there’s any?
Even though it’s a new car, it’s the same fifth-gen or B9 version of the A4 that made its global debut in 2015. It’s the second time that this generation has received an update, but this time the update is quite comprehensive.
The front-end has become beefier, as it features a broader and flatter single-frame grille, along with new segmented LED headlamps and a sportier bumper. At the rear, the tail lamps have been reprofiled, and there’s a new bumper design with trapezoidal exhaust tips – both these updates give the A4 a more stretched-out look, like the new A6 and A8.
There are Quattro-rally-cars-like creases at the front and rear fenders as well. The design has become busier now, which gives the A4 more character – it wants to look angry and sedate at the same time. To an extent, Audi has got it right – it does look bolder now. However, those 17-inch wheels look a bit boring, and the overall effect, as a result, is that the new A4 doesn’t look aesthetically any better – you can easily miss it for the old car.
Overall, I’d say that it’s an alright looking car, but it won’t make any lasting impression. Or let me rephrase it – the A4 is a good-looking car, but its look isn’t its strong suit.
You may find the exterior uninspiring, but the cabin impresses you no end. Sure, it’s familiar, but it’s remarkably well-built, oozes high quality, and very well laid out. There are a couple of new bits too. There’s Audi’s new MMI 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which comes with Android Auto and Apple Car Play. It’s a welcome change and makes the cabin appear cleaner since there are fewer buttons on the centre console now. It’s quite intuitive too – the resolution and touch response are quite impressive.
The instrumentation is the all-digital ‘Audi Virtual Cockpit’, which I believe is the best amongst its rivals. You also get wireless smartphone charging, 3-zone air-conditioning, powered front seats, and more. The seats are superb – both at front and rear. Plus, the rear bench has decent legroom, and even though it’s not as spacious as the new S60, the seating is upright and the under-thigh support is much better. Three adults sitting abreast, however, will be a problem, owing to a protruding transmission tunnel. On the whole, the A4’s cabin is still a tech-laden, practical, and quality place to be. It’s definitely one of the best, if not the best, in the segment.
The biggest update of the new A4 is hidden under the bonnet – a bigger 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine, which replaces the 1.4-litre unit of the old model. There isn’t any diesel on offer.
More cee-cee means more power and torque – 188bhp and 320Nm, to be precise. Power transmission duties are taken care of by a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. The power goes to the front wheels – so, no quattro all-wheel drive for folks in India.
Performance-wise, the new A4 is quick. There’s some lag below 2,000rpm, but post that, the motor spins ferociously, delivering a sprightly performance. Its refinement levels are exemplary, and the motor produces likeable noise at high revs. There are five drive modes – Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual. Each mode alters the gearbox, throttle, and steering behaviour – adaptive suspension isn’t offered in India. You do get a mild-hybrid system though.
The dual-clutch transmission’s response, as you’d expect, is lightning quick. It’s hard to catch it off guard, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t – in bumper-to-bumper traffic, you can experience some delay. Other times, it’s nippy. Thanks to paddle-shifters and a responsive engine-gearbox combo, the drivetrain is pretty engaging.
Just like the outgoing car, the A4 is dynamically well-sorted. There’s a hint of torque steer when you mash the throttle pedal, but the traction control overpowers it quickly. Lean it hard in a corner, and the A4 will track its line confidently with only slight body roll. Despite being non-quattro, it grips really well. With low-profile rubber and bigger wheels, it can do even better. The steering wheel could do with more feedback, although it’s quite direct. Of course, the A4 is not as playful as the 3 Series, but if anyone tells you that it’s a lame handler, you can dismiss it as nonsense. The A4 is actually pretty involving in day-to-day driving.
The ride quality is stellar, especially at low speeds. Going over sharp potholes at high speeds can get a bit noisy, but overall, it’s very well damped. In the city, the A4 is a joy to drive. It has brilliant visibility all-around, light controls, peppy drivetrain, and offers a comfortable ride.
Let’s cut straight to the chase – the new A4, despite all the improvements, isn’t a one-trick pony like its rivals. Instead, it does everything well. For its range of abilities, it’s hard to find faults with the new A4. Sure, the four-ring badge may not be as desirable as it once was, but brand loyalists will still lap up the new A4, for it offers virtually every joy of owning a luxury sedan.
Engine: 1,984cc / 4-Cylinder / Turbo Fuel: Petrol Transmission: 7-Speed DCT / Front-Wheel Drive Power: 188bhp @ 4,200 – 6,000rpm Torque: 320Nm @ 1,450 – 4,200rpm Price: Rs 42.34 lakh - Rs 46.67 lakh (ex-showroom) X-Factor: The A4 may not be as desirable as it used to be, but it’s still a very well-rounded luxury sedan as it always was. Pros Cons
• Slick drivetrain
• Looks the same as before
Engine: 1,984cc / 4-Cylinder / Turbo
Transmission: 7-Speed DCT / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 188bhp @ 4,200 – 6,000rpm
Torque: 320Nm @ 1,450 – 4,200rpm
Price: Rs 42.34 lakh - Rs 46.67 lakh (ex-showroom)
X-Factor: The A4 may not be as desirable as it used to be, but it’s still a very well-rounded luxury sedan as it always was.