Venice, Italy –
Oh, we recognise that. It’s the Audi A4!
That’s right, and it’s not the current model either – it’s the ninth-generation (if you count from the old Audi 80 model) of Audi’s small executive sedan. It seems Audi opted for evolution rather than revolution, but the pictures don’t do justice to the details of the new car. You can appreciate the difference best in person, where the new headlights, the sharply-creased shoulder line and the contoured boot tell you you’re looking at a new version of an old standard.
But surely it’s also gotten better?
Well it’s slightly larger than before, but also up to 110kg lighter, says Audi.
It’s based on a new longitudinal platform, MLB Evo, with a brace of new engines and a huge array of tech-savvy new features. This model tested here is the basic petrol version, powered by a 1.4-litre, 150bhp engine.
That sounds a little uh, too little…
In reality, it’s more than adequate. Drive the A4 1.4 without knowing how big the engine is, and you’d never think it’s powered by sub-1.5-litre engine. It delivers pull throughout its rev range – though you’d never call it truly quick – although it does run out of push at higher speeds, which is entirely natural.
The A4 can also go around corners well too, with neat, tidy handling and a hint of roll to contribute to confidence through positive feedback. Not only does it ride well, but it’s also very, very refined, thanks to NVH control measures and a very low drag coefficient of 0.23 Cd. It’s at least as refined as the Mercedes C-Class, although it still doesn’t quite tickle the heart strings like the BMW 3 Series does.
How about cabin ambience?
To go with the serene nature of the car, the A4’s interior borrows a lot from the Audi TT in design terms: All sorts of angular surfaces, yet one that is relatively easy to interact with, while also being practically useful. For example, the armrest contains a phone box which can charge phones wirelessly and boost the cellular signal with its antenna.
Legroom is good, surely on par with the 3 Series, now that there’s more space between the wheels (2,820mm up from 2,808mm), but it’s still no match for the huge C-Class, which has 2,840mm to play with.
There’s also a huge range of ostensibly new safety equipment (including a hands-free driving at speeds up to 60km/h with Traffic Jam Assist) and, for Europe at least, an increasing number of connectivity choices (like the new VW Touran, it packs Android Auto, Apple Car Play, and more) and services. Higher spec cars will find the latest MMI system to help with that, while solid ergonomics and the ‘virtual cockpit’ active instrument display both looks and performs in a pleasingly high-tech way.
So it’ll be a best-seller then?
The new A4 is impressive: It looks good in Audi’s understated way, it has an excellent cabin that has a host of cutting-edge features, and it’s likely to be very efficient and deliver at the very least, a smooth and refined drive experience. But good sales aren’t a given, and there are a few reasons why.
Firstly, we still don’t know the exact spec or cost of the A4 models when they land in Singapore – it’s very likely we’ll get the 1.4 and 2.0 petrol turbo engines, the latter with quattro all-wheel drive. Audi may go for a 1.4 with a lower-cost, basic spec A4 like the previous model’s ‘special edition’ to boost sales, but it’s too early to tell at this point.
Secondly, while the A4 1.4 is already sounding like a very efficient tech wonder with a tiny engine, BMW’s already thrown down the gauntlet with the new 1.5-litre, 136bhp 318i that was launched in Singapore very recently, while the C-Class is still doing very well for Mercedes. Audi’s somehow never had the same clout the other two have, which allow their small executive models to consistently sell in the high hundreds annually back in Singapore. It’ll be interesting then, to see the fight that pans out in what Audi terms its most highly-contested segment with the new A4.
Audi A4 1.4 TFSI
Engine 1,395cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 150bhp at 5000-6000rpm
Torque 250Nm at 1500-3500rpm
Gearbox 6-speed manuall
Top Speed 210km/h
0-100km/h 8.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.3L/100km
Availability Q4 2015
Also Consider: BMW 318i, Mercedes-Benz C 180