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2015 Audi A4 First Drive

By raccars Published

Three UK 2015 Audi A4 facts

1: The A4 is a regular top 10 best-seller for Audi, and its second best-selling car in Britain (oh, and the best-selling Audi globally)

2: The new A4 is up to 120kg lighter than the old one; it’s the lightest car in the sector

3: 9 in 10 A4s will be sold with a 2.0-litre TDI diesel – but as they’re all Euro 6 emissions compliant, they’re unaffected by the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal

What is it?

The Audi A4 is a very familiar car in Britain. We buy more than 20,000 of them every year, frequently helping it into our top 10 best-sellers chart. This all-new one has been a long time coming for Audi, but will be a very welcome addition to dealer showrooms when deliveries start on November 21st.

Although the new A4 doesn’t look radically different to the old one, it truly is an all-new car. Built on Audi’s latest MLB evo platform (the one also used by the new Q7 SUV), it’s been transformed over the dated old one as Audi looks to take on the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and excellent new Jaguar XE.

The new A4 is bigger all round, but lighter overall (and lighter than any rival). It’s up to 25% more powerful but 21% more fuel efficient and, for business users, will command some of the lowest Benefit In Kind rates in this class. With highly competitive prices and excellent retained values, Audi also reckons the total cost of ownership will better all the others.

It’s now on sale in the UK so, for an early taste of the crucial new Audi premium compact saloon, we grabbed an early first drive of the volume-selling 2.0-litre TDI 150 ultra model on UK roads. Has the Audi got what it takes to beat the BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz?

Styling and interior

Some have criticised Audi for being unadventurous here: the styling is evolutionary and does bear a strong resemblance to the outgoing car. But this is Audi’s way – it doesn’t radically reinvent, but gradually evolve, and the A4 is actually a good example of this.

The all-new body has a slimmer, crisper appearance than before, despite being bigger all round. Extremely high-tech lighting technology (xenon is standard, LED optional, Matrix LED units from the A8 limo also an option) makes it modern and standout on the road and details such as the ultra-sharp edge to the bootlid (to help aero efficiency) show Vorsprung durch Technik is alive and well.

Audi’s saved the real surprise and delight for the interior. Because it’s superb – and we say that in full consideration of the high standards already set in this sector by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series. Audi has moved the game on here in terms of appearance, quality, tactility and connectivity; in some regards, it’s better than that A8 limo.

It’s the connectivity that Audi says buyers are really honing in on these days, so has equipped the A4 to be fully compatible with your smartphone straight out the box. All models come with Audi’s smartphone interface that uses either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to give access into your mobile phone while driving: it’s a super-effective sector first.

The standard smartphone system works so well, Audi doesn’t include sat nav as standard on the base SE; use your phone’s sat nav via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, it says. We tried it; Audi’s right. With a whole plethora of other gadgets either as standard or optional, the firm’s right to call this the most high-tech car in this sector.

Despite the tech overload, Audi’s got the fundamentals covered as well. A longer wheelbase liberates more interior room, particularly in the rear (head- and kneeroom are appreciably up over the current car) and the boot is a voluminous 480 litres.

But what really stands out is the new A4’s refinement. By some margin, it’s the quietest car in the sector, with ultra-hushed road noise and well-isolated wind noise at speed. The engine revs smoothly and is quiet in operation, and the overall level of refinement instils a real sense of cut-above wellbeing.

Performance

The 2.0-litre TDI engine is a crucial one for Audi, particularly the 150hp ultra version we tested. This is the one that’s offered in 99g/km guise, with similarly impressive combined fuel economy, and so will be a favourite with business users.

They won’t be short-changed. It responds swiftly and smartly in town, performs strongly on the road and it’s only really when you’re driving more quickly that you notice it ‘only’ has 150hp. There’s a 190hp version also available, but we’d say this will be enough for most.

As ever, Audi offers it in front-wheel drive, unlike the rear-drive configurations of its three key rivals. The alternative is a quattro all-wheel drive setup, whose newfound efficiency ensures it now comes with barely any fuel economy penalty over standard. Seven-speed and eight-speed automatic gearboxes are offered alongside the standard slick-shifting six-speed manual.

As mentioned, the engine is very quiet in operation: it’s probably the smoothest diesel engine you can buy in this sector. It’s free from vibration and turbine-sleek when revved through, while the clatter and background drone you can detect in rivals is almost entirely absent here. Very impressive indeed.

Handling

Low noise levels are combined with a much-improved ride over the old A4. It’s more supple and is better able to dampen out bumps more effectively; the previous A4 felt stiffly sprung and rather two-dimensional, but this one is a lot more compliant.

It can get a bit choppier over poorer roads, but still retains an advantage over the BMW 3 Series; indeed, it’s better in regular guise than some Mercedes-Benz C-Class with larger alloy wheel options. It could even be an Audi that rides better than a Mercedes…

It doesn’t handle better than a BMW though. Audi’s set up the A4 to be very stable, predictable and secure, but it doesn’t offer the feedback and driver involvement of the 3 Series or Jaguar XE. It grips well and is easy to place on the road, but it’s not one enthusiasts will clamour for.

Audi’s approach is sensible here. It knows its customers value ultra-clean sophistication and low-input precision more than seat-of-the-pants feel. BMW has that aspect sewn up so why try to emulate it? For this reason, the new A4 succeeds better than any model before it.

Price and value

Prices start at £25,900 for the new Audi A4, which is good value when compared to rivals. This is for the SE model too, which includes desirable extras such as three-zone climate control, Audi smartphone interface, 17-inch alloy wheels and xenon headlights.

Audi expects the Sport trim line to be the best-seller, taking around half of total sales. For £950 more than SE, this adds sat nav, sports body styling and sports seats. S line is the range-topper, costing £3,300 more but including the high-end sporty styling that will ensure even this outsells the base SE.

Fuel economy

Fuel economy is up across the board, with the test 2.0 TDI 150 ultra averaging an impressive 74.3mpg. This is despite it coming with 17-inch alloy wheels as standard; BMW’s rival sub-100g/km 3 Series may have more power but it also has smaller wheels – such things matter in Britain…

The faster 190hp version of the 2.0-litre TDI isn’t much less economical and even the swift 3.0-litre TDI has been given a big economy boost. If diesel isn’t for you Audi offers surprisingly powerful 1.4-litre and 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engines with average economy we used to associate with diesels just a few years back.

Verdict: 2015 Audi A4

The new Audi A4 is a big step on compared to the ageing current car. When it arrives on UK roads in November, it may not make a big visual impact but those who drive it should really appreciate its much-improved ride and refinement, spacious interior and exceptional cabin.

It’s well priced, well equipped, packed with useful technology and is better value than most of its rivals. It doesn’t quite topple the BMW 3 Series for class honours, but it may well get the nod over its other rivals – that’s how much of an improvement the new A4 is. Highly recommended.

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