Initially the A4 will be available with just the 1.4-litre petrol motor which seems like a very surprising decision, considering rivals offer much larger petrol units. According to Audi, weight saving measures have allowed them to give the new A4 a downsized engine without compromising on everyday performance.
Displacing 1395cc, this turbocharged motor is from VW’s EA211 engine family and it develops 148bhp and 250Nm of torque. The high-tech motor is coupled to an equally modern DQ200 7-speed dual clutch automatic.
As soon as you step on the accelerator pedal the motor responds quite well and the A4 feels peppy at low speeds. Peak torque comes in at a low 1500rpm and past that the mid-range is pretty strong and the engine will pull happily to its 6200rpm redline as well. The new A4 gets three driving modes – ‘Comfort’, ‘Dynamic’ and ‘Individual’. In ‘Comfort’, it is programmed to upshift at the earliest, maximising fuel efficiency, whereas in ‘Dynamic’, it will stay in the lowest gear possible. The problem with driving in ‘Comfort’ is that when you need that burst of power, you are usually in a gear too high and have to wait for the gearbox to kick down. ‘Dynamic’ is more responsive but the throttle response became too jerky to our liking.
Sure, the claimed 8.5 second 0-100kmph time is decent. But it can’t match its main rivals, the BMW 320i as far as outright performance is concerned. You also have to work the motor hard to get the best out of it. While the engine is very quiet and smooth at low speeds and when you’re cruising, it does get a bit thrummy after 5000rpm, and it isn’t as smooth as say, the bigger TSI motors we have experienced in the old A4.
The real sense of luxury in the A4 comes from its suspension setup. At town speeds the A4 simply excels thanks to its absorbent low speed ride, delivered despite the low profile 17-inch tyres. Well-judged spring rates helps this German saloon feel supple yet well controlled. Even over rutted surfaces the suspension has surprisingly good level of crash-free bump absorption, you don’t feel most imperfections. Yes, there is some firmness at low speeds but it never gets to the point of feeling uncomfortable. Even at higher speeds the A4 shows good composure and this makes it a soothing highway companion. The car also does an excellent job of cutting out road noise, but at higher speeds you do get a bit of wind noise around the A-pillars.
Where the old car used to feel sloppy and nervous at high speeds, the new A4 feels rock solid and straight-line stability is exceptional. The A4 changes direction quite eagerly but, it isn’t particularly engaging to drive. The steering is smooth and accurate but is merely a tool for pointing the front wheels, not gaining any kind of feel for the tyre or road interface. It feels a bit vague at higher speeds too.