The all-new Audi A4 shows subtlety in its styling evolution and combines high levels of refinement with sensible standard equipment in the cabin. The Ultra model is both polished and frugal, delivering on its promises with sensible real world economy.
- Refined interior with good equipment on base SE
- Good real world economy
- Smooth manual and efficient auto gearboxes
- Sport pack on Ultra model gives firm ride
In recent years, Audi has played it safe when it comes to styling evolution and the new A4 is no exception. Although the external changes are subtle, the latest Audi A4 is in fact all-new from its platform up. Study the car carefully and there are some key design changes: certainly, it has received some nips and tucks but up close, it has adopted the more curvaceous planes of the larger A6 and the front and rear light styling is notably edgier. Importantly, the new body gives the A4 class-leading aerodynamics with a drag coefficient of just 0.23. It is 120kg lighter, too. Combined with the latest 2.0 TDI ULTRA engine, this also brings the emissions to that magic 99g/km of CO2 for the 150PS saloon model putting it in tax band A (and a creditable 102g/km - band B - for the 190PS engine). It is this 150PS model we have on test, likely to be the favoured variant for both fleet buyers and money-savvy private owners.
In basic SE specification, the new A4 lacks little when it comes to equipment. From three zone climate control to Bluetooth 'phone integration, Xenon lights and adaptive speed control, it is a good start. £550 is needed to add the excellent MMI navigation; other useful items like hill hold assist and electronically folding door mirrors add £75 and £225 respectively.
The new A4's cabin is smart, elegant, beautifully built and ergonomically very good. The Audi 'virtual cockpit' consists of a highly configurable instrument display ahead of the driver. The clean graphics and access to critical information make it one of the best on the market and the ability to put the full navigation screen directly in front of the driver ensures driving in unfamiliar territory is that bit easier. The standard cloth seats are grippy, supportive and comfortable; elsewhere, Audi has graced the cabin with soft, tactile finishes so everything from the steering wheel to door handles feel good to the touch.
To achieve its good economy, the A4 Ultra has tall gearing. Combined with the gentler power output from the engine at lower revs, it gives the car a more relaxed than spritely feel. That said, the diesel is reasonably free-revving and there is ample power delivery as those revs climb. The six-speed manual is a positive delight to use with slick lever movement and an easy clutch. Keeping the Ultra model close to the road to aid aerodynamics, Audi has given it Sport suspension which is somewhat unyielding and does lead to a slightly nervous motorway ride, even on the deeper rubber of the standard 17-inch wheels. This keeps the car reasonably engaging for the driver but less relaxed for passengers. So how does all this translate when it comes to economy in the real world? Nursing the A4 Ultra along motorways at just below the national speed limit, low 70s mpg is achievable. Pressing on a little, mid-60s mpg should be expected on longer runs. A number of shorter runs plus some sustained, busy urban driving pulled the average down somewhat but we still managed a creditable 51 mpg overall.
I summary, the new A4 has successfully combined high levels of refinement and attractive use of technology in a very frugal package with its Ultra specification. The vehicle dynamics are good and bode well for the considerably more powerful S4 due later in 2016.
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