The latest Audi A4 has finally emerged into the glare of the compact executive segment. Its rivals have pulled ahead in recent years with Mercedes releasing an all-new C-Class and BMW shoehorning new engines into the 3 Series, so the A4 has its work cut out.
Despite the fierce opposition, Audi is aiming high with the new A4 – it gets the latest in lightweight materials, advanced aerodynamics and fuel-sipping engines. So how does it compare to its main rivals – the Mercedes C-Class and the BMW 3 Series?
While the latest Audi A4 is an all-new design based on a new platform, you’d be forgiven for not being able to notice at a glance. Its neat proportions, angular lines and subtle detailing are an evolution of the previous A4’s attractive exterior. It’s up to 120kg lighter than the old model thanks to careful use of high-tech materials.
It’s now both the widest and the longest car of the three but, to emphasise its width, it’s also the shortest in terms of height. The saloon’s 480-litre boot matches the ones offered in the C-Class and the 3 Series but the A4 Avant’s 505-litre bay is the biggest in its class. The A4 – like its rivals – is offered with the option of full-LED headlights to enhance the front end look.
German interiors have always been revered for their quality but that’s not enough for today’s buyer. They demand not just flawless materials and build quality but fine design and style, too. The new A4’s interior is based around strong horizontal lines to give it a sense of width and strength but some may feel the C-Class’ is yet more special.
Naturally, it features the Audi’s MMI infotainment system and ambient lighting that – on top-spec models – can be altered in hue to match your mood. Many elements such as the infotainment screen frame, steering wheel and rear seat mountings are made of magnesium for less weight and a premium feel.
Driving and engines
Reviewers are yet to drive the new A4 but, if previous versions are anything to go by, we expect it to offer a more comfortable experience than the sporty BMW 3 Series but perhaps a little less serenity than the Mercedes C-Class. Its all-weather ability is unquestionable – front-wheel drive models get torque vectoring and some quattro all-wheel drive ones have the option of a sports differential.
Audi’s latest engines have seen fuel consumption drop by up to 21 per cent while power has increased by up to 25 per cent. The least powerful petrol is a 150hp 1.4-litre unit that returns 57.7mpg but buyers can also choose a new 2.0-litre unit with 190hp. This engine uses a new combustion method that means the car can accelerate from 0-62mph in just 7.3 seconds but still return 58.9mpg on average. The usual, tax-friendly range of 2.0-litre and powerful 3.0-litre diesels are also offered.
Depending on engine and specification chosen, a six-speed manual, seven-speed DSG auto or eight-speed automatic gearbox are optional. Considering this is likely to be a comfortable car, an automatic ‘box seems an obvious addition.
To appeal to the usual group of executives that’ll be buying the Audi A4, it comes loaded with all the tech you’d expect such as air-conditioning, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and an infotainment system. The latter can be expanded to include satellite navigation linked to Google Maps for easy journey planning.
Audi has also followed the lead of the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series in offering a wireless hotspot in the car so passengers can use their mobile devices on the move. The LTE-based system offers a fast connection for up to eight devices. Buyers can also pay extra to have a infotainment screen for the backseat. This unit – a first in the class – runs a version of Android and offers a range of apps and games.
The inherent strength of Audi’s construction methods means that, should the A4 be involved in a crash, occupants will be protected form the worst of the forces involved. Many developments in car safety, however, are in areas focussed on avoiding a crash in the first place. Like its Mercedes rival, the A4 features collision detection systems and can brake itself and stop a skid from occurring.
The optional avoidance assist detects if the driver has to make a sudden lane change and takes over control of the electric power steering to make sure the car responds safely and predictably. None of the three cars have been tested to Euro NCAP’s harsh 2015 rating system but we’d be surprised if they performed badly. Both the 3 Series and the C-Class earned five stars in older tests so the A4 can’t afford to miss this mark.