Ambition plays a big part in determining which set of wheels we own. The better-paying jobs provide the income to dispose of our old car and aspire to a prestige brand. 

Audi’s A4 is customarily the entry model of choice for first-time buyers of the four-ring brand. The A3 sedan’s smaller shape and smarter styling puts it to the fore with younger achievers but for most, the A4 is the starting point for German luxury.

Ironic then, that Audi has stripped some of that luxury from its quattro version to make the price more attractive — and try to draw some prospective A3 owners a little higher up the food chain.

Whether that will dilute or broaden the A4’s appeal remains to be seen but Audi is doing well enough this year only a brave man would bet against them.

VALUE

The revised entry price for an A4 in Ambition grade with a manual transmission is $57,100, rising by $2800 for the majority of buyers who prefer a dual-clutch automatic. A turbo diesel auto costs the same, $59,900.

Standard equipment includes satnav with live traffic updates, xenon headlamps with daytime running lights, three-zone aircon and leather-trimmed seats.

The better-equipped A4 S-Line quattro starts at $65,000 in manual but adds parking assistance with a rea-review camera, keyless start, more stylish 18-inch alloy wheels, sports front seats and 10-speaker audio.

TECHNOLOGY

Quattro is part of Audi’s DNA. Yes, you can buy front-drive versions but most want the all-paw reassurance and the quattro badge on the boot.

The A4 Ambition delivers on that front. It isn’t short of grip and the seven-speed auto ekes every last Newton-metre from the turbo four-cylinder. It is a rorty, engine that pulls frantically from just off idle.

DESIGN

Anonymity is part of the A4’s appeal. It flies the under the radar with the very subtle, clean lines it shares in common with most of the Audi sedans and consequently it can be hard to distinguish the compact car from its siblings.

Where it doesn’t hide its talents is in interior fit and finish. The graphics on the satnav may not be on top of the line but that is one of the few complaints to be mounted against the A4’s interior.

SAFETY

Five stars here. The A4 bagged a 34.45/37 rating when it was tested in 2008 and has the door-clunking solidity to back that number up. The criticism from ANCAP about the risk of serious chest and leg injury for the driver”.ight

DRIVING

Drivers are hard-pressed to pick the A4 Ambition as the base quattro from behind the wheel. It takes off hard and maintains that turbo-boosted acceleration right through the rev range. There’s enough grip for it to be driven like a sports car but the design brief favours luxury over litheness.

The suspension is one of the A4’s strong suits and reflects that intent. It deals with pocked city roads without a murmur and then steps up to handle faster, twistier roads when the occasion calls for it.

The brakes and steering are lifted from the surgeon’s handbook — clinically efficient without giving much feedback.

The one-finger steering weight suits the A4 around town and gives drivers confidence to point it down laneways or car bays that might not otherwise consider.

A reversing camera would be handy — it’s one of the few features on the S-Line model for which I’d pay extra — but the default reversing sensors emit an increasingly frequent acoustic ping to give accuracy on a par with military grade sonar.

The front seats are supportive and the switchgear feels good under hand, though newer Audi vehicles have a slightly more coherent cabin feel.

First time buyers won’t be disappointed and returning Audi owners will find the familiar touches — chrome surrounds on the buttons and dials and big, easy-to-read gauges — that brought them to the brand in the first place.