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Audi A4 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Joshua Dowling road tests and reviews the new fifth-generation Audi A4, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.

Can't distinguish the new Audi A4 from the old one? You’ll need a keen eye.

For those so inclined, here’s the geek’s guide. The side mirrors on the new Audi A4 are attached to the door skin; on the previous model they poked out from the corner of the door glass.

If absorbing that level of detail tested your patience, you may be surprised to learn this ninth-generation model is a clean-sheet design from the wheels up.

Despite the familiar appearance, not a single panel is the same.

The new A4 is loaded with technology not seen before on other cars in the mid-size luxury sedan class. Audi calls it a “quantum leap forward”.

Which is why it’s such a tragedy Audi hasn’t done more to highlight the new model with a more daring design.

There is much to like, starting with the price. The Audi A4 range starts from $55,500 plus on-road costs, which is $600 dearer than the cheapest (and lesser equipped) BMW 3 Series, and $5400 cheaper than the top-selling Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Standard fare includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection (active up to 85km/h), eight airbags, rear cross traffic alert, a ‘vehicle exit warning’ to detect cyclists and cars, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, a rear view camera, an 8.3-inch ‘tablet-style’ central display screen, and a space saver spare (a rarity in this class and a welcome addition).

LED headlights, standard on all models, automatically adjust their beam according to the conditions.

At freeway speeds, the low beam is directed as high and as far down the road as is allowed.

In city and suburban driving the low beam LEDs spread a broader ray of light to help illuminate footpaths, driveways and side streets.

The 1.4 is fine for city and suburban commuting, and cruised happily at freeway speeds

The new Audi A4 will even mitigate a rear-end crash. If a car is about to ram you from behind, the sensors in the rear bumper can detect the impending impact, and strobe flash the brake lights to try to alert the driver of the incoming car.

If the A4 senses impact is imminent, it will prepare the seatbelt pre-tensioners and automatically close the power windows to protect occupants from debris.

Available as a $1900 option on all A4 models is a package that includes radar cruise control with “stop and go” traffic jam assistance up to 65km/h, lane-keeping, and automatic braking if you attempt to turn in front of an oncoming car (technology first seen on the Volvo XC90).

A heads-up speed display reflected into the windscreen and Audi’s awesome ‘virtual cockpit’ 12.3-inch widescreen instrument display are bundled as a $2100 option package.

Meanwhile LED ‘Matrix’ headlights, which can dim narrow portions of the high beam in the direction of oncoming cars so as not to blind them -- while still providing a high beam around the oncoming vehicles -- is a $1700 option.

The list goes on. So long, in fact, one A4 we tested during the preview (with a high output 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine and all-wheel-drive) started at $69,900 but quickly rose to an eye-watering $92,791 with options.

On the road

There is a new range of engines with class-leading efficiency, starting with a 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine shared with Volkswagen.

It’s the smallest engine ever fitted to Audi A4 models sold in Australia, but it’s no slouch due in part to a turbocharged boost and range of weight savings in the car’s design.

Audi has trimmed 65kg from the new A4 despite being longer, wider and roomier -- and better equipped -- than its predecessor.

The 1.4 is fine for city and suburban commuting, and cruised happily at freeway speeds, but was left a little wanting on long steep hills on our test route between Canberra and the NSW south coast.

The top-end 2.0-litre petrol engine had ample urge and, paired with all-wheel-drive, cat-like grip. But the price of this $69,900 model can easily climb by another $20,000 with options.

The 2.0-litre diesel sounds like a Mitsubishi Triton at first, but once it warms up after a few minutes it’s one of the quieter diesels around.

The road roar from the tyres was much louder than we were expecting from a luxury car.

The diesel has plenty of oomph, but given the new levels of efficiency with the petrol engines, the diesel now only makes sense for those who routinely cover long distances at freeway speeds.

The cabin of the new A4 will feel familiar to current owners; it’s very German and utilitarian, rather than classy or elegant.

On the media preview drive, opinions were divided. Some preferred the simplicity, I reckon it lacks the class of the Mercedes. Most agreed, though, at least the new Audi A4 has a nicer cabin than the dated BMW 3 Series.

Downsides? The road roar from the tyres was much louder than we were expecting from a luxury car (even one with an “acoustic” windscreen designed to block noise).

And while the Audi steered well and handled corners and bumps with the usual ease, it lacked the suppleness of the Mercedes C Class.

I’m also not a fan of Audi’s new automatic gear lever, which is easy to accidentally leave the car in gear if you’re not used to it. The ‘P’ button for ‘park’ is a separate button, not near the usual ‘PRNDL’ positions.

As a safety backup, other cars automatically lock the gearbox in ‘P’ if the driver’s door opens and he or she has forgotten to engage ‘park’. But the Audi will roll away if you make a mistake. So much for all that safety technology.

Verdict

The Audi A4 is a good car with a sharp price and class-leading technology and fuel economy. What a shame it’s wrapped in such a bland package.

Click here to see more 2016 Audi A4 pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$39,988
Based on 65 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$29,990
Highest Price
$54,900

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
1.4 TFSI S tronic Sport 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $29,990 – 41,900 2016 Audi A4 2016 1.4 TFSI S tronic Sport Pricing and Specs
1.8 TFSI S-Line Plus 1.8L, PULP, CVT AUTO $27,940 – 33,660 2016 Audi A4 2016 1.8 TFSI S-Line Plus Pricing and Specs
2.0 TDI Quattro S Tronic Sport 2.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $36,190 – 43,120 2016 Audi A4 2016 2.0 TDI Quattro S Tronic Sport Pricing and Specs
2.0 TFSI Quattro S Tronic Spt 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $39,800 – 48,999 2016 Audi A4 2016 2.0 TFSI Quattro S Tronic Spt Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Pricing Guide

$29,490

Lowest price, based on 56 car listings in the last 6 months

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