Audi A4 2016 review
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the Audi A4 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.
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As with some words, numbers mean something different to what they did a few years ago, especially in the motoring business. Less than five years ago, a something-30i badge meant BMW's peerless 3.0 litre straight six nestled under the bonnet of the car to which it was attached.
Over time and after a few years' hiatus, the 330i has returned as part of the F30 Three's mid-life update (BMW calls this LCI). This time, however, the 330i has a two-litre turbocharged four-pot under the bonnet, just like the 320i. Surely this is spin, denoting more stuff rather than puff for a decent extra outlay more or does the 330i still mean a cracker of a sports sedan, no matter what's under the bonnet?
The current 3 Series range starts at $54,900 for the 1.5 turbo triple 318i, the $61,900 320i turbo four, $63,800 for the diesel 320d, $71,900 330e hybrid, topping out at around $90,000 for the turbo six-powered 340i.
The 330i M Sport weighs in at a 330e-equalling $72,500, $2600 more than the Luxury line. For this you get 19-inch alloys, a six speaker stereo with Bluetooth and USB, dual-zone climate control, front rear and side cameras, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, electric front seats, satnav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, adaptive damping, heads-up display, power boot, leather trim and M Sport goodies like the excellent steering wheel.
It's a handsome classically proportioned sedan, an evolution from the smash-hit E90
Our test car came in a fetching (and rather vibrant) Estoril Blue metallic ($1840), variable sport steering ($400), sunroof ($2920!), HiFi stereo system ($700), adaptive headlights ($940), lumbar support for both front seats ($640), high beam assist ($320), ConnectedDrive Freedom internet connectivity ($429), extended smartphone connectivity ($500) and parking assistant ($675), bringing the total to $81,864.
The 3 Series is one of BMW's least adventurous designs, line-ball with the current 5's demure, yet elegant, appearance. This segment is still super-important to the company despite the SUV surge, as it is for both its German rivals whose corresponding cars are also less than courageous looking.
It's a handsome classically proportioned sedan, an evolution from the smash-hit E90. There's little changed as part of the update, except for badges and details like the shape of the LED daytime running lights.
The conventional design fits between Audi's crisp Savile Row creases and Mercedes' Hyundai-like flowing lines. It's unmistakably BMW from every angle, with hockey stick lights at the rear, low-slung profile with familiar glass shaping and the trademark double kidney grille.
Inside - again - is little changed. The M Sport edition gets the chunkier leather-bound M steering wheel (something some consider as nothing short of mandatory), sport seats, various trim bits in aluminium and plenty of leather all round.
Front seat occupants have a good view out and plenty of head, leg and shoulder room and a slim dashboard across the car adds to the feeling of space while a ten inch screen sprouts from the pad above the air vents.
There's a middling amount of storage around the car, with cupholders up front, pockets in the doors and seatbacks, cupholders in the rear centre armrest and a boot volume of 480 litres (new Audi A4: 480 litres, Mercedes C-Class: 480).
Six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, brake force distribution and assist, blind sport sensor, and forward collision mitigation add up to five ANCAP stars.
BMW's big dash-mounted screen frame is filled out with an actual ten-inch screen, controlled with BMW's full-fat iDrive on the centre console. As ever, it's a paragon of usability, including the touchpad in the top that can be used as a scratchpad. The system is missing the new A4's CarPlay/Android Auto, though, so if that's important to you, start asking for it. BMW has said in the past CarPlay will be along sometime in the next 18 months.
The 3 Series has been dynamic king of this segment for a long, long time
The satnav is well-detailed and simple to use, including live traffic updates so you don't even need to look out the window to know you're stuck on Sydney's M5 Motorway for no apparent reason.
The 3.0-litre six might be gone but there's still a decent number of neddies under the bonnet. The 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbo four generates 185kW and 350Nm, pushing the 1.5 tonnes of 330i to 100km/h in 5.8 seconds. The last car to wear the 330i badge had 190kW and 300Nm.
The power and torque reach the rear wheels via a ZF 8-speed torque converter automatic gearbox and BMW claims 5.8L/100km on the combined cycle with the aid of the usual stop-start and energy recovery. A week in our hands delivered 9.7L/100km with an even split of highway and city driving.
The 3 Series has been dynamic king of this segment for a long, long time. With rear-wheel drive and BMW's commitment to delivering a good drive, the mid-sizer has soundly beaten the A4 for years on that front and only been slightly troubled by the most recent C-Class. Neither of those other cars are slouches and only now is Audi getting close with its new A4.
When you flex the right ankle and throw it at a winding road, the Three absolutely shines
The first thing you notice about the car is the steering and throttle. Both are finely balanced and the latest variable rack is hard to pick. The weight is just right and doesn't get too heavy when you flick the switch to Sport. There's even enough feedback coming back from the road to stop the purists pining for hydraulic steering.
The adaptive damping on the M Sport does have trouble ironing out the jiggly bits and the rear Potenza rubber (225/40 front and 255/35) makes a racket on coarse and concrete surfaces. Otherwise, motorway cruising is reasonably serene, with just some wind rustle around the mirrors. It's not as quiet as either the new A4 or C-Class, though.
But the drive is where it's at - when you flex the right ankle and throw it at a winding road, the Three absolutely shines. The front end has enormous grip, while the body, crouched tightly over the wheels, stays perfectly composed even through big compressions or over mid-corner bumps. The electro-nannies are subtle and proportional and even with them off, it's a very high threshold before you wished you'd left them on.
For the most part, the M Sport tune is actually pretty good around town. Comfort mode knocks the worst of the edges off the stiffer springs and you and your passengers will only really get upset by rough surfaces or big, harsh bumps.
Great steering, good ride compromise on the M Sport springs and a very solid equipment list, the 330i is a terrific car. It's mildly astonishing that the 330i is the top-seller but objectively speaking, this sort of equipment level used to nudge the $100,000 mark. The in-car toys may not be as advanced as the competition and the loss of two cylinders will concern some, but the 330i remains the top of the heap for the keen driver.
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