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Audi A4 2012 review

The new-look A4 is sharper and straighter in its look, but it's not unattractive by any means.
EXPERT RATING
8

The Audi A4 is one of the brand's backbone models - this is the eighth incarnation of the A4 that (depending on how long your memory is) stretches back to include the Audi 80 for a global sales total topping ten million. The handsome little prestige sedan is sporting a new look, inheriting plenty from the A6 and A8 in the aesthetics department and the hand-me-down clothes work a treat.

VALUE

There are two A4s on offer with the three-litre turbodiesel V6, a 150kW/400Nm front-drive version with a continuously-variable transmission that is priced from $68,900. Or there's the version we're in - the all-wheel drive 180kW/500Nm with the dual-clutch S tronic starting from $88,000, which is down just over $2000 over the out-going model.

There's no shortage of toys for that pricetag - a 10-speaker sound system (with a hard drive memory, subwoofer and iPod integration), hard-drive equipped satnav, keyless entry and start, voice control, Bluetooth phone and sound system link, tri-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers and automatic xenon headlights, the obligatory LED running lights, front and rear parking sensors (but no camera, that's a $900 option), a leather-wrapped sports steering wheel with paddle shifters, power-adjustable front seats, leather trim, cruise control and 18in wheels.

The test car fell just short of $100,000 with a few options on board - among them metallic paint (for $1650), the Audi drive select with dynamic steering and quattro sports differential (an extra $4300), the Audi exclusive line package (which adds upgraded interior trim) for $3400, and heated front seats - which when the outside temperature display is in single digits during the day, is $700 well spent.

TECHNOLOGY

Audi have some cracking turbodiesels in the range and the three-litre V6 fits into that category. The 24-valve common-rail direct-injection engine uses super-accurate piezo injectors and has a turbocharger and intercooler, exhaust gas recirculation and particle filter, which all adds up to 180kW and 500Nm via a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual. The V6 also has the stop-start fuel saving system, which helps it claim an ADR fuel use of 5.7 litres per 100km (a 0.6 of a litre reduction).

Standard fare on the high-power 3.0 TDI is the brand's staple all-wheel drive (running 60 per cent rear, 40 per cent front-drive) with a self-locking centre diff, but up to 70 percent can head to the front wheels and as much as 85 percent can go to the rear wheels if conditions dictate. There's also a torque-vectoring function on the front wheels and an (optional) active rear diff to apportion drive to the wheels best able to use it, all of which adds up to an enormous amount of grip.

Electromechanical power steering has been added to the A4, which reduces the system's use of energy by up to 0.3 litres per 100km but doesn't do much for feel. Audi has two versions of its drive select system, the basic system that changes the throttle pedal mapping, transmission and power steering among others - the top-spec system adds adaptive damping, variable-ratio dynamic steering, which can even alter steering at the handling limits.

DESIGN

The new-look A4 is sharper and straighter in its look, but it's not unattractive by any means - it's perhaps not as pretty as some of its forebears. Xenon and LED lighting give it an unmistakable Audi presence day or night. The body uses a mix of aluminium and steel of varying grades to keep weight down - high strength, ultra-high-strength and hot-pressed steels account for almost two thirds of the body construction.

What that all means is light and strong, with resorting entirely to lightweight aluminium (which is difficult to repair when used in chassis construction) or composite materials. Inside, the cabin has a quality feel to switchgear and materials, but space remains at a premium. The boot measures 480 litres says Audi or 962 if you drop the splitfold rear seat backrest.

SAFETY

Five stars adorn the NCAP safety report card for the compact Audi sedan, which has dual front and front-side airbags, rear side airbags and full-length curtain airbags, as well as stability and traction control, the clever all-wheel drive system and a driver attention warning system.

DRIVING

The A4 is a sharp looker and the list of impressive bits is more than skin-deep. Having already confessed to being smitten with the engines in other models, it's no less desirable in this model. Quiet, well-insulated from the cabin and smooth, the turbodiesel V6 is staggeringly good - it doesn't mind hitting peak power of 180kW at 4000rpm but you don't need to go that far up the tacho.

With 500Nm of torque in the equation you rarely need more than half the throttle pedal's travel to launch the never-ending slingshot effect offered by this drivetrain. The seven-speed transmission is quick and smooth, never betraying the considerable forces being fed through it to the all-wheel drive system. There's a sports mode and paddles but the clever sport programming makes the paddles surplus to requirements.

The test car had the optional adaptive damping system, which delivered more options for the driver when the corners arrive, but most daily driving was completed with relative ease in Comfort mode. Unlike the steering, which is light but lifeless, the suspension is not completely oblivious to the road surface - Audi haven't made bionic leaps forward in ride comfort terms, but it's certainly not as brittle as some of its forebears.

For driver involvement the four-ringed brand has built better sedans, but this one - as an allrounder - is impeccable. It's one of the few cars I have driven that lays claim to fuel use and 0-100km/h both under six. An official claim of 5.7 litres per 100km is believable (the test car was hovering in the sevens, according to the trip computer), as is the 5.9 second sprint to 100km/h - that's a little quicker than its slightly heavier ancestor.

The cabin has a quality feel to the materials and the fitout, but space remains snug but four average adults will cope - two adults and two rugrats won't experience any issues. The standard sound system is excellent, although sound buffs will find it hard to resist the Bang & Olufsen 14-speaker unit on the options list, even if it does add $1400 to the bottom line.

VERDICT

Price is the only real thorn in the A4 3.0 TDI quattro's side is a steep pricetag, to some extent offsetting the considerable abilities it puts into the equation. It is certainly one of the most capable vehicles Audi has on its pricelist - frugal, comfortable, quiet and swift in an unearthly way - but is a little on the high side in the face of its opposition.

Audi A4 3.0 TDI Quattro

Price: from $88,000 (as tested $98,650)
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Resale:  51 per cent (Source: Glass's Guide)
Service interval: 15,000km/12 months
Safety rating: five star
Spare: temporary spare
Engine: 3-litre common-rail direct-injection V6 turbodiesel, 180kW/500Nm
Transmission: 7-speed S-Tronic; AWD
Body: 4.7m (L); 1.8m (w); 1.4m (h)
Weight: 1680kg
Thirst: 5.71/100km, tank 61 litres; 149g/km CO2

Pricing guides

$18,990
Based on 45 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$14,500
Highest Price
$22,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
1.8 Tfsi 1.8L, PULP, CVT AUTO $10,600 – 15,510 2012 Audi A4 2012 1.8 Tfsi Pricing and Specs
2.0 TDI 2.0L, Diesel, CVT AUTO $10,600 – 15,620 2012 Audi A4 2012 2.0 TDI Pricing and Specs
2.0 TDI E 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $10,900 – 15,950 2012 Audi A4 2012 2.0 TDI E Pricing and Specs
2.0 Tfsi 2.0L, PULP, CVT AUTO $11,400 – 16,720 2012 Audi A4 2012 2.0 Tfsi Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$14,500

Lowest price, based on 37 car listings in the last 6 months

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Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.