The all-new, fifth-generation 2016 Audi A4 is the brand’s most technically advanced model ever, and its just arrived in Australia.
The Versatile Gent was invited to the national launch to discover what’s what with the newest A4, and how it drives on Australian roads.
It’s hard to believe that the A4 badge is celebrating its 21st year and more surprising to learn Audi’s original mid-size car, the Fox, was once assembled in Australia!
A fleet of new gleaming Audi A4’s greeted us at Canberra airport and the roads of Southern NSW beckoned, but before getting behind the wheel, let’s take a closer look at it.
One sedan body, four models, three engines, one gearbox, front-wheel drive and Quattro permanent all-wheel drive make up the new range. Wagons will arrive later in the year.
The front-wheel drive pair consists of the ($55,500) 1.4 TFSI (turbo petrol) and a 2.0 ($60,990) TFSI (turbo petrol), with the Quattro duo comprising the only diesel engine – the ($66,900) 2.0 TDI and the top of the range ($69,900) 2.0 TFSI Quattro petrol turbo. All models have a seven-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox.
As each generation is introduced, so is more luxury, space, refinement, equipment, safety and technology, as well as more powerful and efficient drivelines. And this all-new model is no exception.
It sits on the same platform as the Q7 SUV and is lighter, wider, longer, greener and stronger than its predecessor, with class-leading aerodynamics and safety. And according to Audi, it’s a quantum leap forward.
The new A4 has a progressive sharp look, although familiar, is different enough to attract repeat buyers and attract new ones to the brand. There’s no bling, just a more chiseled look with a pronounced etch line along its flanks, a wider grille, new lights at each end and new alloys ranging from 17-19-inch depending on the grade.
The big changes lie inside and under its skin, where it bristles with the latest in safety, infotainment and driver assist systems.
Highlights include Exit Warning technology, which scans the road or footpath, detecting cyclists and pedestrians and warning occupants when its unsafe to open the door.
Other safety technologies, many of which have come from the A8 limousine and Q7 SUV include ‘Pre Sense City’ which Audi claim can prevent accidents up to 40km/h and reduce the impact velocity at speeds up to 85km/h. Audi pre sense tightens the seatbelts, closes the windows and sunroof and activates the hazard lights if it detects unstable driving conditions. Attention Assist issues a warning when it detects the driver is becoming inattentive and there is also adaptive cruise control and self-parking assistance with a 360-degree camera as part of the long list of safety technologies in the A4.
Its also been awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating, having already scored top marks in its EuroNCAP (European) safety testing.
Inside, the new interior is first class.
Its beautifully appointed, intuitively laid out and library quiet on most surfaces. The electrically-adjusted, leather front seats provide tailor-made comfort and support thanks to the adjustable thigh and lumbar adjustment, making long journeys a joy, not a chore.
The surfaces have pleasing tactile feel, the overall finish and materials selected are first rate and to me, the A4 cabin leads the class. Crucially, there is 23mm more rear legroom, 24mm extra front headroom and a 16mm increase in shoulder room.
The interior also bristles with the latest technology including (an optional) 12.3-inch virtual cockpit instrument panel, tablet-style 8.3-inch infotainment screen with navigation, wireless phone charging dock, gesture control, voice control, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity for as many as eight devices, and a full colour head-up display. You can even configure it to read out your emails. Also available is the magnificent a 755-watt / 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D Sound System that has to be heard to be believed.
It’s chock-a-bloc full of safety, driving and entertainment technologies, so how does it drive?
I easily found a perfect driving setup and in no time was negotiating my way out of Canberra airport with its endless roundabouts, which let me discover its nicely-weighted electro power steering, that has a lovely fluid motion. As the tempo increased on the open roads, so did the level of steering feedback, allowing pinpoint accuracy when cornering.
A wrong turn, sent me down a corrugated gravel road for some distance, but my inadvertent off-piste adventure proved a couple of things: the dust sealing ability of the A4 was top-notch, with not a grain of the powdery stuff entering the cabin and the all-new multi-link suspension handled the rough stuff easily and quietly. The only time voices were raised above a whisper, was on some coarse chip roads due to the low-profile tyres making a bit of noise.
Throughout the drive, I tried the different settings in the adaptive damper system, which can be adjusted on the move. The Sport setting reduces travel and ride height by 23mm, which meant flatter, nimbler cornering, and a firmer ride, whereas the Comfort setting only lowered the height by 10mm. The set-and-forget Auto setting proved an excellent all-rounder, providing good cornering composure and a cushioning ride.
Each engine differs in performance and characteristics and if the only A4 you drove was the $55,500 entry level 1.4 litre TFSI S tronic, you’d be quite happy. It overall quietness, responsiveness and mid-range urge surprised me, as did the seamless way it worked with the seven-speed autobox, keeping pace with the traffic around town and happily cruising the highways. For most people, the 110kW/250Nm engine is more than powerful enough.
If you’re after more, look no further than the ballistic bargain in the range; the $69,900 2 litre TFSI Quattro S tronic sport. It punches out 185 kilowatts and 370 newton metres, takes a mere 5.8 seconds to reach 100km/h and has an (electronically limited) top speed of 250km/h. Overtaking and climbing hills is child’s play and it effortlessly puts kilometres away on a long journey. The Quattro drive system helps it stick to the road like paint and the way it carves through corner laden roads makes it the real smile maker of the range. The $66,900 2.0 litre diesel is equally impressive, with the 400 Nm of torque from just 1750rpm catapults it up hills, away from the lights and out of corners.
The all-new Audi A4 is beautifully appointed, drives impeccably, is roomy inside, well-priced (from $55,500 to $69900 +ORC’S) and brimming with the latest safety, driver assist and entertainment technologies.
It is the latest offering in the ultra competitive mid-size luxury segment and to me, the new king.
It’s one very special 21st birthday present from Audi.
See how the 2016 Audi A4 stacks up next to other cars The Versatile Gent has reviewed in this segment: BMW 330i Touring and 340i, Jaguar XE 20t and XE Portfolio Diesel, Mercedes-Benz C200 and C250 Bluetec