The A4 is to Audi what the 3 Series is to BMW and the C-Class to Mercedes-Benz - compact executive saloons with a range of great engines and state of the art technologies befitting a premium product. Ingolstadt’s advocate, the A4, recently received some updates that include new sheet metal and Audi Connect app based concierge services.
A great deal of attention has been paid to the cosmetics, because, to be honest, the model didn’t particularly stand out as a new model when it launched and subsequently came under a flurry of criticism. As such, sales performance did not particularly enamour and this was not ideal in a market segment that continues to shrink globally and is under siege due to the growth in SUV sales.
That as it may, Audi AG was adamant to breathe some life into the A4 and devised a plan, which I am told, included changing each panel on the car to give it a more distinctive look. And from that aspect, I reckon they’ve done fairly well with the front-end now boasting a fresher face with Matrix LED headlights replete with animation sequences when locking or unlocking the vehicle - ditto the taillights. Our 40 TFSI model was decked out with the S-Line package that tacks on items such as the honeycomb grille, 19-inch anthracite finished alloy wheels, and satin silver accents peppered about on the front and rear valances, to lend a hint of sporty looks to the otherwise executive repertoire. The overall design is subdued for most part, but a marked improvement over the pre-facelift model, that's for sure.
Speaking of the cabin, it is here that the A4’s disposition truly glistens. Materials are from the top drawer and the digital cockpit brings the cabin bang up to date with rivals such as the BMW 3 Series. The MMI infotainment system, however, lags behind the curve and is still from the marque’s previous architecture in that it is not integrated into the fascia, but rather floating atop. Even so, the software remains the most advanced, thanks in part to the aforementioned Audi Connect concierge service that allows app based technology on your phone to communicate with your A4. It is as simple as downloading the app on your IOS phone, creating a profile, and having the ability to check things like fuel consumption, fuel range, and even send a pin address from your smartphone to the car’s navigation system. You can even find your car in a crowded car park by either putting on the hazards or chiming your hooter.
Boot space, meanwhile, is a commodious 460-litres and there a number nooks and crannies peppered about that cabin to store your bits and bobs.
One of the A4’s best traits has always been its polished drive and this updated model is no exception. It has an easy disposition that is ideal for the daily cut and thrust urban traffic all the while remaining a consummate cruiser on the open road with very little in the way of wind noise permeating the cabin. Under the bonnet lurks a 2.0-litre turbo, four pot petrol powerplant that generates 140 kW and 320 Nm via a 7-speed manual transmission, driving the front wheels.
It is a harmonious matrimony and the gearbox does a sterling job of meshing through the gears in the most imperceptible way possible. The engine is a tried and trusted one and gets on with things in a hushed manner. If there is a criticism, is that when asked to gallop, it does feel a tad underpowered and perhaps an additional 20 Nm would be a welcome addition, particularly for those pesky overtaking manoeuvres.
That aside, the A4’s light steering wheel makes it a fairly easy car to place on the road and parking remains an absolute cinch, too. Despite the low profile 19-inch slivers of rubber at each corner, the ride quality remains exemplary with suspension doing a fine job of breathing with the road and therefore retaining some semblance in the cabin.
At R726 500, which slightly undercuts its rivals, the A4 has become expensive but so has everything in this segment to be honest. However, the Audi does come with a great deal of specification, thanks to the company’s deliberations to simplify their options catalogue. You choose a specific Trim Line; Standard, Advanced and S-Line then you choose a Package; Lights, Comfort or Technology packages, then bob’s your uncle.
A dying segment by some accounts, the three box premium, compact sedan segment still has some life left in it, despite a considerable shrink in units sold. This updated A4 is good, very good in fact, but it does lack that sporty streak that the 3 Series simply commands in spades. For me, that is where my money would go, however, there are those who will find the A4’s repertoire just what they require and that’s still fine with me.