Audi A4 2015 - First

Drive

Audi A4, front, action
Audi A4, side
Audi A4, rear
Audi A4, interior
Audi A4, boot
Audi A4, exhaust
Audi A4, display screen
Audi A4, rear seats
Audi A4, diesel engine

WHEN you're vying for top dog position in the fiercely competitive compact executive car market you need to bring your A game to the ballpark and that's exactly what Audi has done with the latest A4 saloon.

It's new from the ground up and if you include the original Audi 80 models from which it evolved then this is the ninth generation of a car dating back to 1972. That said; it is actually the fifth generation A4.

And with rivals such as the Mercedes C-Class, Jaguar XE and BMW 3 Series, the new car really has to up the ante - it does just that.

The 2015 A4 is lighter, more efficient, longer, wider, packed with all the "must have" connectivity and driver aids, it is more powerful and delivers improved economy. It's even quieter than the luxurious A8.

So it would seem Audi has every base covered. The car, which is already on sale with deliveries due in November, is priced from £25,900 and is available in three trim levels SE, Sport and S line.

From the outside the design has been sharpened up and looks more dynamic with additional creases to help reduce the car's drag coefficient.

The grille is more defined, the side mirrors are now positioned on the doors to improve the car's aerodynamics and there are sophisticated headlights with the option of Audi's Matrix LED headlights which offer maximum illumination when driving on main beam but mask the LEDs so other motorists are not dazzled.

All three grades are richly-equipped and depending on the model there is the classy virtual cockpit with its 12.3-inch display ahead of the steering wheel that can be adapted to suit the driver's needs.

Elsewhere there is a the likes of a head-up display, Audi Drive Select to alter the car's handling and dynamics, a seven-inch colour monitor, three-zone climate control and some of the most advanced smartphone connectivity technology on the market with wireless charging.

In addition there are numerous optional packs and drivers aids to choose from including a stop & go adaptive cruise control system with traffic jam assist function that eases driving in crawling traffic by taking control of the acceleration, steering, braking and steering - this is possibly the closest we will get to autonomous driving today.

There is a wide choice of petrol and diesel powertrains to select from with the 2.0 TDI ultra manual delivering fuel efficiency up to 74.3mpg with carbon emissions from as little as 99g/km.

We tried out three models on a range of road routes that incorporated busy town centres, open country lanes and fast-moving motorways and each car had its own personality and appeal.

First up was the 2.0 TDI S Line 190ps S tronic priced at £33,345 (£40,230 with options). This car can reach from 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds with a top speed of 147mph. According to official figures it can deliver combined economy of 65.7mpg and emissions 113g/km on 19-inch wheels.

The first factor that impressed was how quickly you find a great driving position and how easy it is to settle in and familiarise yourself with all the on-board technology at your fingertips.

Comfort levels are very high with ample room for two or three adults in the back and the boot has a 430-litre storage capacity which can be increased to 965 with the rear seats dropped down flat.

And when it comes to handling and driving dynamics the A4 is up to the task. It accelerated smoothly through the seven-speed automatic transmission and the road-holding was very sure footed.

The cabin remained beautifully hushed even when the car was driven quite hard and the precise steering and responsive handling made light work of tight bends.

My only slight moan was that a car costing £40,000 lacked electrically-adjustable or heated seats but these can be added as optional extras as can most features.

Next up was the mighty 3.0 TDI quattro S line 272ps tiptronic model priced at £38,135 (£51,245 with extras fitted). This car can sprint to 62mph from a standing start in just 5.3 seconds and tops out at 155mph. It can achieve 54.3mpg on a combined run with emissions of 137g/km (again on 19-inch wheels).

This is certainly the A4 for thrill seekers. The acceleration through the eight-speed gearbox is very rapid and the power is constant and fierce at times. When driven in Dynamic mode it becomes like a caged animal that has been unleashed. Once again the road-holding was very assured and the all-round handling was very rewarding. Obviously it can be tamed down and driven more conservatively, but it's nice to have those dynamics at hand when you fancy a little excitement in your life!

Finally, the tamer yet still impressive 2.0 TDI ultra 150ps priced £28,465 (£33,565 with options). This car can reach from 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds and has a limit of 130mph. it can deliver combined fuel economy of 74.3 with emissions of 99g/km on 17-inch wheels.

Despite being lower in power and spec level this car was still great to drive. The acceleration through the six-speed manual gearbox was responsive and there was plenty of bite when additional power was required to overtake.

To be honest all three models had their plus points be it dynamic handling, efficiency, initial price-tag or on-board technology. And with additional models due to be added to the range there will almost certainly be an A4 to suit all requirements.

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