NEW AUDI A4: WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION?
I spent half-a-day with one, and it left me flabbergasted.
Punctuality is my strongest trait. People swear by it. Joking, obviously! But what happens when God decides to play dirty? Nothing helps, and the “swearing by” aspect transforms into “swearing at” instantly. I was supposed to pick up the new Audi A4 at 8 am. However, due to the dense smog that dialled visibility down to a few metres, I reached about half-an-hour late. How that felt to an OCD-infused human is beyond words.
What helped rejuvenate my spirit was the first few hours that I spent driving the new Audi A4. As time passed, it did reveal some of its shortfalls. That’s usually how a car unfolds. At the end of the day, I was left flabbergasted. Perhaps, I can explain what I’m on about.
What’s new in exterior design?
Audi has always voted for evolution in design than a revolution. And the A4 is one of the epitomes of that practice. The new one adds some zing to it. It has just about the right mix of shiny and not-so-shiny stuff. The front grille is broader and flaunts subtle chrome use, which complements the redesigned bumper and reprofiled LED-powered headlamps. Some might feel that those 17-inch alloys look a tad too small. In my opinion, they work well to keep the overall design understated. And so do the redesigned taillamps. Overall, I do dig the A4’s look.
Are there changes indoors too?
In a word, yes. For the driver, there’s a new steering wheel and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The latter, by the way, is available in Technology variant. The entry-level Premium Plus makes do with analogue dials. Besides those new additions, I also liked Audi’s new 10.1-inch MMI display. It is sharp, bright, offers an array of functions and responds well to touch commands. Even the powered seats, which come with memory function for the driver, are comfortable and provide adequate support.
I’m 5’-11”. Even with my driving position, there was enough knee room at the back for a six-footer. It seems then that I was left impressed with the interiors too. Not quite. The back-rest of rear seats is a bit upright. Then, there’s a massive hump in the middle passenger’s footwell. Both those aspects make for a less-than-ideal seating area. Also, I’m not a fan of gloss black panels. Yes, they are the “in” thing these days, but they’re easily scratchable. I prefer the silver aluminium inlays in the Premium Plus variant.
What’s the list of features like?
In Technology form, the A4 comes with an extensive list of creature comforts. There’s three-zone automatic climate control, parking aid with a rear-view camera, an electric sunroof, hands-free boot lid opening, cruise control and wireless mobile charging. The sedan also packs eight airbags, tyre pressure monitoring system, multiple driving modes and ambient lighting.
One feature that I remember vividly was the voice command system. It works rather well till the time you don’t expect it to control the in-built navigation system. Ask for changing or selecting a particular destination, and it will go – this function isn’t available in India. What a heartbreak! The alternative is to type it in manually. For that, you will have to stop the car. As a safety measure, the keyboard won’t work while the vehicle is in motion.
What about the powertrain?
As of now, Audi’s offering the A4 with just one engine-transmission combo. That comprises of a 2.0-litre TFSI engine with 188bhp/320Nm and a smooth 7-speed DSG. I kid you not – their tag-team is amongst the best in class. Audi claims a 0-100kmph sprint time of 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 241kmph. Compare any of those figures with the competition, and you won’t be left disappointed.
Some will indeed point out that the A4 doesn’t have a diesel engine option. Take my word for it – the petrol-fed powerplant has enough grunt to satisfy those “punchy” needs. It isn’t just about the numbers. It is more about the delivery. And in this department, the A4 offers bucket-loads of grins.
How does it ride and handle?
This is where the A4 delivers its keynote speech. As I mentioned above, the powertrain is brilliant. Injected in the mix is a well-tuned suspension setup which negates the uneven surfaces out of the equation effortlessly. And that too without making a fuss about it. That, along with a properly insulated cabin, makes for a comfortable ride at low speeds.
To learn how it goes about doing its job at higher speeds, I took the sedan on one of the closeby expressways. The one I chose is known for both buttery-smooth tarmac and, in specific places, some patches of unnerving potholes. Going over the latter was a bit more uncomfortable than what I expected. The suspension explicitly notified me that it did its job by turning its volume knob up. But, the A4 maintained composure, and I never felt disconnected from the experience. There’s a fair amount of feedback from the steering wheel which helps pump confidence in the driver.
An area where the front-wheel-drive sedan performed better than expected is when I got off the expressway and threw it into some fast corners. It grips really well, and the Traction Control System ensured that I remained in full control. Yes, it could be more fun if the power went to the rear wheels instead. But, as they say, a rear-wheel-drive car can be trickier to handle, primarily through rapid turns and swerves. Frankly speaking, I thoroughly enjoyed driving the A4.
So, what’s your verdict?
Let’s address the elephant in the room first – is it worth your attention? Yes. At Rs 46.67 lakh (ex-showroom), the new Audi A4 (Technology) offers a handsome package. What’s more, it is far better than what it was in the pre-facelift form. It also looks cooler, somehow. But, certain elements are very unlike Audi – the rear seat comfort and those glossy panels, to be specific. Are those shortfalls enough to outweigh the pluses? I don’t think so.
In India, the Audi A4 competes directly with the Volvo S60, BMW 3 Series, Jaguar XE and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. With competitive pricing, a hoot of a powertrain and those looks, the Audi A4 has the potential to lure customers away from rivals. What do you think?