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The head rules over the heart in the new Audi A4

S. Muralidhar | Updated on March 10, 2018

Smaller powerhouse The new A4 packs a less powerful, but more frugal engine SMURALIDHAR

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The German car-maker has chosen to go with a smaller engine for the new A4 sedan. It is less powerful, but is loaded with goodies and even delivers more mileage

There couldn’t have been a more opportune time for Audi to launch its new A4 TFSI in India. The current A4 has been facing the heat from its competitors and even feels a bit dated in terms of the packaging it offers. And the TFSI appendage in the new one’s moniker means that it is being offered with a petrol engine, another plus point, given the problems that the other fuel choice has been facing lately. Unlike diesel, at least petrol’s fate isn’t being decided by a grand jury.

The Audi A4 is the most important model in the German brand’s portfolio. It is a volume driver and an image driver for Audi. The A3 sedan and the SUVs, especially the Q7 and the Q3, have been popular clocking decent numbers. But, the A4 is still the model that is looked upon as a brand showcase. It is not surprising then that the company’s designers are only too keenly aware of the risks of meddling too much with the model.

Design

We drove the German-spec A4 earlier this year and had reviewed it on this page. We had written then about the carefully sculpted body and its much more appealing cabin. We can’t stop gloating about the cabin now that we have seen the interior of the India-spec version. But before we get into the car, here is a bit about the exterior design. The MLB Evo platform on which the A4 is based is new and it even shares it with much larger vehicles like the A8. But the cautious redesign of the A4’s exterior for the 2017 model makes it look less extensively reworked than it actually is.

There are obvious and subtle pointers to the redesign that the new A4 has been put through. The headlamps and tail-lamps are new with the kink at the bottom, the car’s design is also now sharper with a more aggressive bonnet grille. Its side character lines are deeper and more pronounced, and the stalked door mirrors are sportier and positioned on the door instead of on the A-pillar. There is also a lot more chrome all around making the new model seem plusher than the previous one.

But the new A4’s deception is in its ability to visually seem as compact as the previous generation, though it has actually grown in proportions. At first glance it looks wider than the outgoing model, but actually dimensions all around have increased, including the key rear seat room, a reason why it was always popular amongst owners who were chauffeur-driven.

Cabin

The new A4’s cabin gets all the tech and the goodies, and will clearly be the reason why Audi will now confidently take the fight to the competitors. It is gratifying to see that the India-spec’s cabin quality doesn’t see any watering down compared to the European-spec. Material quality feels really good even the plastic on the dashboard and door panels. But, the real boost to the interior comes from the use of lacquered wood panels on the centre console, the dashboard and doors. The front leather seats are comfy and even the rear feels especially roomy with loads of legroom.

The A4’s cabin also gets some nifty, useful tech features that add to its allure. Features like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit which magically transforms the instrument cluster into an elongated display and the touchscreen infotainment system are really useful and novel. There is wireless induction charging for compatible mobile phones and the A4’s new key is itself capable of storing multiple memory functions for seat, mirror, drive mode and aircon settings.

Performance

While choosing the powertrain for the new A4, Audi India seems to have stuck to pragmatism over the ‘mad-rush-for-numbers-ism’. So, the outgoing model’s 1.8-litre engine and its CVT (continuously variable transmission) gets scooped out and in its place the 1.4-litre TFSI engine with the 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission have been shoe-horned. The idea apparently is to now focus on efficiency and usable levels of power and torque that would still keep the A4 apt for Indian conditions and buyer preferences.

For all those who will feel disappointed by the prospect of the smaller engine being underpowered, Audi engineers would like to remind you about the nearly 100kgs of fat that has trimmed off in the new model and the fact that the powertrain still manages to deliver nearly the 0-100 kmph acceleration levels as the old one. The new A4 30 TFSI’s 1.4-litre petrol engine is a typical Audi unit in its refinement levels, but it delivers only 150hp of peak power and 250Nm of torque, compared to the previous 1.8-litre’s 170hp and 320Nm.

We joined the test drive of the car organised by Audi in Bhubaneshwar, down the picturesque highway leading to Konark. On the road, the new A4 feels nimble-footed at low speeds. Power delivery is smooth and gear shifts are quick and barely noticeable. However, the engine’s smaller size and lower performance numbers start becoming noticeable under hard acceleration and at higher engine revs, when the power simply tapers off. There is only enough performance to dip into within the 2,000to 5,000rpm band. The engine is great to listen to also within this range, and it feels strained when pushed past this range. There is the choice of a dynamic mode for quicker, sportier runs, but the engine feels strained even more often and the gear shifts, especially the kick-downs seem slower than you expected. The new A4’s rated fuel efficiency is, however, an attractive 17.4kmpl. So, buyers will at least have made a practical choice with this powertrain.

Bottom line

There is more to look forward to, however, in the suspension department, the set up for which takes the A4 right up to the top of the pile. The ride quality feels like the perfect balance between supple and rigid. Rear benchers should be particularly happy. Though they help with the ride quality, the 17-inch rims shod with high, 225/50-profile Hankook tyres and the slightly raised suspension don’t exactly help flatter the side profile of the new A4.

There will be no diesel engine or other larger petrol engine for the new A4. The new trim variants and prices for the new A4 30 TFSI are yet to be announced, but we expect at least one to be priced south of ₹40 lakh.

Frankly, the new model’s package is excellent overall and the new smaller, more efficient engine should be so off-putting for owners who sit mostly at the rear.

Published on September 08, 2016

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