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Will the new A4 be the harbinger of Audi’s return to the top in 2021?

S. Muralidhar | Updated on January 15, 2021

The dashboard design, though simple, is precise, and the finish quality is superb   -  S Muralidhar

The sporty sedan returns with a more powerful, yet efficient engine and a loaded cabin. Is it enough to take on the competition?

In my opinion, one of the best luxury cars for first time buyers in the segment has been the Audi A4. My personal favourite too, and it is good to see Audi start its product offensive for this year with this driver’s sedan. Being one of the first cars bearing the four rings to be launched in India, the A4’s refined, dynamic character has stuck on, setting the bar for competitors. Now more than ever Audi needs the A4 to help it refill the gap in its portfolio; to claw its way back to the top of the pile in the luxury segment.

The 2021 A4 is a significant change over the outgoing model (which has been missing from the India portfolio for months now). This is still the 5th generation of the A4, even though it seems all-new. The redesign is quite comprehensive, as are the changes inside the cabin. In terms of dimensions, the new A4 remains nearly identical to the predecessor, with a marginal increase in length and width, and a slightly tighter roofline. Choice of powertrain has been whittled down to just a petrol with the 7-speed dual clutch (DSG); the diesel engine is not available any more. But the good news is that the previous 1.4-litre petrol has been replaced with a new, more powerful, 2-litre TFSI engine that delivers 190hp. So, how is it to drive? Is it worth the wait?

Design

The A4 set the tone for Audi’s design language in the minds of Indian buyers. But the previous generation’s sharper creases and simpler lighting signatures give way to a slightly more rounded design and a more complex LED lighting configuration for the headlamps and tail lamps. It is still unmistakably Audi from any angle. But at the front, the broader hexagonal bonnet grille features a flatter single frame with chrome highlights and slats. The headlamps now feature a comb style array of lights giving it a new light signature. The bonnet creases remind me of the previous model, though the continuous shoulderline of previous models has been replaced with a less sharp line that just barely cuts into the smooth door on either end. The result is a crease that highlights the front and rear side panels, and adds some more visual bulk to the profile.

Tail-lamps feature a LED brake light pattern that mimics the headlamps. My test mule’s boot lid lip featured an integrated spoiler and large chrome-clad twin tail pipes peeped out of the rear fender.

Layered surfacing, horizontal lines and chrome highlights emphasise the width and size of the new A4. Overall, the new exterior design works, making this a very likeable Audi.

Cabin

The new A4’s cabin is also dominated by horizontal lines. The row of aircon vents with the dummy slats in between that extend the design and act as connectors offer a separation of the dashboard elements. This is a simple dashboard design, but it is precise and the finish quality is superb. So, while it may not have the jazz of the Volvo S60’s crystal elements, the new A4 still feels plush and modern. The palm-friendly gear selector stick takes up centre stage on the centre console and what's missing is the rotary MMI controller. Instead, you now get to control everything from the 25.65cm touchscreen and its acoustic feedback confirms your selection. I’m not a big fan of touchscreens, so I did miss the old knob, though the MMI display does manage to deliver a fairly intuitive user experience.

The cabin is also loaded with other goodies including power front seats with memory function for the driver seat, 3-zone air conditioning, ambient lighting, a wireless charger slot for your smartphone, park assist and heated door mirrors. My test mule’s cabin colour theme was piano black and a sort of warm brown leather seats combination. There is also the extremely popular Audi Virtual cockpit plus digital display that combines the instrument cluster and navigation/ infotainment information on a single screen. No 3D maps here; but, the multi-function steering wheel will help you customise the display to your liking. Space in the cabin is good, though may not be segment leading, now that BMW has just launched the long wheelbase 3 Series GL. Boot offers 460-litres of luggage space.

Performance

The 2021 Audi A4 gets a new upgraded 4-cylinder, 2-litre TFSI petrol engine. The identifying nomenclature on the boot lid is 40 TFSI and this is the only engine option. Two trim variants are being offered - Premium Plus and Technology. The engine delivers 190hp of peak power and 320Nm of torque. This extremely refined engine is rev-happy, and delivers a torquey on-road performance, so much so that buyers will hardly miss the diesel engine in this model line. Not a significant fuel price differential now and if your driving range will be low, means that the new A4’s 40 TFSI will be more than adequate. Power is fed to the front wheels, no Quattro here, though it is standard across variants in markets like the US. But there is no dearth for road-holding in the India-spec A4 too. It may not be Prima Donna in the handling department though. There is some body roll while cornering and the chassis is built to be firm but not rigid. Overall, its handling will be sporty enough for most drivers in the segment. What will be appreciated even more will be its suspension setting, which is tuned to be pliant and capable of gliding over bad roads effortlessly. The engine is paired to the dual clutch DSG transmission. The gearbox delivers a fairly sporty performance, though kickdowns are just that bit delayed in comfort mode. So, you may need to reconsider that really tight overtake. But, use the steering mounted paddles for manual selection and the gearbox feels sorted delivers quick shifts on demand. Peak torque is available from a low 1,450rpm and there is also some assistance from the 12-Volt mild hybrid system that is also onboard offering a few extra horses during high consumption phases. The system includes a belt alternator starter which shuts off the engine during coasting and also recharges through brake regen. It will probably also stretch that litre just that bit more.

Bottom Line

The new A4 is sportier than its predecessor; delivers improved performance and will manage to keep its promise on the road. It is a driver’s car, always has been, and has upped the game with its classier new interiors too. The cabin features, the on-road performance and the steering wheel that weighs up at speed and into corners - all point to it being a driver’s car. But, you won’t go wrong sitting at the rear, though it certainly won’t be as much fun.

Prices for the new A4 40 TFSI variants are ₹42.34 lakh for the Premium Plus and ₹46.67 lakh for the Technology trim (both ex-showroom).

Published on January 15, 2021

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