Luxe

Spoilt for choice

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 20, 2018

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The new A4 is plusher and smarter, and it is due in India later this year. We couldn’t wait, so we went to Munich to get a sneak peek and a quick spin.

Audi has been in the news for the wrong reasons during the past few months. In this number-obsessed world, the first damage done was news of how Mercedes-Benz India had beaten Audi India to the top slot in 2015. Then, the diesel emissions scandal that shook the very roots of parent company Volkswagen blew into Audi’s camp as well. Naturally, Audi needs its cars to speak louder and deliver some good news this year. So, the timing could not have been better for introducing the new A3 and A4. The latter is one of Audi’s best-selling cars worldwide and it was what many Indian luxury car buyers fell completely in love with.

Over the last two years, the A4 has, however, become a bit jaded in the eyes of buyers, with design fatigue setting in after some of the competing models outed their more svelte next generation models. The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class upped the game with its S-Class-like exterior design and a much more refreshing and luxurious cabin. Our gripe has always been Audi’s design similarity across its model range. I think the most distinctive sedans in Audi’s portfolio in terms of design are the A3 and the A7.

Design

The new A4 makes some amends to acquire a certain degree of individuality. There is still the design similarity with the new A3 in the reworked headlamp design. So, the undercut in the headlamp unit’s design and the LED tube signature would leave you confused at night about which of the two models is driving up to you. But, during the day, it should be clear that this is the new A4.

Its dimensions are larger, design sharper, yet within Audi’s trademark focus on minimalist expression. The design captures the essence of the model by highlighting its width and sportiness. Sharper lines on the bonnet, more prominent wheel arches, and strong horizontal elements like the air inlets and multi-slatted grille add a lot of character to the front of the new A4. The sports-car style door mirrors now sit on the shoulders much like the TT, adding a dash of sportiness to the 2017 A4.

The A4 also get Audi’s famous Matrix LED headlights offering GPS aided assistance and steering input based dynamic light functions making it easier to drive on unlit highways. At the rear, the tail-lamps are narrower and elongated to accentuate the width of the car. The rest of the design almost looks unaltered from the current generation of cars from this brand.

The new A4 gets a bump up in exterior dimensions, length is up by 25 mm, but a lot more optimising has enabled maxing out the cabin space. The entire interior length has gone up by 17 mm compared to the current A4. Similarly, the headroom is up by 24 mm, shoulder room is up 11 mm and the key statistic for Indian buyers — legroom — at the rear is up 23 mm. Every inch counts! Boot space is 480 litres.

The cabin of the A4 now gets a whole new bunch of premium materials, sporting a new finish and feel. Much more luxurious metal inserts with new textures, leather trim in pleasing greys and a new horizontal orientation for the dashboard manage to communicate its hierarchical position above the refreshed new A3. The centre stack, with all the controls and the infotainment system with its slimmer, pop-up 8.3-inch display at the centre of the dashboard is more driver-oriented. Nicely bolstered bucket seats are perfect for dynamic driving. Leather-wrapped gear selector sports a new design (Audi calls it powerboat-style) and feels more premium, just like some of the other dashboard and door panel inserts.

The other highlight feature in the cabin is the Audi virtual cockpit. A 12.3-inch screen behind the steering wheel doubles as a digital display either for the classic combination of rev counter, speedometer and gear indicator, or a smaller version of these, with the rest of the space being used for displaying live navigation maps as a 3D terrain model (if available). This is the perfect place to look for directions if you have lost your way and can’t stop anywhere soon to fix your orientation.

We don’t yet know about the trim variants that Audi India plans on bringing in here. But our test drive model had all of the above features and a Bang & Olufsen 3D surround sound system with a six-channel amplifier and 19 speakers. It also had the next-gen MMI control panel.

Performance

Weight reduction and improvement in efficiency has been the focus for the 2017 A4. This new A4 has shed about 120kg. Thanks to increased use of aluminium, magnesium and thinner profile high-strength steel, it manages to offer more than 18 key parts that are now lighter. So, this new A4 is larger, and yet lighter than all its rivals. All of this light-weighting means improved performance on the road and lower emissions.

We drove the European-spec A4 with the three-litre V6 diesel engine paired with the seven-speed DSG, dual-clutch transmission. Audi is yet to spell out the engines that will make it here. But, the most likely candidates are a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol and the 2.0 TDI (two-litre diesel), with the 3.0 TDI also being considered for a top-spec model. The two-litre diesel has been in the eye of the emissions storm, but VW and Audi are already working hard to convince regulators that the reworked engine comes clean as far as the environment is concerned.

We drove to Tegernsee, a small, picturesque lake district an hour or so outside Munich. While the jump in quality and premium feel in the cabin caught our attention immediately, the refinement of the engine and the excellent NVH package also came through from how quiet the cabin is while driving. The engine is quick, power delivery is quite linear and there is almost no discernible turbo lag. Also, with access to the peak torque of 400 Nm right from 1,250 rpm and the quick shifting DSG gearbox added to the mix, the new A4 is quick, though not blisteringly fast as one would expect. The steering could do with more feel, but it will still not be found wanting in precision. The new A4 also gets changes to the suspension set up that continues to keep the ride quality pliant on bad roads and well-planted for straight-line stability.

Is it a buy?

The new A4’s design continues to be unadventurous outside and in. But that is not surprising given the fact that there is nothing wrong or amiss with the design. The cabin in the Merc C-Class maybe viewed more favourably in terms of design, but the new A4 manages to more than catch up in terms of its luxury vibe. As for handling and dynamic feel, the BMW 3 Series would still score higher, but the A4 could be the one that is preferred by backbenchers. We expect Audi India to price the new A4 in the ₹40 lakh-50 lakh range depending on the trim. This one will have more differentiators going for it, within Audi's portfolio.

Published on June 15, 2016

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