Now, Audi is ready to launch a heavily-revised version of that car in a bid to beat the next generation 3-series to market, armed with one of the broadest engine ranges on the market – including a full complement of Euro IV diesels – new petrol engines, more dynamic styling and improved driving behaviour.
So from January, company car drivers in the UK will be able to take delivery of their revised A4s months before the new BMW 3-series goes on sale.
It’s a sign of how aggressive things have become in the premium sector with Audi not merely aiming to be an alternative to BMW, but in the future hopes to overtake it in the UK sales charts with new products in the pipeline.
Kevin Rose, director of Audi UK, recently said: ‘At present the A4 is our best-selling range, with annual volume of 27,000 units. As part of our efforts to maintain good residual values, I’d prefer to manage that volume at the current level and achieve growth by adding other models in new areas of the market.
‘We’ll soon have a coupe version of the A4 and a new SUV and I expect each will add to our overall volume. The premium market will account for 14% of total sales this year and should rise to 18% or even 20% in four years.’
Audi is claiming the revised A4 is a ‘new generation’ and to be fair much of it is new.
The only body panel carried over is the roof and the car has two new petrol engines and two new diesels.
The 2.4-litre 170bhp V6 has been dropped, with the alternatives being the trusty 161bhp 1.8-litre turbocharged engine or a new 197bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre FSI. The 2.0 T FSI combines the fuel-saving characteristics of the company’s existing direct injection petrol engine with the mid-range surge of a turbo to deliver a surprisingly efficient high-performance motor.
Meanwhile, FSI technology is employed in the other V6 engine, the 251bhp 3.2-litre already found in the Audi A6, which effectively replaces the current 217bhp 3.0-litre V6.
The Euro IV compliant 113bhp 1.9 TDI engine is carried over from the current A4 range, and is joined by the 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI unit found in the A3 and A6.
The 2.5-litre V6 remains in front-wheel drive form only, while the new top diesel is a 201bhp version of the 3.0 TDI found in the A6 and A8, boasting 332lb-ft of torque from 1,400rpm and quattro four-wheel drive as standard.
Both the 2.0 TDI and 3.0 TDI will be offered with optional particulate filters soon after the launch of the new car. They do not need them to comply with Euro IV emissions, but will be available for those who perhaps can’t live with the guilt of pumping soot into the atmosphere.
Changes to the front of the A4 include new headlamps which can be fitted with adaptive headlights, while the rear light clusters are similar to those found on the new A3 Sportback.
The front end also has the new ‘single-frame’ grille and has a slightly shorter overhang than the existing car.
Much of the interior remains the same, with choices of various wood or metallic inserts in the dashboard and doors and high grade materials throughout.
Luggage capacity is unchanged, with a useful 460 litres in the saloon, and a tight-fisted 1,184 litres maximum in the Avant. Of course the A4 Avant is marketed as a stylish ‘lifestyle’ wagon than a proper estate.
Perhaps more important are the changes to the chassis. The suspension has been heavily modified with new components and changes to the spring and damper settings, with the new A6 and Audi S4 influencing some of the developments.
Audi promises a higher level of agility and more precise handling following the changes, as well as improve-ments in ride quality.
Automatic dual-zone climate control will be standard across the range, while electric rear windows are standard on 2.0 T FSI and V6 models.
Behind the wheel
THE A4 has always had perhaps the most understated appearance of any premium upper-medium car and while much of that still exists in the new model, changes to the front and rear add more dynamism to its shape.
There seems to be a stronger sense of purpose, and viewing one approaching from the rear view mirror encourages you to get out of its way no matter how fast it is travelling. The sides of the A4 now have a more sculpted shape and combined with the rest of the changes all help give the A4 more road presence.
Little has changed inside – Audi is still the benchmark for interior fit and finish and the quality of the materials is as you would expect in a premium car.
Our first experience of the new A4 on the road was in the new turbocharged FSI engine, which was launched in the A3 Sportback this month and will, no doubt, find its way into the A6 at some point in the near future.
With so many excellent diesels available, it is easy to forget there are some pretty special petrol engines out there – and this 2.0 T FSI is one of them.
Quiet at low revs, the engine note rises in volume with speed and like the other normally-aspirated FSI engines we have tried, comes with a sporty exhaust note at higher revs.
The turbo means maximum torque of 207lb-ft is available from 1,800 right up to 5,000 rpm, which means there is a rapid response when required for overtaking. But speed continues to build strongly and smoothly right across the rev range.
As well as the businesslike six-speed manual, we also tried the quattro version of this car with a six-speed Tiptronic automatic, which appeared similarly responsive.
We also sampled the 2.0-litre TDI engine, which seemed rather coarse by comparison, but in the context of modern diesels had acceptable noise levels at low revs and was near silent at higher speeds. It’s a gutsy performer, with 236lb-ft of torque available from just 1,750rpm.
The new A4 is noticeably different to drive than the outgoing model, which while offering a firm ride and neat handling, was rather lacking in finesse, particularly when chosen with larger wheels.
Now the ride is more comfortable and the changes to the suspension make the A4 feel more responsive. There are no changes to the steering, and it is still a little vague at lower speeds, but the modifications to the front suspension make the driver feel a little more involved and in control.
The A4 also feels more composed when faced with more challenging roads, although these were relatively few on our test route around Munich.
SLEEKER and better to drive than before, the revised A4 seems to offer the most complete range in its sector with 10 engine choices, four transmissions and the option of quattro four-wheel drive on certain models. It seems set fair for continued success with business drivers in the UK.
Audi A4 petrol fact file
|Model: A4||1.6||2.0||1.8T||2.0T FSI||3.2 FSI V6||4.2 V8 S4 Quattro|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||100/5,600||128/5,700||161/5,700||197/5,100||251/6,500||339/7,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||109/3,800||144/3,300||166/1,950||207/1,800||243/3,250||302/3,500|
|Max speed saloon (mph):||118||132 (CVT: 127)||142 (CVT: 139)/Q*: 140||150 (CVT: 146)/Q*: 148 (Tip: 146)||CVT: 146 /Q* Tip: 145||155|
|Max speed Avant (mph):||116||129 (CVT: 126)||140 (CVT: 137)/Q*: 139||146 (CVT: 143)/Q*: 145 (Tip: 143)||CVT: 152/Q*: 150 (Tip: 153)||155|
|0-62mph saloon (sec):||12.6||9.9 (CVT: 10.4)||8.6 (CVT: 8.6)/ Q*: 8.7||7.3 (CVT: 7.3)/Q*: 7.2 (Tip: 7.7)||CVT: 6.8/Q*: 6.4 (Tip: 6.9)||5.6 (Tip: 5.8)|
|0-62mph Avant (sec):||13.0||10.1 (CVT: 10.4)||8.8 (CVT: 8.9)/Q* 8.9||7.6 (CVT: 7.6)/Q*: 7.5 (Tip: 8.0)||CVT: 7.0/Q*: 6.6 (Tip: 7.1)||5.8 (Tip: 5.9)|
|Fuel consumption saloon (mpg):||36.7||35.3 (CVT: 35.8)||34.4 (CVT: 34.4)/Q* 30.7||36.7 (CVT: 34.9)/Q*: 32.1 (Tip: 30.1)||CVT: 30.1/Q*: 26.7 (Tip: 26.4)||21.2 (Tip:23)|
|Fuel consumption Avant (mpg):||36.2||35.3 (CVT: 35.3)||34.0 (CVT: 34.0)/Q*: 30.7||36.2 (CVT: 34.9)/Q*: 32.1 (Tip: 29.7)||CVT: 30.1/Q*: 26.4 (Tip: 26.4)||21.0 (Tip: 23.0)|
|CO2 emissions saloon (g/km):||185||192 (CVT: 190)||197 (CVT: 197)/Q*: 221||185 (CVT: 194)/Q*: 211 (Tip: 226)||CVT: 226/Q*: 259 (Tip: 269)||321 (Tip: 295)|
|CO2 emissions Avant (g/km):||187||192 (CVT: 192)||199 (CVT: 199)/Q*: 221||178 (CVT: 194)/Q*: 211 (Tip: 228)||CVT: 226/Q*: 257 (Tip: 257)||322 (Tip: 295)|
*Q = Quattro
Audi A4 Diesel fact file
|Model: A4||1.9 TDI||2.0 TDI||2.5 TDI V6||3.0 TDI V6 Quattro|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||113/4,000||138/4,000||161/4,000||201/3,500|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||210/1,900||236/1,750||258/1,500 (CVT: 229/1,400)||332/1,400|
|Max speed saloon (mph):||125||132 (CVT: 128)||141 (CVT: 136)||146 (Tip: 145)|
|Max speed Avant (mph):||122||127 (CVT: 125)||139 (CVT: 135)||144 (Tip: 142)|
|0-62mph saloon (sec):||11.2||9.7 (CVT: 9.8)||8.8 (CVT: 8.9)||7.2 (Tip: 7.7)|
|0-62mph Avant (sec):||11.5||9.9 (CVT: 10.2)||9.0 (CVT 9.2)||7.4 (Tip: 7.9)|
|Fuel consumption saloon (mpg):||50.4||49.6 (CVT: 48.7)||41.5 (CVT: 41.5)||37.7 (Tip: 34.4)|
|Fuel consumption Avant (mpg):||50.4||48.7 (CVT: 48.7)||40.9 (CVT: 40.9)||37.7 (Tip: 34.0)|
|CO2 emissions saloon (g/km):||151||153 (CVT: 150)||184 (CVT: 184)||203 (Tip: 220)|
|CO2 emissions Avant (g/km):||151||153 (CVT: 150)||186 (CVT: 186)||203 (Tip: 220)|
|Fuel tank capacity (l/gal):||70/15.4;||Quattro – 63/13.9|
|Transmission:||5-sp man,||6-sp man,||CVT Multitronic auto,||6-sp Tiptronic auto|
|Service intervals (miles):||Variable|
|On sale:||January 2005|
|2005 Prices (estimated):||£18,750-£39,000|