The new A4 couldn’t have come along at a better time for Audi. Never has the competition been greater in the so-called compact executive sector.
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class has been making hay, while the BMW 3-Series has been refreshed and that plucky Brit, the Jaguar XE, has just been launched.
Even within the Volkswagen Audi Group the A4’s cousins, the VW Passat and the superb new Skoda Superb, have upped the ante.
You have to look pretty hard to distinguish the new Audi A4 from the outgoing model which had record-breaking sales in 2014, shifting 158,987 cars in the UK alone.
The giveaways are Audi’s deep new signature grille and rakish headlights, along with sharp creases down the side of this very slippery car. Follow an A4 and the pulsing rear indicators also mark out the new model.
Inside it’s definitely roomier with more space for front and rear passengers, while the boot is one of the biggest in its class.
Up to 120kg lighter than its predecessor and 21% more economical, the more you scan the spec of the new A4, the more impressive it is.
Not so immediately obvious is the sheer amount of tech available. Xenon headlights, keyless start, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control (with freewheeling mode) and three-zone climate control come as standard even on the entry level SE.
Move up to the Sport and S line and the list grows impressively with treats such as LED headlights, sexier bodystyling and cool alloys.
Other options out to tempt buyers include a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, the Audi Virtual Cockpit from the TT (all 12.3 inches of digital fun right in front of the driver), Adaptive Cruise Control, adaptive suspension, Parking Assist and Digital TV reception, to name but a few.
In fact, the list is as long as your arm and getting carried away could seriously harm your wallet, but you get the picture – the Audi A4 is a state-of-the-art car.
A couple of things deserve special mention. Audi Phone Box (a retro name for smartphone connectivity) includes wireless charging, while Adaptive Cruise Control actually talks to the sat nav so that the car sticks to speed limits and can tackle approaching hills etc more efficiently.
The new A4 comes with an impressive range of petrol and diesel engines, ranging from a 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol to a 268bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel.
I concentrated on the two mid-range engines which are likely to be the biggest sellers – the 148bhp and 187bhp 2.0-litre diesels.
Audi claims the smaller of the two is good for 74.3mpg, while its CO2 emissions are as low as 99g/km. The 187bhp version isn’t far off with a claimed 103g/km of CO2 and 72.4mpg.
The 148bhp diesel is clearly geared more for economy and has to be worked quite hard if you’re in a hurry, but if you got for this engine that’s unlikely to be the case – you’re more likely to be going for high mpg than lap records.
However, I’d still go for the larger of the two diesels which has noticeably more power (while still offering serious economy) and seemed a little more refined, making it an excellent all-rounder.
Coupled with Audi’s excellent 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, my test car was particularly refined, no doubt partly because it was also fitted with optional extra acoustic glazing to the side and rear windows – a bargain for £200.
The new A4 handles well and, as ever, Audi drive select lets you toggle between ‘comfort’, ‘auto’ or ‘dynamic’ modes. The steering seemed well weighted too. In short, the A4 will soak up the motorway miles, which is just as well because a large amount of these will be sold to fleet buyers.
Inside there’s Audi’s usual quality feel and it’s comfortable and spacious. And, as you’d expect from a modern car packed with so much tech, the A4 scored a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP’s crash tests.
The new Audi A4 ranges from £25,900 for the 1.4 TFSI to £38,950 for the 3.0 TDI quattro. However, even if you opt for the mid-range 187bhp 2.0 TDI S line S tronic I recommend, it’s a basic £33,345. Add a sprinkling of optional extras and before you know it, you’re heading close to £40,000. So, go easy when ticking the extras list.
On the plus side, CAP predicts the new A4 will hold its value well – class leading in the case of the 1.4 TFSI.
Verdict: Audi has raised the bar again with the A4. It’s now as technologically as advanced as any of its competitors and more connected than ever. Add to that refinement, fuel economy, space, safety and comfort and it becomes a compelling proposition.