It’s the all-new Audi A4, in posh, S-Line trim with the (currently) top-of-the-range 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that chucks out 252 bhp. Soon, though, we’ll get the faster S4 and, inevitably, the flagship RS4. But at the moment, this is the fastest and most luxurious new A4 that you can buy.
Doesn’t look that new.
I’ll give you that. Put alongside a later, facelifted A4 from the last generation, and this new model doesn’t look that different. However, you’ll note a slightly more angular front end, with angrier, thinner headlights. There’s a prominent horizontal line on both the front and rear, giving the car a more aggressive stance on the road, and the rear has been slightly reworked. It’s certainly an evolutionary design change, rather than a revolutionary one. And who can blame Audi for that? The firm sold last-gen A4s by the truckload, and even as that generation aged, it looked pretty good for a mid-size saloon. This new one, then, simply tweaks that good design and modernises it where possible.
The interior is a different story. That was one area where the last A4 did feel its age, and this one has been thoroughly reworked. There are great swathes of leather spread across the seats, the door panels and roof lining. And sat atop a swooping, matte dashboard is a glorious tablet display. The centre console is simple and uncluttered, offering a thin row of AC controls, with another, even more discreet row of driver aid controls sat just below. The gear selector, electronic hand brake switch and scrolling wheel to control the screen are located between driver and passenger.
It’s all incredibly clean and crisp. What’s even more impressive, though, is just how luxurious the cabin feels, despite the fact that there are hardly any traditional materials to be found. Yes, there’s plenty of leather, but there’s no wood, and very little aluminium. Most of the switchgear is plastic, and even the materials stretching across the dash’s main arc are man-made. Dear lord, they feel good, though. And so they should, given the price of the thing.
How much are we talking?
Well, for the entry-level model, with virtually no options on it and a 150 bhp, 1.4-litre engine, you’re looking at a starting price of AED 138,900. This model, though, with its S-Line trim, Quattro drive system and a dizzying array of toys, comes in at AED 257,600.
Ouch. That’s a lot.
Yep, and, to be honest, the high price is the only real criticism you can legitimately throw at the new A4. Still, Audi is a premium brand, and the A4 is one of the most complete mid-size saloons in the market, and it’s awfully good.
It should be good, for that price.
Well, to be honest, you won’t need a lot of the garnish that’s been spread over this model. For example, it comes with a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, which, while lovely, isn’t really necessary. Also unnecessary is the ambient lighting, which bathes the cabin in a deep blue light, evoking the feeling of a trendy nightclub. Again, it’s nice, but probably not worth the extra cost. You can also ditch the cloth headlining option, the smartphone interface (which didn’t work on our test car), and the “convenience key”, which allows you to remotely open the boot lid.
I do, however, recommend this engine, which will mean your starting price stands at AED 178,000.
What’s so good about the engine?
Well, for starters, it makes the A4 pretty quick. You might think that 252 bhp sounds a little low when it comes to premium cars – after all, over 300 bhp is pretty commonplace in this price range these days. But the new A4 is up to 120 kg lighter than its predecessor, and that makes a difference. It means that this model will go from 0-100 km/h in 5.8 seconds, and on to a top speed of 250 km/h. These aren’t record-breaking numbers, by any stretch, but they’re not bad, either. You won’t be wanting for pace or excitement in this thing.
What’s really impressive, though, is just how on-demand the power is. With this engine, Audi has really shown that turbo lag is a thing of the past. Put your foot down in any gear, at any number of revs, and the car will pounce forward like a big cat closing in on its prey. Part of that is down to the fabulous 7-speed S-tronic gearbox, but it’s amazing that a turbocharged engine can be so responsive nonetheless.
And on the other side of the equation, you get a claimed fuel consumption rate of 6.2 L/100 km, and CO2 emissions of 141 g/km. In the real world, that means a range of around 800 km on a full tank of fuel, and the ability to claim that your car isn’t doing as much damage to the environment as the Nissan Sunny parked next to you.
What about the rest of the drive?
In a word? Effortless. The steering is light, the suspension plush, and the brakes smooth. Couple those attributes with the on-demand power, and you have a car that will eat up any motorway you can throw at it without breaking a sweat. The refinement also bears mentioning – everything is ridiculously well put together, meaning no rattles, no wind noise, and no tyre roar. This is more than I can say of another German car I recently tested.
Still, if you want to have a bit of fun, you’ll note just how much grip the Quattro drive system offers when you throw the A4 round a corner. Even in this model, I wasn’t able to find the limits of grip on public roads – you’ll need a track and a lot of speed to find any discernible understeer while going around a corner. It isn’t exciting, per se, but it’s really satisfying knowing that you can devour corners at pretty much any speed.
So it’s nice to drive. What about the tech?
This model features the ‘virtual cockpit’ instrument cluster, which is definitely an option worth having. In lieu of housing an analogue speedo’ and rev-counter, you get a collection of screens that can be infinitely customised to deliver all manner of read-outs. The best thing about it is that it isn’t gimmicky – you just get sharp read-outs of the information you want.
Another good option is the 360-degree parking camera, which collates feeds from cameras all around the car into a top-down view of the vehicle and its surroundings. It’s similar to the system found on the BMW 7-Series, except it’s even sharper, delivering a much better view of the stuff around the car. Considering the BMW sits two classes above the A4, that’s a pretty impressive feat from Audi.
Elsewhere, you get a good sat-nav system that actually works on Dubai’s roads, and it’s easy as anything to pair your phone for streaming music and making calls. Indeed, the tech on the A4 is all pretty accessible – you don’t feel like you need a computer science degree to operate any of it.
So, bottom line, would you buy one?
That’s a tricky one because, as we’ve established, while the A4 is very good, it’s also very expensive. What’s more, I’m personally not at the point in life where I’d want a four-door executive saloon – my money would be better spent on a coupe or hot hatchback. Still, if you are in the market for a German saloon, and are willing to put down a lot of cash for it, you won’t be disappointed with the new A4. Just keep an eye on the options list.
AUDI A4 SPECS:
Engine: 2.0-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder
Gearbox: 7-speed automatic
Power: 252 bhp
0-100 km/h: 5.8 s
Top speed: 250 km/h
Price (starting): AED 138,900
Price (as tested): AED 257,600
Dealer: Al Nabooda Automobiles
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