It’s finally come to this. I have no complaints; no real criticisms. My mind is clear and not clouded by irritating grumbles. Sure, I can nitpick about the Audi A4 3.0L S-Line TDI quattro saloon I recently enjoyed for a week but when all is said and done, for me this car is near perfect. Some may not agree but our criteria for these things often varies. All I can say is that it was very hard to give it back. Very hard.
So I’m going to kick out the nits at the start. For me, it isn’t terribly exciting to look at. The Audi A4 never has been. The car is smart certainly; it has a kind of angular elegance and I have to admit that the front end is striking but I have to assume that the German brand know their market and refuse to let the more excitable concept car porn of their designers get in the way of big sales.
In any event it sits well at the kerb – even on the 18” alloys with winter tyres fitted rather than the more appealing 19 inchers – and once you climb into the superb Audi interior you stop thinking about the outside. Inside, it feels low and sleek and it’s easy to assume the position behind the multi-function steering wheel thanks to plenty of adjustment on the seat and steering column.
First Class Travel
Savour the feel of quality in the cabin. Everything fits tightly and works properly. The infotainment and navigation systems all perform well and easily; I covered Audi’s ‘virtual cockpit’ on my Q7 review (here) so won’t repeat myself. Although I’m not one for all this high-tech stuff – preferring cars that put driving pleasure at the forefront – technically the Audi A4 is brilliant. I’ve used simpler navigation input but once I’d tried it a couple of times all was well.
The S-line trim level adds masses of kit that I won’t list here; it’s all on the specification sheet below. The A4 retails at around £38k but once the salesperson has quietly slipped the options list across his desk with a glint in his or her eye you will find that you have suddenly ordered the car featured here which comes in at an wallet-clenching £51,245. The trouble is, all the kit is worth having. The acoustic glass goes a long way to eliminating wind noise and the like; there’s a tech pack, the ‘Light and Vision’ pack which adds the virtual cockpit and the adaptive matrix LED headlights plus the added bonus of great Bang & Olufsen 3D sounds.
In fact the only thing you don’t need is the smoking pack which at fifty quid (!) seems to consist of a fag lighter in a 12v socket and an ashtray pot that takes up one of the rather good central cupholders. You can get a £1 lighter at Tesco’s and a stick-on ashtray at your local motor factors if gaspers are your chosen method of dying early. Why are these things still offered?
Riding The Audi Express
As usual, the A4 features Audi’s ‘Drive Select’ system, by which it is possible to adjust the reaction of dampers, steering and throttle and it is tempting to put everything into dynamic mode and leave it there. In the tested S line trim the smooth Audi A4 has its ride height lowered by 20mm and that translates into minimal body roll and a very composed drive. Yes, the ride is firm, which I like, yet still comfortable in the roomy interior. The whole ambience feels solid and very refined. The seats are superb and even the back seat passengers get an extra 23mm of leg room.
With 268bhp and 442lb-ft of torque, the 3.0L TDI A4 beats similar offerings from both BMW and Jaguar. The engine in the A4 is a revised and improved version of the one that appeared in the previous iteration, with an 11% improvement in power with improvements also on emissions and fuel economy. CO² has fallen by 21% to 134g/km whilst the official combined miles for your gallon has risen to 55mpg. This isn’t as far off as you might expect from an official figure; on an economy motorway run in Comfort mode I saw just over 53mpg without really trying too hard. Not bad at all.
The 3.0L TDI is effortlessly fast and with added grunt from the 442lb-ft of torque which comes barrelling in at just 1500rpm, resulting in fierce acceleration from low revs. The real treat is supplied by Audi’s eight-speed automatic transmission, which provides smooth, fast shifts. For total control the keen driver can reach for the paddles but really, with an auto ‘box this good, you need not bother with all that tiresome fingertip exercise. This car goes like a train.
The Audi A4 is not however a boy-racer’s wet dream. The steering, whichever mode is selected, doesn’t have a lot of life and this, it could be argued, could limit driver enjoyment. True enough, but it is not that sort of car. On a sweeping country road the car handles with aplomb but clearly does not excite in the way, say, a Focus RS would. If that’s the sort of licence-trembling driving you want then Audi have it covered with the beast that is the RS4. Just don’t expect 53mpg, that’s all I’m saying.
This is the car for you if you have to travel the country on business. You can get the A4 with a fine two litre motor but why would you? The 3.0L V6 purrs along in a relaxed and contented way – until you press with the right foot, then, with a snarl, it will take off up the road like a greyhound out of the traps.
For the sake of your accountant or bank manager’s continued well-being here’s some money facts: VED is £130, the insurance group is 36 and the BIK rate is 24%. This is at the time of writing but I have no idea what the EU or the Chancellor – who completely ignored my last personal suggestion – will do at any given moment, but as it stands that is not too much of a hit for so much car.
Just The Ticket
The Audi A4 3.0L TDI S-Line quattro is a classic example of the company’s excellence. It’s beautifully made, sharp, refined and will appeal to drivers as well as passengers thanks to immense performance, sport suspension and a superb cabin. Despite being a saloon rather than a ubiquitous hatchback the boot is huge and easily accessed. In short, it’s got the lot. End of the line. Geoff Maxted