Audi A4 | Long term report | evo India
This month has been crazy. Accompanying revenge travel is the utterly insane Great Indian Auto Journalism Trail we motor-noters have been on. Pune - Delhi - Bishangarh - Delhi - Chandigarh - Pune - Bangalore - Delhi - Mumbai - Pune - Amritsar - Pune - Delhi - Dehradun - Mussoorie - Delhi - Pune - Mumbai - Kozhikode - Kabini - Bangalore - Pune and… there’s no respite, I’m writing this on a flight en route to another cross-country dash. If this Bharat darshan doesn’t ease up, I’ll get kicked out of the house very soon. After the relentless road testing, pushing the dynamic limits of new cars and SUVs to form credible opinions, you need a break, a reset, and the Audi A4 has been just the (soothing) balm I need.
You’ll expect me to start with the superb ride quality, and I will come to that in a bit, but the brilliance of the A4 lies in how every aspect has been tuned to deliver an overall sense of calm. Let’s start with the 2-litre turbo-petrol engine, a familiar engine and widely used in the larger VW Group, but here it has been mapped so well, it is so smooth, it feels like a different engine from what’s used in its cousins. In an attempt to inject some sportiness this TSI motor feels jumpy in some cars, while the entry-luxury positioning of other cars have compromised responses in other applications. But Audi have got the balance spot-on, so much so, that you don’t notice the engine at all. When you’re half dead after being on six flights over two days, when your nerves are frayed, all you want is to be cocooned from the outside world and the A4 delivers a much-needed oasis of calm. It’s brilliantly smooth. The throttle response is perfectly calibrated. There’s no hesitation before a burst of speed to get past pesky traffic. No head toss as the twin-clutch goes down a brace of gears and even the DSG-specific low-speed hesitation has been all
That’s what makes it such a great daily driver. On weekend drives you want thrills. On commutes you want to relax, and the latter is the A4’s forte. You don’t hear or feel the engine. The steering is light without feeling disconnected. And there’s the ride quality. Dehradun - Mussoorie was to drive the new C-Class and while its ride quality has noticeably improved it still has some way to go before matching the A4’s. The way the Audi soaks up bumps, potholes and speed breakers is crazy good. The A4's suspension compliance is the reference by which all its rivals have been, and continue to be, judged. And the Audi’s ground clearance is also brilliant. With four on board I scraped the C’s belly over the first speed breaker I encountered exiting the hotel — that’s something I’ve not experienced even once over the three months I’ve been living with the A4. The shortcut to our regular shoot location that we only attempt with SUVs, the A4 goes through easily, and that too with the full crew and their equipment on board. No other luxury car rides as well as the A4, and that’s a fact. As much as we don’t like the visual downsides to big wheel arch gaps and high profile tyres, fact is that this is what we need in India, especially with roads being what they are.
Of course I will point out that being front-wheel-driven the enthusiasm of the engine is not reflected in the handling. The soft suspension equates to noticeable and plentiful body roll. The steering is precise and so is the front end response but step on the gas mid-corner and it succumbs to understeer way too easily, especially when compared to its rear-drive rivals. You don’t get great steering feedback either with enthusiastic throttle application resulting in the steering wheel squirming in your hand and the ESP flashing vehemently.
The engine though, super-calm as it is in the city, does take on a nice and sporty character when being pushed. It really is a fun motor, in Sport mode the twin-clutch responds quickly and precisely, you have paddle shifters for manual control, and it does get a proper move on. On fast highway runs where you aren’t making heavy demands on cornering grip, the A4 comes into its own. The long wave undulations that are omnipresent on highways gets soaked up without any pitch or wallow, the A4 feeling as stable as we expect German cars to be. And you can hit those unexpected potholes without worrying about blowing a tyre or damaging something. It gives you peace of mind. This is a luxury car that eliminates the need for an SUV, especially if you’re thinking of the latter purely to deal with bad roads.
Fuel efficiency is something that we closely monitor on long term tests and with enthusiastic driving the A4 struggled to deliver more than 8.5kmpl. Ease off, like I’ve done over the past few weeks, and it’ll creep closer (but won’t exceed) double digits. That’s no better, nor worse, than its rivals — and with its main rival now moving to a downsized 1.5-litre engine the A4’s 2-litre does hold an on-paper advantage. Though I still miss the diesel.
The A4 might not be the most thrilling car in this segment but it is the most relaxed, comfortable and calming of the lot. A retreat before you get back to the hustle.