Audi A4 facelift | First Drive Review
The A4 gets a facelift, but it's more comprehensive than just a fresh face with new tech, updated interiors and a new engine
Climbing into the tracking car's boot, our photographer Rohit gave a thumbs up, which meant the Audi A4 looks great. And I agree. This might just be a facelift, but the front end of the Audi A4 looks fresh and actually rather appealing, with the DRLs adding more than their share of flash. The grille is broader and flatter giving it a more imposing front end, and the bodywork is typical Audi — tightly pinched metal work along the bonnet and the flanks. The rear combinations are cool too, as expected of anything with the four rings on it. The only bit I didn’t like were the bigger wheels, as they usually come at the expense of ride quality, but a flashier alloy design would have been more than welcome.
The changes continue on the inside as well. Virtual Cockpit is now standard, and there’s a new 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Gone are the rotary controls from the centre console and the screen is now operated by touch. The interface is similar to other Audi cars and is fairly easy to use though it doesn’t get the satisfying haptic feedback of the more expensive cars like the A6 and A8. That said, I actually prefer this layout compared to the twin touchscreens in those cars — the floating screen is more in your line of sight and physical air-con and volume controls are more intuitive to operate. A neat touch is the fact that it gets both a traditional USB-A as well as a USB-C port, so you’re not left hunting for adapters depending on which phone you own. The interiors feel welcoming and while most of it feels really high quality — the screen, the Virtual Cockpit, the knurled metal controls for the aircon, piano black inlays in the dash — there are parts that don’t. You get leatherette seats, for example, and a fair bit of (high quality, but still) plastic inlays around the gear selector.
What’s under the hood is new to the A4 as well. Where the older A4 had a 1.4-litre turbopetrol (which was also seen on the previous-gen Q3), the new one gets a 2-litre unit mated to a DCT gearbox. This drivetrain is actually rather familiar — it’s the same engine found under the hood of other Volkswagen Group cars like the Skoda Superb and Tiguan Allspace that have been launched in India over 2020. It makes 188bhp and 320Nm and is mated to a seven-speed transmission — all the vital statistics are identical. There is one key difference though — the A4 is underpinned on the MLBEvo platform, so the engine is mounted longitudinally and not transversely like on those MQB-underpinned cars. It also gets a mild-hybrid system based on a 12V architecture — a belt alternator starter generator that recovers energy during deceleration, stores it in the battery and powers the electricals when the engine is off due to the start-stop function.
It is bloody silent, this A4. Audi has really done a solid job on the sound deadening and insulation — setting off from a standstill, the engine is but a faint whisper as long as you’re feathering the throttle. Even as speeds rise, as long as you’re gentle with the throttle and you’re short-shifting, it’s barely audible inside the cabin. Road and wind noise are well contained too, and the A4 really feels properly isolated from the outside. This is an engine that I have driven a fair bit over the last year but none of the other Group cars do such a good job of keeping the NVH on the outside — Audi’s luxury car building prowess shining through. And to compliment this, the ride is also superb. The high-profile tyres do a great job of ironing out our roads and the suspension is compliant, but never floaty. Sharp bumps that normally catch these European cars out are dealt with imperiously and the passengers are oblivious to what’s going on under the car. It really does take its luxury credentials seriously.
Power is more than adequate as well. Should you want to get a move on, the 2-litre TFSI engine showcases its ability to hustle. This is a front-wheel-drive car and you do feel the torque steer through the ’wheel, and occasionally see the TC light flash on the dash, but it’s never intimidating. The A4 doesn’t mind being pushed hard and the free-revving engine actually coaxes you to do so. It’ll handle a set of quick corners rather competently as well, but you do need to remember that this is a car that has its focus on keeping you comfortable more than anything else.
Can this be a car you’re chauffeur driven in? Most definitely! The backseat is pretty comfortable and while knee room isn’t what you’d call lavish, it was enough for my 5’10” frame. It does the important bits — the ride, the sound deadening, the refinement — really well. However, the backseat is better off holding two people — there’s a big driveshaft tunnel running down the centre for the international quattro-equipped models and this eats into foot space for the middle seat guy significantly.
If comfort is your priority over everything else, you must pay a visit to an Audi dealership. The interiors may lack the outright richness of the Volvo S60, but it feels more solidly built and it aces it on the ride quality front. And if Rohit sees you rolling down the road in one, you’ll probably get another thumbs up from him. The A4 is now being assembled in India, and it will be launched by the time you read this. The Q2’s pricing wasn’t what we expected it to be, but being a CKD, the A4 is unlikely to go down that route.
We estimate it to be priced between Rs 45 and 50 lakh (ex-showroom) and this should place it right in the crosshairs of its rivals from Munich (the BMW 3 Series) and Stuttgart (Mercedes-Benz C-Class). Time for a good old slugfest like in the old days?