This is the new Audi A4. It may not look radically new, but it is because it is based on VW’s MLB platform. That means aluminium and steel construction and Audi claims a 120kg reduction in weight over the previous model despite the increase in size.
The good news is that this car will be in India very soon. Audi has stopped making the current A4 and current Indian sales means that the car will run out much faster than Audi expected forcing them to usher in the new model earlier. More good news comes in the form of the variants that Audi is considering offering in India. The mainstay engine will continue to be the 2.0-litre diesel (now clean of course) and Audi still expects this engine, along with the new 7-speed DSG gearbox to be the bestseller but, they are considering bringing in a cheaper, six-speed manual to India and market it on the lines of the Q3 S.
Also on the cards is the possible introduction of a 3.0-litre V6 TDI with Quattro – they did have this engine option in the current A4 – but the new one makes more power and going by what the old car felt like, this one should be even more of a pocket rocket.
How are the insides?
It is stunning to be quite frank. Where the new C-class feels elegant and classy and the 3-series feels well, like a BMW, the interiors of the new A4 is a fantastic mix of tech and sportiness. Like all new generation Audis, the star of the dashboard is the all digital instrument cluster. It is a high resolution colour screen and the graphics are stunning. You can choose between showing 3D maps (with the revcounter and speedometer small) and vice versa. You can also dial up all kinds of information including what your dog had for breakfast.
Importantly, our test car came with aluminium accents on the dashboard (I think it is much better than the wood finish that luxury car buyers in India seem to prefer) and the whole dashboard feels classy and uncluttered. We did with the high-resolution colour screen had the option of folding away though. Other than this gremlin, small details like the diameter of the steering wheel and its thickness add to it and on the whole, it feels the freshest and most appealing of all its rivals. It has to be – remember, the C-class has been around for some time now and the 3-series even longer, so Audi does have the natural advantage of being the newest and freshest take around.
Our car had manually adjustable seats (if Audi brings the manual to India, you can expect this) but the seats themselves are hugely comfortable. At the rear, there’s more legroom thanks to the increase in the size of the car but taller people might find headroom a bit restrictive. On the whole though, the cabin feels airier and plusher than before.
How does it drive?
I grabbed the keys to the 2.0-litre diesel with the manual gearbox. Like all A4’s in India (with the exception of the 3.0-litre TDI if they introduce it), this one is a front-wheel drive car and on the dry roads around Munich where we drove it, you really don’t miss all-wheel drive grip.
The engine is lovely. For starters, it is the quietest diesel in its segment and with the manual gearbox is a peppy little thing. With 188bhp and 400Nm of torque, it builds power progressively and has a strong midrange that makes it very satisfying to drive. The gearshift is light and crisp and the clutch is easy to modulate as well. What we know about this engine gearbox combination (from our long-term Jetta) is that it is rather easy to stall when you are at slow speeds. This is not a problem with the new A4 because if you do happen to stall the engine all you have to do is dip the clutch in quickly and the auto start-stop function will start the engine and you can be on your way with minimal embarrassment.
The crisp responses complement the way the car handles. This new A4 is noticeably sharper than the current car. What you notice immediately is the quick steering. There’s little slack around the straight ahead position and the car responds to small steering inputs quickly and effectively. There isn’t much body roll and there’s lots of grip from the front end and this sort of blurs the line between the old A4 and the new 3-series and that is always a good thing.
Our car was running 45-profile tyres and while they do add a lot to the tighter skinning of the new A4, you can expect Indian cars to come with higher profile tyres. On these low profile tyres though, there is a bit of road noise and I did feel more than I would like of the occasional Munich rut. I will reserve final judgement on the ride when I get to drive it over our spectacularly built roads though.
You can choose how the car behaves via the drive select feature that stiffens or softens the aluminium-intensive mulit-link suspension front and rear but, the car is so good in Dynamic mode that it was my mode of choice for most of the drive.
What it is excellent at is high-speed cruising. The stability you get along with sixth gear’s long leggedness in stupefying. The brakes are very good too help shed autobahn speeds quickly and without fuss.
Saying that it is a much better car than before would be stating the obvious. What Audi has done here is taken a winning formula and tweaked it in all the right places. The interiors are cutting edge, the engine and gearbox positively crackle and it now has more space and is nicer to drive. If Audi does offer the cheaper manual 2-litre diesel as well as the 272bhp V6 diesel in India, we don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t build on the success of its predecessor. Expect prices in India to start at around Rs 40 lakh.