It may be the same, but that mid-life facelift is astonishingly extensive for the current A4
It’s the same but better. I know, what you’re thinking: ‘hang on… what’s changed? Oh but wait, that looks far more interesting from the front three-quarters…’
Well let’s be honest, the current generation Audi A4, launched in 2016 was handsome, but very soap-bar smooth generic Audi.
So for its mid-life facelift last year, it for a more rakish, slashy-jawed aggressive front end, a tighter and perter bottom and on the flanks… well…. Scrap the boring single sweeping shoulder line between front and rear lights, and sculpture in independent blisters to accentuate the wheel arches and give the sides a nip and tuck top and bottom to suck in that belly flat.
This is now a leaner, meaner and dare I say, sportier looking thing that just tangibly stays this sice of decorous. And yet it can still do suave, sophisticated but discreet as is the Audi way, moreso than rivals BMW and Mercedes.
Superbly crafted and finished as it is, and again, as is typical of modern Audis, the interior remains largely familiar. In the beautifully resolved and logically laid-out cockpit, the only anomaly is the vast centre touch screen standing oddly tall and proud of the dashboard, as if an aftermarket afterthought. Honestly you feel like you could grab the top and just rip it off – you’re half tempted to – don’t.
It works though, well mostly apart from not always wanting to handshake with my specific iPhone (an old battered 6 Plus that’s cantankerous on the best of days. The screen may stand out, but it doesn’t stand in line of vision, so we’ll forgive it it’s over exuberant protrusion.
Stop complaining, the A4 doesn’t give you much reason too. The ride in particularly is superb thanks to standard and sensible 18-inch alloy wheels, and especially as our test car is fitted with ‘comfort suspension and damping control’ – a £1000 option on a near £34,000 car.
With further options including a premium sound system, metallic paint and S-Line full LED lighting package (another grand) the total price for this actual car is nearly £38,000.
Sink into the black leather sport seats in this A4 35 TFSI Sport S Tronic, and such tightly bolted together opulence may lull you into not just an shakeable sense of well-being, but a surge of smugness at remarkably decent value for such an executive car park winner.
Not least because a 6ft 2in tall long-legged driver, such as myself, can not only unravel comfortably in the front, but feel rather recumbent sitting behind his or her twin. With an ample boot and capacious cabin, the A4 does to the A6 what the A6, in turn, does to the A8: almost render it redundant, when it comes to purely for the sake of increased space.
However, take a closer look at the spec and your smugness might be soured just a tad at the realisation that the 35 part of the name’s suffix is not indicative of an engine attaining a CC of say 3.5-litres as you may have assumed in ye olden days. Only God and Audi product planners know what ‘35’ really signifies, but what you actually have under the bonnet is a 150bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a 7-speed auto driving the front wheels.
But if we may continue to indulge in the numbers game, your scoffs will be quelled by 0-62mph acceleration in a respectable 8.9 seconds thanks to 270Nm (200lb ft) of torque, and a top speed of 140mph, subjectively under full throttle it feels quicker still than the stats imply. Additionally fuel consumption is about 40mpg (which I achieved) and CO2 emissions are 136g/km.
So in retrospect there’s not a whole lot of short-changing going on after all, which explains why this engine is the most popular variant of the car.
Taking the Audi A4 on a long run from the edge of London to the end of the A4 road just outside Bristol on the west coast (see what I did there – anyway, watch the video!) and spending nearly eight hours at the wheel, testified to this Audi’s incredible ability to serenely shrink into the back ground of your journey experience.
It’s a dependable and unrelentingly obedient companion that demands little of you and offers a great deal in ensuring your physical well being on what thus becomes far less than the arduous journey you imagined. Even being stuck in lengthy traffic is not a chore, especially as climate control is spot-on and the stereo rocks.
On the few sections where traffic dissolved and the road became windy it proved rapid enough, easy to overtake in, surefooted through apexes, if not quite quattro-AWD-planted, and not as inclined to understeer than its forebears, with a faithful, if light, steering.
In any attempt to understudy a more sporty saloon, the A4 proves more willing than genuinely engaging, but that’s okay when you realise its forte is in cossetting and delivering you to your destination with minimum fuss and fatigue. And for that, combined with its solidity and irreproachable quality, it’s easy to recommend this even to those normally keen on a size above this segment (A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E Class).
It’s all the Audi you need, unless you really must have the terrifically theatrical dancing external LED lights of the A6 activated on lock and unlock – which are admittedly pretty cool and an odd omission on the facelifted A4. Abandon any sweeping radar red light Knight Rider fetish though, and the A4 is the one to get.
Actually nah, get the A6, those lights are just so cool!