What Car? says...
So impressed were we with current Audi A4 that we voted it our overall Car of the Year when it was launched in 2016. That was a few years ago, though, and Audi knows how important it is to never rest on its laurels.
To stay in touch with the BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes C-Class in arguably the longest-standing three-car rivalry since we moved away from horseback, the A4 received a heavy visual update in 2019. But was it enough to keep the competition at bay?
At the front, the latest A4's trademark 'single-frame' grille keeps it in line with other Audi models. You might also spot that LED headlamps are standard across the range and display a unique light signature.
Around the back, the latest A4's taillights closely resemble those of the more expensive Audi A6. The A4 doesn’t have the full-width brake lights of the A6, but every model gets a smattering of chrome exterior details that add to its upmarket looks. That theme continues inside, too, where the A4's all-touchscreen infotainment system hints at more expensive Audis, such as the flagship A8 limo.
Audi has kept the A4's engine petrol and diesel engine lineup fresh, too, but is all this enough to best the car's rivals in the executive car class? Read on over the next few pages for everything you need to know about the A4, including which trim level, engine and options you should pick. Don’t forget there’s also the V6-powered Audi S4 which might be worth a glance if an ordinary executive saloon sounds a bit slow.
And remember, if you want to buy an A4, then don't forget to check out our New Car Buying pages. You could save a small fortune without any awkward haggling.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
We'd tend to avoid the 30 TDI because the more powerful 161bhp 35 TDI diesel feels a little flat when overtaking on faster roads, although it has decent enough low-end shove if you're driving around town. You’ll pass slower-moving cars on country roads much more easily with the most powerful of the diesels, the gutsy 187bhp 40 TDI, which is our pick of the Audi A4's engine line-up.
The A4’s petrol engine line-up kicks off with the 148bhp 35 TFSI, which disappoints by needing to be worked fairly hard when building speed in a hurry. There’s also the 187bhp 40 TFSI, which offers a considerable performance boost without pushing up running costs too much – it’s our pick if you don’t want to go for a diesel.
There’s also a 241bhp 45 TFSI that feels rapid and has quattro four-wheel drive as standard, as does the 40 TDI, as well as the A4 Avant, A4 Allroad and 342bhp S4 – you can read about those by hitting the links. The addition of four-wheel drive proves its worth in slippery conditions by increasing traction to help get the engine's power to the road without the wheels spinning up.
Suspension and ride comfort
Three suspension setups are available for the A4, depending which trim level you go for. Technik and Sport trims have our favourite Comfort Dynamic setup, which uses conventional springs and dampers. This setup will give you the smoothest-riding A4, especially if you stick with the default 17in or 18in alloy wheels. It puts comfort first, dealing effectively with all manner of lumps and bumps, yet controlling body movement extremely well over dips and crests. It pays to remember that larger wheels tend to make the ride harsher.
The pricier S Line and Black Edition come with Sport suspension as standard. As a stiffer, lower setup, it further sharpens body control but that comes at the expense of comfort, introducing a little extra bumpiness at low speeds. In our opinion that penalty isn’t worth paying, so we’d take advantage of Audi's offer to spec the Comfort Dynamic suspension at no extra cost.
On those same trims you can also upgrade to electronically controlled Adaptive Sport suspension. It, too, is lower and stiffer than Comfort Dynamic, but lets you select Comfort mode to soften things a little and enjoy a much smoother ride. If you must commit to big wheels for a racy look, it’s an option we’d recommend.
Above all, the Audi A4 handles predictably and securely, and grips the road exceptionally well. Versions equipped with the stiffer Sport suspension feel the most nimble, remaining pretty flat through corners and changing direction with reasonable eagerness.
However, despite a little added body lean, we’d stick with the softer Comfort Dynamic suspension that’s standard on Technik and Sport; it provides a better balance between ride and handling. Front-wheel-drive versions can struggle for grip out of slow corners when the road is wet, but four-wheel-drive models, which are branded 'quattro', are pretty much unflappable.
The standard steering is precise and weights up consistently as you turn in to bends, but it doesn’t give you a huge amount of feedback through the wheel. The optional Dynamic Steering reduces how far you need to turn the wheel to get around tight corners at low speeds, or when parking. This is a pricey extra, though, and we think isn’t worth adding.
Fun handling isn't necessarily a priority for executive saloon buyers, but if you want something entertaining to drive you’d be better off with a BMW 3 Series or Jaguar XE. Both of these rear-wheel-drive rivals are more involving on a spirited blast along a country road.
Noise and vibration
This is one of the Audi A4’s strongest suits: none of its engines, even the diesels, transmit much in the way of vibration through the body of the car. They can be a bit more vocal and boomy at motorway speeds than the petrols, but are no louder than their BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class equivalents.
The A4 betters its rivals in suppressing wind noise, though, and you’ll only hear the occasional muted thud from the suspension over even the roughest patches of Tarmac. Road noise is also very well suppressed, although the bigger wheels have the potential to generate a lot more tyre roar.
The six-speed manual gearbox is precise, light and easy to use, or there’s also the option of a seven-speed automatic – badged S Tronic. As with most modern Audi gearboxes, though, it suffers a considerable lag when you put your foot down, leaving a frustrating delay when building speed. This is most noticeable when leaping into a roundabout gap or changing lanes on the motorway.
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