Audi A4 review

Category: Executive car

Executive car is well-equipped and comfortable with a smart interior

Audi A4 front right tracking
  • Audi A4 front right tracking
  • Audi A4 rear right tracking
  • Audi A4 interior dashboard
  • Audi A4 interior back seats
  • Audi A4 interior infotainment
  • Audi A4 right tracking
  • Audi A4 front right tracking
  • Audi A4 rear tracking
  • Audi A4 front left static
  • Audi A4 rear right static
  • Audi A4 alloy wheel detail
  • Audi A4 headlight detail
  • Audi A4 rear light detail
  • Audi A4 interior driver display
  • Audi A4 interior steering wheel detail
  • Audi A4 interior detail
  • Audi A4 interior detail
  • Audi A4 front right tracking
  • Audi A4 rear right tracking
  • Audi A4 interior dashboard
  • Audi A4 interior back seats
  • Audi A4 interior infotainment
  • Audi A4 right tracking
  • Audi A4 front right tracking
  • Audi A4 rear tracking
  • Audi A4 front left static
  • Audi A4 rear right static
  • Audi A4 alloy wheel detail
  • Audi A4 headlight detail
  • Audi A4 rear light detail
  • Audi A4 interior driver display
  • Audi A4 interior steering wheel detail
  • Audi A4 interior detail
  • Audi A4 interior detail
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Introduction

What Car? says...

We were so impressed with the current generation Audi A4 when it was first launched that we voted it our Car of the Year – and it's no mean feat to take that prestigious crown.

Remaining at the top of the executive car class is an even greater challenge, and Audi knows not to rest on its laurels. That's because the A4 is in one of the longest running rivalries in the car world, constantly fighting against the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class for the top podium spot.

Audi has given the A4 some pretty heavy updates along the way though, not just to keep it looking fresh, but elsewhere too. It's had a revised infotainment system, and the engines – both the petrol and diesel variants ­– have become ever more efficient (to protect the environment, and your money).

Is it enough to keep the competition at bay? Well, that’s what this Audi A4 review is all about. We’ve done the digging through the brochures to work out what’s available, and we've tested various versions so we’re well placed to tell you which engine and trim options make the most sense.

We’ve driven the competition too, and that doesn’t just include the 3 Series and C-Class. The A4's key rivals also include the Jaguar XE and posher versions of the Skoda Superb.

Read on to find out what we think of the Audi A4 now, and whether the qualities that won it the Car of the Year title still keep it on top.

Whichever car you decide is best for you, we can help you save a fortune when you buy it by searching for hassle-free discounts using our free What Car? New Car Deals pages. They can help you find lots of new executive car deals.

Overview

The A4 looks sharp on the outside and has one of the highest quality interiors in the executive car class. The BMW 3 Series is a slightly better all-rounder and offers keen drivers greater thrills behind the wheel, but the A4 is more comfortable if you stick with our favourite Technik trim. The 35 TDI diesel that we also recommend in the A4 is quick, smooth and economical.

  • Class-leading interior quality
  • Smooth engines
  • Well-equipped
  • Entry-level engines are a touch weedy
  • A BMW 3 Series is more fun to drive
  • You can’t add many options
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

We’d go for the 160bhp 35 TDI diesel, which is our pick of the entire Audi A4 range. It has plenty of low-down punch so you can tootle around town effortlessly, with enough pace to whisk you up to motorway speeds effectively (0-62mph takes 8.2sec). Then there's the 201bhp 40 TDI, which manages even easier B-road overtakes, although we’d argue that it’s not worth the additional costs.

What about the petrols? Well, the 148bhp 35 TFSI needs to be worked fairly hard to build speed, which is why we prefer the 201bhp 40 TFSI (the best option if you don't want a diesel). It provides a considerable performance boost over the 35 TFSI and works really well in every situation (0-62mph takes 7.1sec – slightly faster than the 320i BMW 3 Series) without pushing up running costs too much. If that’s not fast enough, we’d point you towards the even quicker Audi S4 or the downright rapid Audi RS4 Avant.

Audi A4 image
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All A4 engines come with a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It can be a little slow to kick down a gear or two, but once you're accelerating, it pings through each gear change quickly. Meanwhile, the four-wheel-drive (quattro) models can launch out of a T-junction without spinning a wheel, even in greasy conditions.

Suspension and ride comfort

Every A4 is fitted with one of two suspension systems, depending on the trim level you go for. The general rule of thumb, though, is that it's a more comfortable car than the equivalent 3 Series.

Technik and Sport Edition trims have our favourite Comfort Dynamic set-up. That puts comfort first, especially if you stick with the default 17in or 18in alloy wheels. It deals very effectively with all manner of lumps and bumps, yet still controls body movements extremely well over dips and crests. Larger wheels tend to make the ride harsher, though.

The S line and Black Edition trims come with Sport suspension as standard. It's a stiffer, lower set-up (by 23mm) that sharpens the handling but at the expense of comfort, introducing a little extra bumpiness at low speeds.

Audi A4 rear right tracking

Handling

All versions of the A4 handle predictably and securely. Their steering is precise and weights up consistently as you turn in to bends, and they grip the road very well. Cars equipped with the stiffer Sport suspension feel the most nimble, remaining flatter through corners and changing direction with the most eagerness.

We’d stick with the softer Comfort Dynamic suspension that’s standard on Technik and Sport Edition, though, because while there's a little more body lean, it provides a better balance between ride and handling. More powerful petrol A4s with front-wheel drive can struggle for traction if you put your foot down on the way out of a corner when the road is wet, but the four-wheel drive system on the more powerful 40 TDI is pretty much unflappable.

If you want a car that's truly entertaining to drive, you’d be better off with the Alfa Romeo Giulia, BMW 3 Series or Jaguar XE. Those rear-wheel-drive rivals steer more sweetly and are more involving on a spirited blast along a country road.

Noise and vibration

This is one of the A4’s strongest suits, and none of the engines transmit much in the way of vibration through the body of the car. The diesels are a bit more vocal than the petrols, but every engine is smoother and quieter than the equivalent unit in the Mercedes C-Class.

The A4 is better than its rivals at suppressing wind noise and you’ll hear only the occasional muted thud from the suspension over the roughest patches of Tarmac. Road noise is very well subdued, although the smaller wheel and tyre options are quieter than the bigger ones.

The S tronic seven-speed automatic flicks up and down gears almost imperceptibly but can be a little jerky at parking speeds.

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

You won’t have too many issues getting comfortable in the Audi A4. There are generous seat and steering wheel adjustments, including four-way electrically operated lumbar adjustment that's standard from entry-level Technik trim. From Sport Edition trim upwards you'll find well-bolstered sports seats that hold you in place more securely through corners. Whichever seat is fitted, it's comfortable on a long trip and is accompanied by a comfy adjustable centre armrest.

That said, it isn’t perfect: the pedals are offset to the right and there's a space-sapping bulge in the footwell by your left leg. The BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class are not much better for footwell room, though. 

The A4’s minimalist dashboard is simple and easy to use, with big buttons and knobs for operating the main functions, including the climate controls. All models get the excellent Audi Virtual Cockpit system as standard. It replaces analogue dials with a 12.3in digital display that you can configure in multiple ways with ease from the steering wheel buttons.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

Forward visibility is good but your over-the-shoulder view could be better (something that's true of many saloons, to be fair). Fortunately, all models come with parking sensors front and rear, as well as a rear-view camera, which is handy when manoeuvring into tight spaces.

All A4s come with bright LED headlamps, but it’s not possible to upgrade to adaptive matrix LED units that adjust their main beams to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers.

Audi A4 interior dashboard

Sat nav and infotainment

Every A4 gets Audi’s impressive MMI infotainment system with a 10.1in touchscreen. The graphics are sharp, the screen is responsive and the menus are decipherable after a bit of getting used to. We still prefer the BMW iDrive system in the 3 Series because it gives you the option of using a physical rotary controller, which is less distracting when you're driving. 

The infotainment is packed with features, too. You get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, built-in sat-nav, online features, voice activation, two USB sockets in the front and an eight-speaker stereo. If you add the optional Comfort and Sound pack, you get a B&O stereo with 19 speakers and 755 watts of power.

Quality

The interior is beautifully crafted from high-class materials. Harder plastics are few and far between and nearly everything else has a plush, soft-touch finish. Silver or gloss black (depending on the trim level) garnishes the dashboard and centre console, and combines with well-damped switches for an upmarket ambience.

The overall level of fit and finish is a grade or two above plenty of other cars in this class, with only the 3 Series coming close. It's one of the main areas that differentiate the A4 from non-premium rivals, such as the Skoda Superb.

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

Getting in and out of the front seats is easy because the Audi A4 has wide door apertures and low sills.

Once inside, you’ll find plenty of head, leg and elbow room, so you're unlikely to feel cramped unless you’re remarkably tall. Only very big executive cars such as the Skoda Superb feel decidedly larger.

You get plenty of interior storage, including a tray under the adjustable armrest, two cupholders in front of the gear lever and sizeable door bins with recesses big enough for 1.0-litre bottles.

Rear space

Access to the rear seats is decent, thanks to wide-opening doors and low sills. There’s enough room in the back of the A4 to accommodate a couple of six-footers reasonably well, but it falls short on rear space compared with the VW Arteon and the giant Superb. If your focus is on the premium marques, it doesn’t have quite as much rear-seat room as the BMW 3 Series either.

Life isn't particularly comfortable for the central rear passenger, either, because they’ll have to straddle a large floor hump, but they’ll encounter the same issue in most of the rivals.

Storage amenities come in the form of door bins that will each take a 1.0-litre bottle of drink. You’ll need to add the reasonably priced Storage Pack if you want nets on the backs of the front seats and cupholders in the central armrest – items that most of the competition includes as standard.

Audi A4 interior back seats

Seat folding and flexibility

Like most of its rivals, the A4 comes with split-folding rear seats as standard, but, unlike many of those cars, its rear seats are divided into convenient 40/20/40 sections, as opposed to the more common 60/40 arrangement. It means you can fold the middle backrest to load long items while still carrying two passengers easily.

The front passenger seat is height adjustable and comes with four-way adjustable lumbar support as standard on all trims.

Boot space

The A4’s boot is par for the course in the executive car class. As is the case with any other saloon, it has a narrow opening that restricts access compared with a wide-opening hatchback (like that of the Skoda Superb), but the load bay is almost identical in size to the 3 Series' and is a fairly practical shape.

You’ll be able to fit a couple of sets of golf clubs in easily, and we squeezed in seven carry-on suitcases without having to drop the rear seats, matching the 3 Series. There's an estate version – the Audi A4 Avant – if luggage capacity is your key priority, while the Superb is the best bet for boot space if you can live without the premium badge (the hatchback Superb takes 10 carry-on suitcases).

The optional Storage Pack adds bag hooks and a luggage net to improve practicality.

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

If you’re buying with cash, the Audi A4 is much more expensive than its non-premium rivals, including the Skoda Superb. It’s cheaper than the VW Arteon though. The A4 is cheaper than the premium BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class but its resale values aren’t quite as strong so PCP finance rates aren’t as competitive. For the latest prices, see our New Car Deals pages.

For company car drivers, the official CO2 emissions and P11D value are the critical factors that determine the benefit-in-kind tax paid. The diesels emit the lowest CO2 and are all RDE2 compliant, but that's negated slightly by the fact that they’re pricier than the petrols. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) such as the BMW 330e and Mercedes C300e bring substantially lower tax rates.

When it comes to fuel economy, most A4s are roughly on a par with the equivalent 3 Series or C-Class and more efficient than the Jaguar XE. Our pick is the 35 TDI diesel, with its real-world MPG figure of more than 50mpg. Our favourite petrol engine (the 40 TFSI) is a strong performer too, with an official average of just under 45mpg.

Equipment, options and extras

Our preferred trim – entry-level Technik – is pretty well-equipped. You get 17in alloy wheels, power-folding door mirrors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated front seats, front and rear climate control, cruise control, keyless start, parking aids, LED headlights and infotainment features. 

Sport Edition adds 18in alloys, leather seat trim, privacy glass, sports front seats and more aggressive looks, but retains the Comfort Dynamic suspension for a more supple ride than S line trim.

As well as firmer sports suspension, S line adds leather and Alcantara seats and 19in alloys. Black Edition adds, well, black styling details. Sadly, you can add very few individual options to any A4, so you could well end up going without unless you're prepared to spend a big chunk of change on a higher trim.

Audi A4 interior infotainment

Reliability

Diesel A4s fared badly in the executive car class of our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey coming sixth from bottom, although that was still above the 3 Series and Jaguar XE diesels. The petrol did better but was beaten by the 3 Series and the petrol XE. The (now discontinued) Lexus IS came top.

Audi as a brand finished 21st out of 32 manufacturers in the survey. That’s below BMW but above Mercedes and Jaguar.

The A4 comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile manufacturer’s warranty, which includes roadside assistance. That’s not quite as generous as the three-year unlimited mileage warranty that you’ll get from BMW and Mercedes. You can extend the A4’s warranty to five years or 90,000 miles for a reasonable price.

Safety and security

The A4 received five stars out of five from safety testers at Euro NCAP for its ability to protect occupants in a crash. Although that was in 2015 and the rating has expired, the results show that the model is not as good at protecting adults as the Jaguar XE, but slightly better at keeping child occupants safe. It’s hard to compare the A4 with the 3 Series, which was tested in 2019 when the testing criteria were more stringent.

All versions have automatic emergency braking (AEB) as standard to help prevent low-speed shunts. The optional Driving Assistance Pack Tour adds road-sign recognition, lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control. All versions have six airbags as standard.

Thatcham awarded the A4 five stars for resistance to theft and four stars for guarding against being broken into.

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FAQs

  • Not especially. Petrol-powered A4s came 14th in the executive car class of our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey. Diesel versions did worse, coming sixth from bottom.

  • No, but the German manufacturer does have a range of electric cars and electric SUVs including the Audi Q4 e-tron and the Audi Q8 e-tron.

  • The 35 TDI diesel engine strikes the best balance between performance and efficiency, officially averaging more than 55mpg. Pairing it with Technik trim helps to keep costs down and gets you 17in alloy wheels plus comfort-orientated suspension, making it one of the plushest-riding executive cars available.

  • Technik trim is the entry point in the line-up, but still comes with lots of standard kit, including front and rear climate control and cruise control. Upgrading to S line trim adds sportier styling, with restyled bumpers, leather seats and 19in alloy wheels, as well as firmer suspension.

  • The A4 earned the maximum five-star safety rating when it was tested by the independent safety experts at Euro NCAP in 2015 but that rating has now expired. All versions have automatic emergency braking as standard.

  • It's a good size by executive car standards, with a capacity of 460 litres. We managed to fit in seven carry-on suitcases without folding down the rear seats, which split 40/20/40.

At a glance
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Save up to £4,068
Target Price from £35,347
Save up to £4,068
or from £346pm
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From £27,060
RRP price range £38,325 - £52,355
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)4
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol, diesel
MPG range across all versions 39.8 - 58.9
Available doors options 4
Warranty 3 years / 60000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £2,371 / £3,510
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £4,742 / £7,020
Available colours