What's the used Audi A4 saloon like?
When it comes to soothing your furrowed brow on the way home from a hard day in the office, the Audi A4 certainly deserves its executive stripes. We named it our Car of the Year in 2016, and it still leads its class as a used buy when it comes to comfort, refinement and quality. In short, it's one of the best executive saloons you can buy second-hand.
There’s always been an extensive line-up of engines to choose from, too, with 1.4-litre and 2.0-litre petrols along with punchy 2.0 TDI and 3.0 TDI diesels. All the engines, bar the 1.4, are available in two states of tune, depending on whether performance or economy is most important. Those on a budget will love the 2.0 TDI Ultra, not only for the way it sips fuel but also for its eco-credentials - it emits less than 100g/km of CO2.
The different engine choices from 2019 onwards became known by numbers, so the petrols became the 148bhp 35 TFSI, the 187bhp 40 TFSI and the 242bhp 45 TFSI, while diesels became the 134bhp 30 TDI, the 161bhp 35 TDI and the 187bhp 40 TDI.
There are four core trim levels to choose from. Entry-level SE comes with xenon headlights, 17in alloy wheels, cruise control, parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking, tri-zone climate control, and a 7.0in infotainment system complete with smartphone integration and a DAB radio.
Upgrade to Sport and you'll find more supportive front sports seats, sat-nav and an upgraded 10-speaker audio system, while S line models get a bodykit, sports suspension, 18in alloy wheels, LED head and rear lights and a leather and Alcantara upholstery. Topping the range is the Black Edition trim, which adorns the A4 with 19in alloy wheels, tinted rear windows and lots of gloss black interior and exterior trim. SE was renamed Technik in post-facelift models, while Sport, S line and Black Edition remain. Range-topping Vorsprung also joined the range, and as per other Audi models, it gets nearly every option thrown at it.
If you go for an S4 you'll get all the standard equipment found on an S line A4, plus an Audi Sport-designed bodykit, suspension, braking system and alloy wheels, front super sports seats with massaging function, Nappa leather upholstery and an upgraded Audi MMI infotainment system with a touch control panel and an 8.3in display.
Where the A4 is in its element is on the motorway; it’s not as exciting to drive as the more agile BMW 3 Series, plus the A4 lacks any form of steering feel. Ride quality is also rather poor in the larger-wheeled S line and Ultra models, which also have lowered and stiffened suspension, although you can resolve this if you can find an example equipped with the optional adaptive dampers. If you can’t, stick with an SE or Sport on smaller wheels and the A4 is a very agreeable companion with low levels of road and wind noise.
Not only that, it has slightly more space for passengers than a BMW 3 Series (the boots are identical in size), and matches its other German rival, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. And it's positively cavernous compared with the heavily compromised Jaguar XE.
As mentioned, the A4 was treated to a facelift in 2019. At the front, the updated 'singleframe' grille keeps it in line with other Audi models, while you might also spot that revised LED headlights have become standard across the range and display a unique light signature.
What used Audi A4 saloon will I get for my budget?
You can buy an A4 of this generation for around £10,000, but it'll be a high mileage affair, so we'd suggest you budget around £12,000 to £14,000 for a good 2015 or 2016 car with an average mileage for the year, bought from an independent dealer. Up the ante to between £14,000 and £16,000 and you'll find a good choice of 2017 and 2018 cars with an average mileage for the year and a full service history, while £17,000 to £19,000 brings you your choice of 2018 and 2019 cars. Look at upwards of £20,000 for a post-facelift 2019 or 2020 model, rising to at least £25,000 for a 2021 or 2022 example, and more for a 2023 car.
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How much does it cost to run a Audi A4 saloon?
The A4 has impressive on-paper economy figures, but it can’t live up to these in normal driving. Under those circumstances, the 1.4 TFSI will achieve nigh on 40mpg, according to the older NEDC tests, while the lower-powered 2.0 (badged 190) returns 37mpg. The 2.0 TFSI 250 is thirstier, recording 30mpg on average. The last of the petrols, the S4, will struggle to break 25mpg, but the trade-off is that it is agreeably powerful.
The diesel engines fare better, with the 148bhp 2.0 TDI averaging 50mpg under the NEDC tests, while the 187bhp version will return an mpg of mid-40s. The lesser of the 3.0 TDI engines will approach the 45mpg mark but the most powerful diesel, the 264bhp 3.0 TDI with an automatic gearbox and quattro four-wheel drive, will average 30mpg.
Under the later WLTP tests, the 35 TFSI petrol claims an official 42.2mpg, the 40 TFSI 42.2mpg, the 45 TFSI with quattro four-wheel drive 36.7mpg, the 30 TDI 55.4mpg, the 35 TDI 54.3mpg and the 40 TDI 45.6mpg.
The 1.4 has the lowest CO2 emissions at 131g/km rather than 136g/km of the 2.0, although both are still in the same VED band prior to the 2017 changes. An S4 will set you back quite a lot each year because it emits 166g/km.
Go for the 2.0 diesel in Ultra form for free road tax, but even the 2.0 190 has a low-CO2 output of 102g/km. The lower-power 3.0 diesel has a very credible 115g/km while the higher-output version goes up to 137g/km.
VED rates vary quite considerably, from £0 for the manual 2.0 TDI Ultra to £240 for the S4. None of the 2.0 TDI models will cost more than £30 to tax, with the majority of the 1.4 and 2.0 TFSI models cost £150.
For cars registered after the changes of April 2017 came into force (and before the further changes of April 2022), there will be a flat rate fee to pay, currently £180 per year, and, on top of this, there is a supplementary luxury car tax to pay on all cars that cost over £40,000 new, a threshold that some A4s cross. This is currently £390 per year.
As for servicing, though not cheap, should be less costly than the equivalent from Mercedes. Better yet, you can spread the cost of two consecutive services, although it does vary depending upon how old the A4 is, and what size of engine it has. Once your A4 is over three years old, it'll qualify for Audi’s fixed-price servicing plan that currently stands at £190 for an interim and £360 for a major service on engines up to 2.0-litres in capacity, or £220 and £414 for anything larger.
Make sure that if you're buying an A4 equipped with an S Tronic automatic gearbox that the fluid has been changed at the recommended 38,000 mile limit, otherwise you could be looking at an expensive gearbox replacement in the future.
Which used Audi A4 saloon should I buy?
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).
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.
Our favourite Audi A4: 2.0 35 TDI Technik
What alternatives should I consider to a used Audi A4 saloon?
The BMW 3 Series has been a class leader for years, especially among those looking for a rewarding car to drive. The current 3 Series keeps that tradition alive and is a more entertaining car than the A4. Just be aware that M Sport models have a hard ride unless adaptive dampers are fitted.
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is less entertaining to drive than the BMW 3 Series (in fact, it’s on a par with the A4) but has an excellent interior and is supremely comfortable. It’s only really the sometimes tiresome tyre noise that lets it down.
The Jaguar XE might be a new rival to the Germans but, like the BMW, it offers a more rewarding driving experience than the A4. The diesel models are economical but the petrol ones are less efficient than Audi’s offerings. And while the XE is well equipped, it is less practical and has a smaller boot than its rivals.
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