2015 Audi A4 2.0 TDI 150 Ultra SE review
We've already driven the 187bhp 2.0 TDI A4 abroad. Here we drive the fleet favourite 148bhp 2.0 TDI on UK roads for the first time, and it remains an impressive executive...
On the face of it, the new Audi A4 doesn't look as though it's changed much compared with the outgoing car. It's styling is certainly evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and is designed to give the compact executive model a more formal look to keep up with rivals from Jaguar, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Under the skin, however, the latest A4 has changed considerably. It's longer and wider than the old A4, meaning legroom for rear passengers has increased by 23mm inside. Indeed, the whole interior has been given a refresh, with new technology including Audi's all-digital instrument cluster available for the first time.
What's the Audi A4 2.0 TDI SE like to drive?
This 2.0-litre engine is the entry-level diesel option in the Audi A4 range and is likely to be the biggest seller for company car drivers and fleets. The engine produces 148bhp and 236lb ft of torque, and - officially at least - is capable of returning up to 74.3mpg on a combined cycle - with CO2 emissions of just 99g/km. In our car, the engine was connected to a six-speed automatic transmission.
We were impressed with the higher-powered 187bhp version of this engine when we drove the car on foreign soil, and despite putting out less power, this A4 is still an impressive drive. The engine's torque arrives low down in the rev range, and power delivery is smooth from the off. The six-speed manual transmission does an excellent job of managing the power, too, and is pleasingly slick.
In 2.0-litre TDI 150 form, the A4 takes 8.9 seconds to reach 62mph from a standing start. It never feels sports-car fast, but the A4 does put its power down well, even on the wet B-roads of our test route.
Like all A4s, our test car came with Audi's Drive Select system, which gives drivers the chance to choose from five different driving modes, altering things such a throttle response and steering weight. In Comfort, the A4's steering feels decidedly numb, and even in Dynamic mode there's not much in the way of connection with the road. Be in no doubt - BMW's 3 Series and the Jaguar XE best the A4 here in terms of pure driving fun.
All Ultra models come with lower, stiffer sports suspension as standard - in a bid to be more aerodynamic and reduce CO2 emissions. This doesn't do wonders for this A4's ride in the UK, as although its body control is good over larger bumps, it feels sharp over potholes and fidgets over continuously broken stretches.
At motorway speeds, the A4 is a quieter place to sit than its rivals, though, with very little engine and wind noise finding its way into the cabin. In fact, our car's 'acoustic glazing' (a £200 option) puts the A4 in nearly the same league as Audi's more luxurious A8.
What's the Audi A4 2.0 TDI SE like inside?
We've praised the A4 for a long time for bringing some of the interior luxuries of Audi's larger cars through to its cheaper models. The same is true with this latest A4 - the cabin is well laid out, luxuriously appointed and comfortable from whichever seat you're in.
Rear passengers, especially, will appreciate the extra 23mm of legroom - and even with a driver well over six foot, larger rear passengers won't struggle to get comfortable. Three on the rear bench would be a push - but two large adults are fine.
Boot space remains the same as before, at 480 litres - matching the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and besting both Jaguar's XE (455 litres) and the Volvo S60 (380 litres).
Even in entry-level SE form, the A4 is still generously equipped. All cars get 17-inch alloy wheels, three-zone climate control, Audi drive select, cruise control, keyless start and Audi's MMI infotainment system - while our test car also received an upgraded sound system, satellite navigation and Audi's phone box - which allows users to charge their mobile phones wirelessly via a special charging pad.
Smartphone users can also connect to the car using Apple Carplay - which displays a variety of apps and services on the main infotainment screen. Third-party apps like Tunein Radio and Spotify also get functionality as well as Apple's messaging, phone and maps applications.
One of the upgrades worth noting is Audi's Virtual Cockpit - which already features on the TT and Q7 SUV. For £2450, owners get Audi's technology package - bringing with it navigation, an extra Bluetooth connectivity slot, wireless charging pad and two USB connections - as well as a fully digital instrument cluster. If you can afford to get it, the system works brilliantly.
Should I buy one?
Keener drivers might well look towards the higher-powered 3.0-litre TDI A4, but company car owners would do well to opt for this 2.0-ilitre 150 Ultra model and enjoy the tax advantages it brings.
The latest A4 is comfortable, quiet and economical, and laden with the kind of technology usually reserved for cars in the class above. It might not be able to match the dynamic capabilities of its rivals but certainly beats them in terms of quality and overall refinement.
What Car? says
Audi A4 2.0 TDI 150 Ultra SE
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £28,465
Torque 236lb ft
0-62mph 8.9 seconds
Top speed 130mph
Fuel economy 74.3mpg