Newly revised for 2020, the facelifted Audi A4 sports an updated design aligning it with newer models in the German brand’s range (as well as the upcoming nipped-and-tucked Q7), a tweaked engine line-up introducing mild-hybrid tech promising improved fuel efficiency, plus streamlined packages to make the buying process easier. Cars Uncorked was one of the first to try the new A4 and we have two questions which need answering: has Audi done enough to remain competitive in a market boasting a truly excellent new BMW 3 Series; and is the A4 a compelling alternative to a crossover (i.e. the Q3 and Q5, the ranges which the A4 straddles in terms of pricing)?
SO, WHAT’S NEW?
The typically conservative exterior sports a broader, flatter grille, revised contour lines and cool dynamic indicators aft on the 40 TFSI and S4 models. The entry-level 35 TFSI retains static lights but all models have LED tech all-round. There are three trim levels offered on the 35 and 40 – standard, Advanced and S line reviewed here (note the matte-silver accents) – and the latter two variants are shod with 18-inchers, a bump of an inch over standard. Our press unit featured 19-inch, 10-spoke Audi Sport wheels that looks fantastic … reflected in the R17 300 sticker.
Grab a sturdy door handle and the cockpit might look unchanged but closer inspection reveals the absence of an MMI controller on the transmission tunnel. To compensate, Audi’s enlarged the infotainment screen to 10,1 inches and made it touch-controlled. MMI now boasts smartphone-mirroring, too. Thankfully, physical climate controls remain and, as is expected from Audi, are a real pleasure to use.
The basic Audi connect car-to-X system is standard (the version offering full functionality is part of the R21 000 Technology package) allowing its owner to control various functions of the vehicle via a myAudi smartphone app. Juliet and I had good fun using this feature – don’t miss our video (loaded soon) where we use myAudi to set a route to one of our favourite wine farms and test the rest on the way.
Elsewhere, it’s business as usual: this is still the best-finished cockpit in the class – sure, it doesn’t match the Mercedes-Benz C-Class’ instant visual punch but build quality is outstanding – and one of its most spacious, too, although my 1.85-metre frame would have appreciated a lower driving position. It’s decently equipped and a quick comparison with the 3 Series and C-Class’ options sheets shows the A4’s extra-cost items are generally well priced.
MILD HYBRID IS … RATHER MILD
Both the 35 and 40 TFSI have a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbopetrol under the bonnet coupled with a 12 V mild-hybrid system. ‘Mild’ is the operative word, as unlike the 48 V system Audi adds to its more expensive models, the 12 V option simply has an intelligent alternator and the usual stop/start. Audi says it’s 0.3 l/100 km more frugal than before for a combined-use figure of 6.3 l/100 km.
The 40 TSFI is a responsive powertrain, with plenty of overtaking punch thanks to 140 kW and 320 Nm on offer from 1 450-4 200 r/min. The 0-100 km/h sprint claim is 7.3 seconds, which feels plausible, and it tops out at 241 km/h. The TFSI’s impressively hushed, too, all the way to the redline. There’s some hesitancy in the S tronic dual-clutch transmission, but not much, and changes are seamless on the move. It’s a class act.
BUT DOES IT RIDE LIKE A C AND HANDLE LIKE A 3?
No, but that’s not a bad thing. The A4 has always struck a fine balance between the C-Class’ compliance and the Three’s overt sportiness. The ride is composed, even on our test unit’s oversized wheels – there’s a touch of brittleness over rough roads that will likely disappear by exercising some restraint with wheel sizes come speccing time – and the steering is light and direct – the A4 is a fuss-free, predictable companion, which is a large part of its charm. Over-assisted brakes do take some familiarisation, but driving the A4 smoothly quickly becomes second nature.
RIGHT, LET’S ANSWER THOSE TWO QUESTIONS
The first one is easy. Objectively, the facelifted A4 is a better car than the C-Class. The Benz, while appealing in its own way, is getting on in years and its replacement will likely be a fierce competitor once more. The 40 TFSI-rivalling Benz C200 is also a chunk more expensive. The 3 Series, meanwhile, feels very different; it’s a sportier, firmer drive that could prove tiring to older buyers who favour comfort and refinement over plugged-in engagement. Ultimately, each option has it merits and demerits.
Whether buyers will choose the A4 over a Q3 or Q5 is unlikely. Crossovers dominate the premium market and Audi’s Q models are some of the most popular. That said, for those few buyers (their numbers are dwindling year after year) who still want a sedan over an SUV or crossover, the facelifted A4 is easily one of the market’s best.
All models feature a two-year/unlimited km warranty and five-year/100 000 km maintenance plan.
Audi A4 35 TFSI S tronic: R644 000
Audi A4 35 TFSI Advanced S tronic: R663 000
Audi A4 40 TFSI S tronic: R681 500
Audi A4 40 TFSI Advanced S tronic: R700 500
Audi A4 40 TFSI S line S tronic: R726 500
Audi S4 TFSI 260 kW quattro Tiptronic: R944 500
Audi SA’s set to add a diesel derivative in Q1 2021.