The styling of this fifth generation model may be evolutionary but underneath are serious revisions that will challenge rivals harder than ever.
In a segment dominated by rear-wheel drive rivals, Audi continues to offer this A4 with a choice of front or four wheel drive layouts. That’s a key reason why the brand has had to engineer this car very cleverly to get close to the kind of driving satisfaction offered by competitors. In this, the engineers have been helped this time round by this MK5 model’s adoption of a hi-tech MLB Evo chassis that’s played a key part in enabling this car to shed up to 120kgs of weight. This platform’s also given Audi the opportunity to develop a sophisticated fully-independent five-link front and rear suspension arrangement that delivers superb standards of ride. Ultimately, what all this creates is a more comfort-orientated compact executive contender, but it’s still one that can be hurried quite quickly through the bends thanks to very little bodyroll and superb traction.
Most models offer the option of either a six-speed manual gearbox or this car’s seven-speed S tronic auto transmission, while under the bonnet, the majority of users will choose the 2. 0 TDI diesel engine. This is a variant that in 150PS form can return 99g/km of CO2 and nearly 75mpg on the combined cycle. Here, this unit in pokier 190PS guise, in which guise there’s the option of quattro 4WD. Quattro is also on offer to users of the six cylinder 3. 0 TDI version of this car, who get to choose between 218 and 272PS outputs. Petrol people meanwhile, get a TFSI range offering an entry-level 150PS 1. 4-litre unit and a sophisticated super-efficient 2. 0-litre powerplant developing either 190 or 252PS. The quicker version comes with quattro, as do high performance S4 and RS4 models that use a potent 3. 0 TFSI unit.
Audi believes firmly in evolution rather than revolution and if proof of that were needed, then this fifth generation A4 provides it. The lines are sharper, the stance lower and the shape a little bolder but the changes are all very subtle, in line with the need to protect the values of previous models. As ever, there’s the option of an Avant estate bodystyle as an alternative to this saloon and both variants seize the opportunity offered by this MK5 model’s new MLB Evo platform to offer users a slightly larger car than before.
As ever though with an Audi, it’s the interior that’ll really sell you this car. The Ingolstadt brand isn’t as far ahead of its rivals as it used to be in this regard but this remains the defining cabin in its class, with surprising headroom, a wraparound design and a premium feeling of space and safety.
The optional ‘Virtual Cockpit’ replaces the entire instrument binnacle with a 12. 3-inch LCD colour monitor and has a layout that’s fully digital and customisable, with smart 3D graphics and highly detailed effects. Anything this set-up can’t tell you will almost certainly be covered by the slimline MMI infotainment display that dominates the top of the dashboard. It’s 7-inches in size on standard models - or 8. 3-inches if you opt for the top ‘MMI Navigation Plus with MMI touch’ system, with its crisp 3D maps and responsive Nvidia graphics.
Time to take a seat in the rear – which is where theoretically, you ought to most notice the benefit of the extra 12mm of wheelbase length this fifth generation model enjoys over its predecessor. Audi says there’s 23mm more legroom back here than there was before but to be frank, it doesn’t feel that much bigger.
If you need more, there’s the versatility of a 40:20:40 split-folding rear backrest, the centre part of which is very useful if you need to carry longer items like skis.
Here’s a car created by a brand that knows its customers. The magazines might tell Audi to bring us futuristic looks and an uncompromisingly dynamic drive but Ingolstadt knows that users in this segment really value comfort, class and quality. All three attributes are prioritised in this lighter, more agile and more advanced fifth generation A4.
Even more than before, this A4 feels like a car that’s been lovingly and very carefully considered. The depth of engineering and the thought that’s gone into the tiniest details combine to further enhance the warm fuzzy feeling that’s charmed Audi customers for years. If you’re one of those people, then you’ll like this car very much. And even if you’re not, you’ll find it hard not to be impressed by the way it systematically ticks almost every box on the compact executive market wish list. It’s very thorough. Very elegant. And very Audi.