Although Audi offers the very appealing S4 derivative at the top of the current Audi A4 food chain, it is perhaps true that the company’s medium executive sedan line-up has been lacking in the excitement stakes lower down the scale. That is where the subject of this review, the Audi A4 2,0 TFSI Quatto S-Tronic comes in. It seemingly fuses the best of everything in the Audi stable, from the TT’s 2,0-litre turbo engine, to the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and legendary quattro all-wheel drive, together into one very desirable package. But, at what cost?
Sporty, stylish looks for Audi A4Although this particular Audi A4 model falls some way short of stepping on the S4’s toes in the looks department, it certainly appears beefed up. The Audi A4, with its elegant shape looks more muscular when stretched tightly over those big five-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels. Of course, Audi offers as many optional extras as you can afford to individualise your Audi A4 even further, but in general we like the subtlety of the treatment. It hints at the car’s performance potential… never shouts it.
Audi has taken a similar approach inside, where the cabin isn’t immediately much different to any other Audi A4. Not that this is a bad thing. After all, the Audi A4 arguably has the nicest facia design and best perceived quality levels of any car in this segment. And, once more, keep in mind that optional extras list…
That said, even as standard this Audi A4 cabin is an excellent place to spend time in, boasting very supportive and comfortable seats upholstered in fine-quality leather. The fit and finish of the facia is simply without equal, with the main moulding being of the soft-touch variety, and the various metallic elements boasting a convincing look and feel, too. In fact, the metallic accenting do wonders to lighten the ambience of the mostly black cabin. Ergonomically the facia also works well, although it takes time to get used to the electronic park brake on the centre console and the upright-mounted controls of the “drive select” system.
In typical Audi fashion, the standard features list is probably acceptable at the price, but not exceptional. You get cruise control, auto lights and wipers, climate control and so forth, but satellite navigation, for example, remains an optional extra. Nevertheless, because the basic design of the cabin is so good, few passengers are likely to complain about the comfort levels. The driver’s seat offers a wide range of adjustment, and so does the steering wheel. Rear legroom is also very good, courtesy of a long wheelbase.
Lovely drivetrainGood looks will get you far these days – and Audi knows that all too well – but easily the most impressive aspect of this particular Audi A4 model is its drivetrain. At the price, the Audi A4 2,0 TFSI quattro s-tronic goes up against some six-cylinder rivals, which may be a concern for some, but in reality, on the road, the Audi A4 doesn’t have to stand back for these competitors at all.
The direct-injection, turbocharged 2,0-litre four delivers 155 kW and 350 Nm of torque, but because of the car’s overall responsiveness to throttle inputs, it feels even more powerful. Audi claims a 0-100 km/h time of 6,5 seconds and a 245 km/h top speed, both figures being perfectly in line with the competition. Importantly, there’s not much lag in the engine, so it pulls strongly from low-down, and the torque curve is flat, too, so there’s lots of power on tap all the way to the red line.
The seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box is a perfect match for the impressive engine. Cruise along, and it will flip up the gears quietly and slickly. Mash the throttle and, almost without hesitation, it will hook the right gear and the car will leap forward. Shift paddles are mounted behind the steering wheel, by the way, and it quickly becomes addictive driving in this “manual” fashion because the Audi A4 is so responsive. What also helps are the lovely exhaust blips when shifting down. It’s a car that encourages enthusiastic driving more than we had anticipated.
Lots of gripAs is to be expected, the quattro all-wheel drive system doesn’t really endow the Audi A4 with the type of adjustability that rear-wheel drive bestows upon the BMW 3 Series, for example, but what it does do is to raise the grip levels. A lot. Add the fat rubber and relatively low centre of gravity, and you’ve got a luxury sedan that can corner at very high speeds and feel resolutely stable. Those who get their kicks out of tail slides can move on now, but if you love the feeling of extreme g-forces, then this is your car. Note, however, that an optional adjustable damping system is available, and it increases grip levels even further!
As is the case with most Audis, the steering feels somewhat dead, but at least it is generally accurate. And while the ride is certainly on the firm side, especially at lower speeds, the damping is finely tuned to deliver excellent ride comfort on most surfaces and at most speeds.
Audi A4 - VerdictThere’s not much that the Audi A4 does wrong. Yes, it is very expensive, and there are six-cylinder offerings available for similar money, but this Audi A4 makes a very good case for the argument that you don’t really need those big engines anymore… The A4’s power unit is very eager, the transmission crisp and responsive, the cabin magnificent and the ride/handling compromise finely judged. It was always going to be a good car this… but we didn’t quite expect it to be quite this good.
- Stylish looks
- Excellent transmission
- Strong performance
- Ride/handling balance
- Build quality
- Expensive features
- Dull steering
Engine: 2,0-litre, four-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 155 kW @ 4 300 rpm
Torque: 350 Nm @ 1 500 rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Top speed: 245 km/h
0-100 km/h: 6,5 seconds
Fuel economy: 7,4 litres/100 km
- BMW 330i Steptronic: The iconic straight-line six in this 3-Series provides lots of shove (power output is 190 kW) and as is to be expected the BMW sets the dynamic standard in this segment. The low-speed ride is firm, though, and the steering quite heavy. More expensive, too…
- Mercedes-Benz C300 Avantgarde 7G-Tronic: Perhaps not as obviously performance-oriented, but the C-Class is a very agile handler and a pleasure to drive under all circumstances. 7G-Tronic is, however, not entirely convincing as an “enthusiast’s” transmission. Although the C300 has more power, it can’t match the Audi A4 performance. Spec levels are very good.
- Lexus IS250 SE: Often overlooked, the Lexus is an entertaining car to drive even though in SE trim it is not exactly a sports-oriented model. Although the power output is comparable to the Audi A4, it can’t match the German’s performance. Dynamically nicely balanced and very highly specced, though.