While swift S4 and 3,0-litre variants are offered higher up the Audi A4 price ladder, this model range has for some time been in need of a slightly more performance-oriented model lower down to do battle against such driver’s cars as the BMW 325i and Alfa 156. To answer this need, Audi has simply turned up the boost on its 1,8-litre turbocharged petrol engine to deliver an extra 20 kW. This may sound like a half-hearted attempt at creating a sports sedan out of something fairly sedate, but don’t for a moment believe it…
More than just extra power for Audi A4The extra 20 kW (and 15 Nm of torque) is of course the biggest news, but Audi has tried hard to give this model its own identity in the A4 range. It helps, of course, that the starting point is the particularly handsome A4 sedan, but in this instance the overall look is significantly more muscular. The lowered ride height and big six-spoke 17-inch alloys play a big part in the visual transformation. The two large-diameter exhaust outlets at the rear also broadcast serious performance intentions. The end result is a car that looks powerful, without being OTT – there are no big wings and splitters.
Inside, the only clue to the fact that you’re sitting in a rather special version of the Audi A4 is the pair of heavily bolstered sports seats in front. Featuring a wide range of adjustment options – including the ability to move the front section of the squab – the seating position is really superb, further aided by a steering wheel that adjusts for rake and reach. It’s a pity, however, that the steering wheel doesn’t feature remote audio controls on its spokes. Or perhaps we’ve simply become too spoilt…
Devoid of fake wood and with plenty of convincing-looking aluminium accents to lift the ambience of the sombre, black interior, the Audi A4 cabin makes an immediate quality impression. In fact, the Audi A4 is arguably the class leader in this respect. There’s a solidity and a “polish” to every piece of this Audi’s interior that makes it feel more expensive than it is. The standard leather trim certainly helps, too, as do the comprehensive standard specification, which includes a powerful audio system, climate control, cruise control, no fewer than six airbags as well as an electronic stability system.
In essence the Audi A4 is also a practical family car. Rear legroom is good, and the boot measures a massive 445 litres. But it’s somewhat cheeky of Audi to charge its customers extra for folding rear seats.
Refined deliveryWith a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 8,9 seconds, this Audi A4 completes the benchmark acceleration run around 0,6 seconds faster than the standard 120 kW version, which is impressive, though still not quite as fast as BMW’s 325i, nor Volvo’s hasty S40 T4. But to judge the Audi A4 by that 0-100 km/h time alone would be unfortunate, as the additional power is particularly noticeable in the extra oomph on hand when executing overtaking manoeuvres. In-gear acceleration is particularly strong, and very addictive, with the Audi A4 responding almost instantaneously to pressure on the throttle pedal. And although there’s noticeable lag under 2 000 rpm, above that mark the engine delivers its power in a refined and very linear fashion.
The fuel economy you can expect from this model depends really very much on your usage pattern. Driven sedately, the Audi A4 1,8T’s consumption could drop as low as 9 litres/100 km, but make use of the extra boost often, and you’ll pay a penalty, with a figure of around 11 litres/100 km not being unrealistic.
Grip aplentyThe Audi A4 is by no means a poor-handling sedan, but it certainly lacks the sharpness and agility of BMW’s rear-wheel drive 3 Series. If you were hoping that the lowered suspension and bigger wheels would transform it for the better, then you’re likely to be disappointed, although this model does indeed feel noticeably keener to turn in. The Audi A4 1,8T remains a predictable handler with good body control and lots of grip, but it still feels rather heavy at the front and starts pushing its nose far sooner than its most serious rival. The steering, too, remains lacking in feel and precision, and the six-speed transmission is not the smoothest shifter in the business. It needs to be pointed out, however, that these negatives are only likely to irk serious petrolheads. Those potential buyers out there looking for a performance-oriented luxury sedan with good road manners are unlikely to be too concerned.
Audi A4 - VerdictAll things considered, this sporty Audi A4 is certainly worth the extra R24k over the standard 1,8T. The extra power may not be that noticeable during traffic light sprints, but you’ll appreciate it on those long-distance drives and particularly during overtaking. The lowered suspension and bigger wheels have boosted the car’s visual appeal and although the dynamic improvements are fairly minimal, they also have not come with too much of a ride comfort penalty. This is a very desirable, handsome, swift, well-made performance sedan.
- Build quality
- Performance boost
- Standard specification
- Driving position
- Front-end heavy
- No folding rear seats
Engine: 1,8-litre, four-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 140 kW @ 5 700 rpm
Torque: 240 Nm @ 1 950 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Wheels: 17-inch alloy
Top speed: 237 km/h
0-100 km/h: 8,9 seconds
Fuel economy: 11,5 litres/100 km
- BMW 325i: The A4’s nemesis. This 3 Series model is one of the best in a very strong line-up, offering a fine balance of performance and economy, as well as entertaining dynamics and comfort.
- Volvo S40 T4: Slightly smaller than the Audi A4, but if it’s primarily a performance sedan you’re after the T4 is well worth a look, seeing as it offers 147 kW of power and strong acceleration.
- Alfa Romeo 156 V6: This very charismatic Italian boasts a sonorous V6, lively performance and a decent standard specification level, but lacks the overall refinement and quality of the Audi A4, BMW and Volvo.