The Audi A4’s facelift incorporates subtle tweaks, and under the hood of the base diesel version, it’s the same story. Curiously, the VW Group’s ubiquitous 2.0 TDI diesel motor, which powers a wide range of models from a Skoda Laura to an Audi A6, comes in its least powerful avatar in the new A4. While the VW Passat and Audi Q3 have the 177bhp version of this engine, Audi has chosen to give the refreshed saloon the 141bhp version.
But this doesn’t make the A4 particularly slow. A very healthy 32.6kgm of torque and a 1.5 tonne kerb weight – pretty light for a car of this size – translates to a convincing shove in your back when you step on the nicely spring-loaded throttle pedal. Off the line, the A4 2.0 TDI hits 100kph just under 11 seconds, quick enough to be more satisfying than exciting. What also helps the A4 along is the eight-step CVT that behaves like a regular torque converter automatic. Use the Tiptronic mode and the way it swaps its preset ‘steps’ will make you think there’s a gearbox with a full set of gears in there. It’s only when you step on the kick-down switch that you get that familiar rubber-band effect of the CVT transmission. Since this diesel isn’t particularly feisty, it’s best not to ask too much of it and leave the gearlever in ‘D’ to let the transmission deal with your traffic woes.
This diesel’s greatest strength is its petrol-like refinement. Considering it’s got just four cylinders, the engine is very quiet and vibration-free at idle, buttery smooth when you’re accelerating and there’s just a muted growl when you’re near the redline.
You will also, no doubt, be impressed by its fuel economy – 10.9kpl in the city and 15kpl on the highway. The softly sprung Audi rides very well at low speeds. The old A4’s slightly lumpy low-speed characteristic has been replaced by a pillowy ride. It absorbs sharp bumps and sorts out potholes fantastically well at town speeds. However, it doesn’t offer as flat and composed a ride as you’d expect from an autobahn-honed German luxury saloon. Long wave undulations and raised expansion joints result in a fair amount of bobbing and pitching, which is a bit more evident on the heavier diesel than the petrol we tested earlier. Still, it’s not to the point of being anywhere near uncomfortable and the A4 carries out its long-distance duties ably and without a fuss.
As for the handling, it’s not particularly engaging thanks to a steering which, though speed-sensitive and fairly weighty, feels benign and uncommunicative for the most part. The A4 corners quite well and torque steer is well contained. However, the middle-of-the-road performance means this is car is best in a chauffeur-driven role. People who want more from their A4 should look at the A4 3.0 TDI with its 245bhp V6 diesel and Quattro all-wheel drive.
The rest of this new A4 diesel is pretty much like the petrol version we tested earlier. Look at it and you will be hard pressed to tell the changes to the design, the most notable of which are the new hexagonal grille, rectangular fog lamps and mildly altered tail-lamps. The changes to the inside are few as well – Audi has concentrated on small changes to make the cabin feel more up-to-date and plush. The MMI system, for example, gets the latest interface from the A6 and quality levels through the cabin have been subtly improved. As for space, the A4 has always had the largest cabin in its class and nothing’s changed here. The rear seats in particular feel spacious and there’s plenty of legroom. Thigh support could have been better though.