Audi, Volkswagen of Germany’s luxury subsidiary, has revised its mainstream A4 model, and although it might not look very much different on the outside, it represents a big step forward in matching the driveability of the long-time champion in this class, the BMW 3 Series.
BMW has just unveiled an all-new version of its 3 Series, so Audi was under pressure to introduce compelling improvements to its mid-life facelift of its four-year old A4 to make a big difference to its performance and fuel economy.
Audi seems to have achieved big improvements in the way the car handles with suspension tuning and improved electromechanical power steering, while the company claims that fuel efficiency across the range has been improved by 21 per cent. Unfortunately for Americans, much of this gain was achieved by the diesel engines, which won’t be available in the U.S.
The range in the U.S. comprises two versions with gasoline engines – the A4 with a 211 hp turbocharged 4-cylinder, and the S4’s supercharged V6 3.0 liter motor developing 333 hp. The smaller gas engine is rated at an average 33.6 miles per U.S. gallon, and the bigger one 28.0, according to European measurements. Sales start in May. Prices have yet to set, but most likely will be in line with current models, so will start from close to $35,000.
According to Audi of America, this eighth generation of the A4 for the 2013 model year will be available in Sedan and S4 form, plus an Allroad wagon with four-wheel drive.
The interiors of the A4 have also been refined, with new climate and infotainment controls and wood inlays. The switchgear, steering wheel and instrument panel have also been given improved chrome and high gloss look. This is one area where previous A4s have been competitive with the BMW 3 Series. The sedan’s trunk has 17 cubic feet of space, 34 cubic feet with the seats folded down. The Allroad has 28 cubic feet, which expands to 50 cubic feet. You can opt for an electrically operated tailgate. You can also pay for adaptive cruise control, a radar device which keeps the car a constant distance from the one in front, and active lane assist, which reminds you electronically if you stray across lanes.
Transmission options include constantly variable automatic, seven and eight speed automatics, or six-speed manual. The S4 and Allroad have four-wheel drive as standard. It’s an option on the A4.
If the fact that this car is made in Germany makes you feel less favourable about it than one made in America, things may change in a few months. Audi is agonising about opening a new plant in the U.S., possibly close to its parent company VW’s factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., or in Mexico. Experts reckon Audi will make an extra 100,000 vehicles in North America, either Q5 SUVs, or A4s, as it pursues its target of 200,000 sales in America a year by 2018. Last year U.S. sales were just under 120,000.