Green light for UK new generation Audi A4 range
The Audi A4 is about to raise its stock yet again as new generation Saloon, Avant and allroad versions of the accomplished premium compact executive adopt an even more sharply tailored look and a blue chip portfolio of new or revised engines which pay even greater economy dividends. Due with their first UK customers in March 2012, the new generation A4 ranges will carry a premium of just £200 over their outgoing equivalents, despite significant styling enhancements and efficiency gains of up to 21 per cent. Prices will start at under £24,000, and orders can be taken from today (Tuesday November 8).
Efficiency was of course at front of mind during the redevelopment of this eighth generation A4 range, so as a starting point all nine of the turbo charged and directly injected engines that power it are linked without exception to start/stop and recuperation systems. These help to bring about economy improvements that average 11 per cent across the board, but actually amount to as much as 21 per cent.
The petrol range will kick off, as it did before, with the 1.8-litre TFSI with 120PS, which is due to open for orders in early 2012, slightly later than the first phase. Until then, the lead-in unit is a more powerful 1.8-litre TFSI which has been completely redesigned for the A4 to include ground-breaking innovations in many areas, including control of the valves and their lift, thermal management, fuel injection, turbocharging and the integration of the exhaust manifold. With power increased from the previous 160PS to 170PS, and an even more significant torque hike from 250Nm to 320Nm, it combines 49.6mpg economy potential with CO2 output down from 169g/km to 134g/km – a 21 per cent improvement. With the departure of the 3.2-litre naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine from the latest range, the perennially popular 2.0-litre TFSI unit with 211PS now completes the petrol line-up.
Six TDI engine options
The bulk of the engine range changes are reserved for the TDI contingent, which now offers an outstanding choice of six options employing either four or six cylinders. Of the four 2.0-litre four-cylinder units, two power acutely efficiency focused TDIe models. The 136PS version which performed this role originally continues, and has been joined by a more powerful 163PS version. CO2 drops to 112g/km from 120g/km in the A4 2.0 TDIe 136PS, and the 2.0 TDIe 163PS runs this figure impressively close at 115g/km. Combined cycle economy figures stand at 65.7mpg and 64.2mpg respectively.
In the interest of maximum breadth of choice, particularly for business users, the 143PS version of the 2.0-litre TDI continues alongside a 177PS unit – with power up from 170PS – that heads the four-cylinder line-up. The 136PS, 163PS and 177PS units have been further refined by a new pendulum type absorber in the dual mass flywheel which makes engine running even smoother and more refined at low revs.
In the V6 camp, a 204PS 3.0-litre unit first seen in the A6 Saloon and A7 Sportback is adopted in place of the 2.7-litre TDI, and brings up to 57.6mpg to front-wheel-drive models. A 245PS version is linked exclusively to quattro all-wheel-drive in Saloon, Avant and allroad quattro variants.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard for Saloon and Avant models with front-wheel drive, and most variants offer the continuously variable multitronic automatic transmission as an option. The quattro versions feature either the manual transmission or the seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch automatic. The A4 allroad quattro employs a manual transmission or S tronic with all engine versions.
An innovative new thermal management system shortens the warm-up phase of the manual transmission, and thereby reduces friction losses, and all transmissions are distinguished by high efficiency and a wide spread of gear ratios, with long ratios in the higher gears to boost fuel economy and short ratios in the lower gears to optimise response.
The quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system is standard for the A4 allroad quattro and 245PS A4 3.0 TDI quattro models, and available at extra cost for 211PS 2.0-litre TFSI petrol and 177PS 2.0-litre TDI variants. The A4 family uses the self-locking centre differential, which under normal driving conditions transmits torque to the rear wheels in the ratio of 40 to 60, but can rapidly vary this according to the situation. Torque vectoring supplements the work of the centre differential with intermittent brake applications to boost handling precision.
The highly advantageous quattro system works with a sophisticated chassis incorporating five-link front suspension and a trapezoidal link at the rear, both featuring a high lightweight aluminium content. The mounts of the rear suspension control arms and the characteristics of the shock absorbers have been even more finely tuned in this latest generation model.
In the V6 quattro variants Audi offers the sport differential as an option, lending maximum adjustability and control to the A4 when cornering at the handling limits. The differential actively distributes the power between the rear wheels as required.
Electromechanical power steering is new to all models in the series. Its direct gear ratios work in favour of precise response, and it draws no power from the engine when running in the straight-ahead position, thereby improving fuel economy and reducing CO2 emissions by up to 7 g/km.
New efficiency mode for Audi drive select
These features and more can be influenced by the optional Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system. In its standard form, it enables the driver to alter the throttle response, the shift points of the automatic transmission, the power steering feel and the automatic air conditioning between the four modes “comfort,” “auto,” “dynamic” and “efficiency.” The latter is new to the A4, and sets all the elements, plus the climate control system, to operate at their most fuel-sparing level.
If the optional navigation system is on board, Audi drive select also includes an “individual” mode which allows even more fine-tuning. And if options such as dynamic steering and damper control are also added, the ratio of the steering and the response of the shock absorbers are also governed by the drive select controls.
All front-wheel-drive versions of the A4 feature the electronic stability programme (ESP) with electronic limited slip differential. When negotiating more challenging roads the system further improves handling and safety by initiating minimum brake interventions at the front wheel that is subject to a reduced load on the inside of a bend. The large brakes – with ventilated front and rear discs in many variants – offer excellent stopping power and can be precisely modulated.
Visually, the latest refinement of the A4 range begins with a reworked bumper with new look angled air inlets and flat fog lights which leads into a revised single frame grille with tapered upper edges and redesigned cross ribs. Flanked by restyled headlights, the grille flows into a re-sculpted bonnet. Where Xenon headlamps are fitted, these are fringed by updated LED daytime running lights that form a narrow, continuous band. The A4 allroad quattro is distinguished by its horizontal chrome grille applications and by its round fog lights.
The tail lights reflect the shape of the headlights, and where xenon headlamps are fitted these are formed from homogeneous strips of LEDs. The bumper with its diffuser insert has also been redesigned.
Detail refinements also extend to the already highly acclaimed interior, which features new steering wheels, including a flat bottomed design for the sports wheel, and additional high-gloss applications and chrome trim for many of the surfaces and controls. The latter have also become even more intuitive in many cases - the MMI navigation plus system in particular now features fewer buttons and a new multi-functional volume control with joystick cap for even greater simplicity. There have also been improvements to the automatic transmission selector lever and the controls for the air conditioning unit, the Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system, the seat heating function and the multifunction steering wheel.
The familiarly high level of workmanship is complemented as usual by elegant interior colour schemes, all of which have been revised for this latest generation. The upholstery range has also been amended, with Fine Nappa leather replacing Valcona leather. Inlays are available in Aluminium Trigon, walnut dark brown, fine grain ash natural and the particularly eyecatching Beaufort oak.
The A4 Saloon’s luggage compartment retains a 480 litre capacity, or 962 litres with the rear seats folded down. The A4 Avant and the A4 allroad quattro offer 490 and 1,430 litres respectively.
The specification levels for this latest generation model begin with the more comfort-oriented SE designation, which includes features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, three-zone climate control, a ten-speaker, 180-watt Concert CD audio system with auxiliary input and 6.5-inch monitor, cruise control, rear parking sensors, light and rain sensors, Bluetooth mobile phone preparation and a colour Driver’s Information System.
For an easy and cost-effective route to even greater luxury and technological sophistication, all 2.0-litre TDI engine options can be allied to an upgraded SE Technik trim, which for a premium of £1,100 over SE adds Milano leather upholstery, DVD-based satellite navigation, Audi music interface iPod connection and the Audi parking system Plus with front and rear sensors and visual and acoustic guidance.
S line specification is as usual the choice for more performance-oriented drivers, and includes larger 18-inch alloy wheels, lowered sports suspension, S line exterior and interior styling enhancements and xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lamps and rear LED lights.
To make the A4 look, and sound, as stunning as possible, a Black Edition specification which takes S line as its basis is available at the very top of the options tree. For an additional £1,250 over S line it adds 19-inch alloy wheels with a titanium finish, and a black styling package which frames the grille, fog lights, windows and number plate in high gloss black, and for Avant models adds black roof rails and dark tinted privacy glass from the B-pillar rearwards. Inside, enhancements include Audi music interface iPod connection, DAB digital radio, a high performance 505-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system, piano black inlays and, for Saloon versions, the Audi parking system plus.
New online services option
An exciting new option available across the board is a high specification mobile phone interface offering online services, which not only brings a Google-powered Points of Interest search and navigation using Google Earth images, but also creates a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) hotspot within the A4 enabling occupants to connect phones and computers to the internet wirelessly.
Also new to this latest generation model are an updated adaptive cruise control system and the Audi active lane assist lane departure warning system. The evolution of adaptive cruise control can now bring the A4 to a complete halt automatically at speeds of less than 18mph if its sensors detect the possibility of a collision. Using optical sensors to monitor road markings, the Audi active lane assist system detects unintentional lane deviations and alerts straying drivers by initiating active steering intervention to gently guide the car back into lane.
To minimise the risk of unintentional manoeuvres caused by fatigue, all A4 models are also equipped with a Break Recommendation function built into their Driver’s Information System. It uses a steering angle sensor to monitor steering movements, and also assesses use of the pedals and gear lever. If the sensors detect irregular or overly sudden driver inputs the driver is alerted to the possible need to take a break by audible and visual cues in the cockpit.
The Audi S4
The Audi S4, available in Saloon and Avant body styles and with either six-speed manual or seven-speed S tronic transmissions, employs the most powerful engine in the line-up – the 3.0-litre TFSI with 333PS and 440 Nm of torque. The S4 Saloon accelerates from rest to 62mph in 5.0 seconds and achieves an electronically limited maximum speed of 155mph, yet balances this impressive performance with the potential for up to 34.9mpg according to the combined cycle test.
The latest incarnation is identifiable by the changes to its headlights, bumpers and air intakes, and by updates to colour schemes and interior fittings in line with the A4 range.