Let’s not mince our words: the previous generation Audi A4 was a dated product. As exciting as it was at launch, the years have not been good to it, on top of which the lack of competitive specifications and a weak dealership network made it all the less appealing. But ever since Audi Malaysia stepped in, there has been a buzz of activity for the four-ringed brand. Aggressive product launches and an expanding dealer network are things you can expect in the coming months.
The latest in the line of products launched locally is the new Audi A4, built on the nascent MLB-Evo platform and equipped with all the goodies that you find in Audi’s most current models. The exterior may be a little underwhelming in its styling changes (you wouldn’t be at fault if you couldn’t tell the new from the old at first glance), but perhaps reserved styling is what we need in an era of erratic design lines and aggressive styling cues. It plays well with the image of a futuristic utopia that Audi paints in their marketing material, following on nicely from the Audi e-tron concept from a few years back.
For our market there will be three different variants by the beginning of next year, but the mid-level 2.0 TFSI variant has been launched and is available for purchase. Joining this will be a 1.4 TFSI entry level variant and a top-of-the-line 2.0 TFSI Quattro variant, each with distinct equipment levels. If you’re the kind of person that values the occasional spirited drive, then it may be worth holding out for the 2.0 TFSI Quattro model until it’s officially available.
From an engineering perspective the new A4 is larger in every dimension and yet lighter than its predecessor by up to 120 kilograms (depending on variant and specification). Aerodynamics have been improved as well, aiding the A4 in the area of fuel efficiency. Unfortunately, none of these improvements can remedy the fact that, apart from the Quattro model, the A4s are front-wheel drive and have a large amount of weight over the front axle. This is a compromise in the dynamics department, although the majority of owners aren’t likely to notice or care.
Despite not being quite as powerful as the upcoming Quattro mode, the 2.0 TFSI is no slouch. Outputs in this state of tune are at 190 PS and 320 Nm of torque from just 1,450 rpm, allowing it to sprint to 100 km/h in just over seven seconds. The wide torque range makes for effortless acceleration in any gear, allowing you to nip through traffic with ease or maintain a reasonably quick pace while cruising down the highway. The A4 comes with a seven-speed S Tronic dual clutch transmission as standard, delivering power to the front wheels for this specification level. While this gearbox is a solid performer, it has also been known to suffer when faced with stop-start traffic; more frustrating is the fact that the excellent ZF eight-speed automatic transmission is only available on Audi’s higher-end products, as this would have been a more robust option.
Regardless of which variant you pick, it’s the interior that makes the new A4 truly competitive in its segment. A free-floating screen paired with Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) provides a more minimalistic look, which is a far sight better than the A4 of old. An optional Technology Package adds the Audi Virtual Cockpit and extra MMI functions, and is a must-have if you want to enjoy to full breadth of the A4’s technological progress. The virtual cockpit is a large TFT display that replaces the standard instrument cluster, with which the driver can easily view anything from GPS information to various performance displays.
On the outside, the mid-level model receives LED headlamps with daytime running lights, along with LED tail lamps that incorporate the slick dynamic indicator system. Opting for the Technology Package replaces the headlamps with the Matrix LED system, which is also one of Audi’s newer must-have tech pieces. If the plain looks are still an issue to you, an S Line package provides more aggressive front and rear bumpers along with larger 18-inch wheels, although to be honest, it doesn’t make a massive difference.
Pricing is a little on the high side, but not so high as to be absurd. The A4 2.0 TFSI goes for RM249,800 before the optional Technology Package and S Line equipment, making it roughly RM20,000 dearer than a BMW 320i Sport, and RM1,000 more than a Mercedes- Benz C200 Avantgarde. In an off-hand comparison, the A4 may lack the dynamic edge of the 320i, but it is comparable to the C200 in terms of interior quality and features – to most consumers, this is the defining aspect of a luxury sedan.
Even if the new Audi A4 isn’t quite your tempo, the local introduction of this model is nonetheless exciting. The Audi Q7 marked the beginning of a proper product shift for the brand, and the A4 helps to maintain this momentum going into next year. Audi Malaysia has confirmed that 2017 will bring a slew of products, from the Q2 compact crossover to the all-new A5 coupe and sportback, and even the official introduction of S and RS models. The future is inarguably bright for this German marque.
The Clinical Edge of Quattro
Audi’s Quattro is an all-wheel drive system that is made available in a number of their products, usually as part of the top spec variants. While the name is applied to different drivetrain configurations (longitudinal front-engine as in the A4, transverse front-engine as in the RS3, and longitudinal mid-engine as in the R8), the system can be traced back to the legendary Audi Quattro of the 1980s. Built as part of a homologation program for the fearsome Group B rally car of the same name, the Audi Quattro came equipped with a relatively crude system that offered all-wheel drive traction in its most basic forms.
Over the years, the system has been refined and improved to the point where it is quite nearly imperceptible in its operation, apart from the massive amount of traction you have available when you accelerate through a corner. The clever all-wheel drive system shuffles power between the front and rear wheels, providing it to the wheels with the most grip in any situation. Normally promoted as being invaluable for harsh winters in northern countries, the system is also of great value during torrential tropical downpours and inconsistent road surface conditions.
While not quite as performanceoriented as the systems found in Japanese performance cars of the 1990s, Quattro adds a certain dynamic edge that transforms an Audi from being merely a luxury sedan to something of a sportier nature. It may not be as outright exciting as the traditional front-engine, rear-wheel drive setups found in cars like the 3 Series, but the clinical approach to traction offers far more speed if you know how to wield it.