12.10.2015Audi A4 2.0 TDI Ultra review
Offering advanced driver aids and connectivity systems, the new Audi A4 is very nearly a self-driving car if the right options are selected. These, along with numerous changes and updates for this new model range makes Audi the brand to beat in the compact executive saloon sector. That said, equipment levels could be more generous and reliability needs improving according to surveys.
Review by Russell Bray
The 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo-charged diesel engine of this Ultra TDI model produces maximum power of 148bhp from 3,250rpm to 4,200rpm and maximum torque of 236 lb ft from 1,500 to 3,250rpm. Initial step off the line is fine but, despite that strong torque figure, you do notice the 1,505kg car running out of puff if pulling out into fast moving traffic. Some swift work is then needed on the gear changes to maintain momentum. The re-engineered six-speed manual gearbox has a precise action but was a little sticky on this low mileage car. Some steeper inclines needed a move to lower gears. Acceleration to 62mph takes 8.9 seconds and top speed is 130mph. Cruising is relaxed and quiet. It's not as quiet as more powerful models such as the 190hp 2.0 TDI model, but was much more refined than a Jaguar XE 2.0 driven recently.
Sitting on an all-new chassis/platform the latest Audi A4 is always enjoyable to drive, though lacking some of the feedback and responses you would get from a BMW 3-Series or the new Jaguar XE. Some people, of course, find more feedback more tiring. These rivals are rear wheel drive while the Audi is front-wheel drive, though other are available with the Quattro permanent four-wheel drive system. Audi says the fuel penalty for its all-wheel drive models is now much lower than before. Whichever A4 model you pick you will find the ride is biased towards firm, even with comfort chosen in the driver select menu. That said, it was not as stiff as the Jaguar XE R Sport that I had just climbed out of. The SE test car rode on 17-inch wheels with larger wheels optional.
This new Audi is instantly recognisable as an A4 saloon yet virtually everything about the car has been changed for this ninth generation model. Surprisingly, though it is up to 110kg lighter than its predecessor, the car is built of steel rather than the aluminium route used by Jaguar. Using new hot forming techniques in production makes sharper edges more possible than ever before, such as the spoiler on the boot lip which previously would have needed an add-on piece. Creases under the doors rising up and over the rear wheel arches help the A4's handsome style. And it doesn't just look sleek, an image that is helped by a longer wheelbase than before, as its drag coefficient is just 0.23. Length 4726mm. Width 1842mm.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The Audi A4 feels spacious and that is an often under-rated aspect of car comfort. Better all round visibility than in, say, the new Jaguar XE, also makes for a less stressful life. The longer wheelbase has increased rear seat legroom and the boot (480 litres) also trounces the Jag. Unlike most rivals the A4 has split, folding rear seats as standard. The electromechanical power steering can be adjusted for a heavier, sportier feel using the Audi driver select system. The standard system is the best of any recent Audi A4. The dial or touchpad controlled satellite navigation system is far easier and safer to use than those requiring you to stretch and touch the screen in hopefully in the right place, even to alter magnification.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
On paper the 2.0 Ultra TDI is capable of 74.3 MPG based on the increasingly optimistic figures that the laboratory tests now throw up. Back in the real world, in this case around Newbury, sharing a car we managed 55.4 MPG according to the on-board computer. Better would have been possible with more care and effort. Ultra models have smaller (40 litre) fuel tanks and Ad Blue tanks (12 litres) though full size 54 and 24 litre tanks are available at no extra cost. A warranty of just three years/60,000 miles is starting to look a bit mean compared to rivals, and Audi has not scored well recently in reliability ratings. This model sits in band A for Vehicle Excise Duty which means road tax costs nothing.
An improved stop-start system now switches off the engine when coasting, not just when stationary. Cruise control now includes a 'free-wheeling' mode to save fuel too. If the car has MMI Navigation with predictive route data in cruise control the systems will anticipate the road ahead for more efficient free-wheeling. Improved efficiency comes when in the Audi driver select 'efficiency' mode. The A4's exceptional aerodynamics reduces fuel consumption at cruising speeds and Ultra models are fitted with low rolling resistance tyres. Carbon dioxide emissions on these 17-inch wheels are 99 g/km. This is a nine gram per kilometre improvement over the previous model despite a power increase of ten per cent. Figures are not yet available for larger wheel options. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 30.
Audi claims the car has class leading entertainment and information systems and compared to recent Mercedes-Benz and Jaguars driven thatâ€™s correct. The brilliant â€˜virtual cockpit,â€™ where a sat nav map or media information can be made to appear between the main instruments, is optional on SE models but you can mirror your smart phone on the display and the system supports Android Auto and Apple Car Play. The seven inch dashboard sat nav screen seems a little small in comparison but still ahead of rivals in quality, graphics and response. Standard equipment on the entry-level A4 SE includes Xenon headlamps, 17in alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, three-zone electronic climate control, seven-inch colour control screen, cruise control, speed limiter and digital radio. You can connect both a work and a private phone using Bluetooth. Satellite navigation isnâ€™t fitted until you reach Sport specification. Optional driver aids include active lane assist, collision avoidance assist, turn assist, door opening warning, rear cross traffic warning and parking assist. SE models have Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights. Full LED matrix headlights are optional.
Model tested: Audi A4 2.0 TDI Ultra SE
Body-style: Compact four-door executive saloon
Engine/CO2: 148bhp 2.0 litre TDI, four-cylinder turbo diesel engine / 99 g/km CO2
Trim grades: SE, Sport, S line
On-road price: From £29,150. Price as tested £33,565
Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles
In the showroom: November
Review rating: 4.0 stars