No, the title does not have a typo. Audi India launched the all-new 2016 Audi A4 with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder petrol engine. Before you make judgements of the A4 being underpowered and close this tab, read on to know why we think the A4 comes close to the segment leader, but misses out on being the winner -
Certain aspects of the new A4, such as the design of the headlights and taillights are indeed a revolution from the previous generation model. However, look at the car as a whole and you begin to see a lot of familiarity with the previous A4.
Up front, the 2016 Audi A4 sports the brand’s new Singleframe grille and LED headlights, though India doesn’t get the more advanced (and more expensive) Matrix LED lighting system available to customers elsewhere in the globe. However, according to one product planner, there’s not a single bulb in this car, inside or out; the all-new A4 uses only LEDs. The taillights receive the fancy dynamic turn indicators though.
On paper, the 2016 Audi A4 measures 4,726 mm in length, 1,842 mm in width, 1,427 mm in height and 2,820 mm in wheelbase. To put it simply, yes the A4 looks the part of a sedan worth 40-something lakhs.
It’s a tad difficult to summarize the interior of the 2016 Audi A4. On one side, the cabin doesn’t appear particularly luxurious, like the Mercedes C Class which has generous swathes of wood and aluminium. Where the A4’s cabin is more functional, the build quality is fantastic, and dare-we-say, best in the segment. Every small detail, right from the perforated leather wrap on the stubby gear lever to the overall quality of plastics and buttons feel worthy of the premium tag. Yes, the air vents feel a bit flimsy, but aside from this, the cabin of the A4 is pretty much up there on quality and features.
Coming to space and comfort, this is where the new A4 loses out to rivals. While the cabin is not short on space, be it legroom or headroom at the front and rear, the seat ergonomics are certainly not as good as they should be.
The front seats are short on thigh support, and the 200-odd km covered during the media drive made this journalist want to stretch his legs. Audi could have also provided ventilated seats, as the 2016 Hyundai Elantra which is several segments lower and around INR 20 lakhs cheaper gets this feature.
Audi says buyers mostly spend time at the back, and that engineers consciously improved the overall comfort here. While legroom and headroom are more than adequate, the rear seat's backrest seems too stiff for comfort. Again, thigh support is lacking a bit, which is a shame as the A4 actually offers comparatively more legroom in this segment than its rivals.
We feel a bit of criticism is in order here as the previous generation A4 had better seat ergonomics than the current model. While you were sat low in the previous A4, the seat squab and backrest certainly felt accommodating and inviting, which is not the case with the 2016 A4.
So, as we said, the interior is a bit hard to summarize. Beautifully designed parts, great build quality and the cabin feels roomy, but the seat comfort is certainly lacking, especially at the rear.
The 2016 Audi A4 misses out on the Matrix LED lighting system, but is pretty much loaded elsewhere. Available in two variants - Premium Plus and Technology - the A4 gets 17-inch alloy wheels, tyre pressure monitoring system, leather seats, electrically-adjustable front seats, heated and auto-dimming exterior mirrors, frameless interior mirror, sunroof, 3-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth-enabled sound system, cruise control, parking camera, front and rear parking sensors, Audi Drive Select, start-stop system, and the raft of airbags and safety equipment as standard.
The top-end Technology adds the beautiful, and dare-we-say highlight feature, the Virtual Cockpit cluster, an MMI navigation system with touchpad, phonebox and smartphone interface. No qualms here!
Engine and Gearbox:
Audi says it wants to start the trend of downsizing engines and focus more on fuel efficiency. Weird that the A3 is available with a 1.8-liter TFSI engine but the A4 comes with a 1.4-liter unit. Still, we can already tell you that this engine is shared with the Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI. In fact, the 2016 A4 and the Octavia output the same power and torque figures as well, though the Audi is more fuel efficient owing to the 7-speed S-Tronic (dual-clutch) transmission (the Octavia gets a 6-MT).
The front-wheel drive 2016 A4 makes 150 hp at 5,000-6,000 rpm and 250 Nm of torque between 1,500-3,500 rpm. Audi claims a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 8.5 seconds, which ensures you leave that traffic light with your ego intact.
In the city, the TFSI engine and the 7-speed S-Tronic gearbox do a wonderful job of keeping things smooth. At no point does the A4 feel underpowered or slow; the 150 horses are more than sufficient for closing gaps in city traffic, and cruising comfortably at 120-140 km/h on the highway.
However, it is surely not in-your-face quick. Audi says it is consciously taking this approach, as the bulk of A4 buyers experience the sedan from the rear seat and have chauffeurs ferry them instead. While that sounds sensible, the challenge, we think, is in educating buyers that the A4's small engine doesn't necessarily include restrained performance.
Realistically speaking, we think the Audi has taken a brave but much needed step in downsizing the engine of their popular sedan. With average speeds* between 17 km/h (Kolkata) and 33 km/h (early-morning in New Delhi), the 150 horses on the A4 should more than suffice your urban needs.
*Study conducted by Ola, published in December 2015.
Ride and Handling; Brakes and Safety:
Both, ride and handling seem to have taken positive leaps from the previous generation A4. When it comes to ride quality, the Audi A4 manages to remain relatively flat and composed through most road conditions; it takes for a large pothole to send a shudder through the cabin. It just about outdoes the Mercedes C Class, though it is too close a call between the Jaguar XE and the A4 to declare a winner here.
The steering feels vastly improved over the outgoing A4, especially the way it weighs up with speed. Speaking of the steering wheel itself, we were left with tired tendons in our hands owing to the hard-press of the horn and the way it is positioned (one has to stretch the thumb to access it). That criticism aside, the A4 is dynamically sorted, though we still would not call it a 'driver's car'; the A4's above-mentioned competitors and the BMW 3 Series are still a step-up in that department.
The A4's front and rear disc brakes provided enough stopping power on Bhubaneswar's highways, and the rainy weather also gave us a chance to experience the good grip levels from the 225/50 R17 Hankook tyres. Aside from ABS, EBD, ESP and TCS, the 2016 Audi A4 also comes with 8 airbags as standard.
The 2016 Audi A4 has an ARAI-certified efficiency of 17.84 km/l. On a highway with speeds between 80-100 km/h and two people on board, the A4 saw the positive side of 10 km/l, while even a little bit of aggression with the throttle saw the figure dip to 9.4 km/l.
Audi India has priced the 2016 Audi A4 at INR 38.1 lakhs for the Premium Plus variant and INR 41.2 lakhs for the Technology variant, ex-Showroom, New Delhi. A comparison of prices and specifications of the new A4 with its rivals is available here.
The 2016 Audi A4 comes across as an extremely well-built, tech-loaded and dynamically-sound sedan. However, in this segment, it doesn't offer the same comfort levels as the Mercedes C Class, which we think is of priority if one is spending close to half-a-crore. Also, the Mercedes has buyers bowled over by its design and opulence, while elsewhere in the segment Jaguar has introduced the sporty XE whose driving dynamics is in a superior league.
So, while the A4 does offer a few toys like the Virtual Cockpit display and MMI touchpad, it doesn't particularly excite this segment the same way its predecessor did. The new A4 is a good option, but the competition seems a step ahead, in both driving dynamics and overall comfort.
Finally, we feel that Audi India could have priced the A4 much better. It is INR 30,000 more expensive than the C Class (comparing top-end variants), which features a 2.0-liter turbocharged petrol engine.