New A4 moves up the gears with old reliables
Performance and engine of Audi has improved says Martin Brennan but overall design is much the same
There has been much discussion recently about diesel engines and the dangerous NOx black particles they spew out, which has added to the steadily growing interest in petrol-powered cars. Petrol engines have become remarkably efficient in recent years, and are more affordable with sticker prices often between €2,000 and €4,000 lower than the diesel option.
In the case of the new Audi A4, for example - a 1.4-litre TSFI 150bhp model with mid-range SE trim and a road tax of €270 - at €37,750 is €3,800 cheaper on the forecourt than the diesel 2-litre TDI 150bhp SE Ultra with €180 road tax, which costs €41,550. A big difference for the private buyer who averages 10,000 to 12,000km per year.
The diesel engine is more frugal returning 3.7l/100kms compared to the 4.9l/100kms (the figures that Audi claim for both models), but when the cost price is taken into consideration there is a surprising result financially.
According to an AA survey back in August, petrol prices nationally are averaging €1.44/l compared to €1.29/l for diesel.
Taking into consideration the car's cost price, the price difference in fuel, and taking the yearly mileage into consideration, it transpires that what you save on the initial purchase will cover the fuel costs for nearly 7 years (80,000 km) if you are doing the urban average of 12,000kms a year, and you stash the money you saved at time of purchase in the glove box. Those doing 40,000km a year will cover their fuel costs for 2-3 years.
There is an argument that residuals will be lower on the petrol model when trading in, but that is diminishing rapidly as low cubic-capacity petrol engines become more powerful and economical.
In three years' time when it comes to trade-in, petrol engines will be much more efficient and desirable while it will become more costly to clean up diesels to the standards of increasingly tough environment laws. Who would have thought we would see the day when a 1-litre engine was the power source for a Ford Mondeo.
When it comes to high-mileage drivers, diesel makes more sense, especially on long journeys, where the engine and exhaust systems heat up to high-burning efficiency and do not have the problems that afflict urban owners. Their short, stop-start journeys tend to clog up the cleaning system in the exhaust management. The price difference in the more powerful 190bhp petrol and diesel models in the mid-spec SE is less severe - €750.
The new A4 has shed 110kg in the saloon version which arrives here in November, and 120kg in the Avant version which arrives in January. The order book is open for 2016 registrations. This year almost 900 A4s were sold.
There are new, more supportive seats, more rear knee room and, with a new platform and new suspensions which can be set for comfort or sport mode, it can easily accommodate sedate and enthusiastic drivers. It is wider and longer but with a lower stance which gives it the best drag factor in its class and helps towards the 21-per-cent improvement in fuel consumption.
The exterior lines have been improved but the overall design remains true to the outgoing model. More excitement up front would have been nice but the rear has a nice shape about it.
Engines and driving enjoyment are always Audi strong points and the new model provides an exciting and sure-footed drive, ironing out the roads and handles tight-cornering with ease. Rigidity has been improved and performance is up by 25 per cent.
All engines meet EU6 regulations and standard equipment includes climate control, speed limiter, Xenon headlights, Audi music interface and alloy wheels. SE models get SatNav, LED headlights, bigger wheels and leather. The is the option of a technology pack which gives a virtual cockpit and Audi Connect, which gives a Wi-Fi connection. Smartphones can be wirelessly charged.