Who says diesel is dead? Plenty of change in Audi's A4 and brand new power unit on its way
First Drive Revised: Audi A4
Even in these days of ubiquitous SUVs, it's important to remember one in five Audis sold is an A4.
After four years on the market, the current version has been given a thorough refresh, with new looks, new engines and an interesting performance variant.
Recognisable from any angle as an A4, nevertheless, all panels have been changed and the rear now mimics the A6 with tail lights joined by a prominent horizontal line.
The shoulder line down the sides of the car is now split into two levels, emphasising the quattro blisters on the wings.
Inside, there are no dramatic changes although the touch screen is now bigger and the menu structure has been completely redesigned.
The control knob between the seats has been removed so you have to use the screen or the new, natural language, voice recognition to control various systems in the car.
We started with the new S4 TDi at the launch venue in the Italian Tyrol.
Immediately, the car felt cosseting with high quality, supportive leather seats. Hitting the start button revealed an attractive engine note, hinting at the power that lay inside.
Dropping the accelerator to the floor, you're met by a substantial shove in the back, courtesy of the 700Nm of torque produced by this 3-litre V6.
The prodigious power and torque comes from a single large turbo, replacing the two smaller turbos previously employed in the petrol S4.
To counter turbo lag, a clever electric supercharger is used to provide boost at low revs before the turbo spools up.
This compressor is powered by a new 48 volt electrical system, which also supports a hybrid system, said to reduce fuel consumption by up to 0.4 l/100km.
With permanent quattro four-wheel-drive, power is put down impressively and there's no sign of understeer or that slight nose heavy feeling that often afflicts fast Audis.
It's a seriously impressive car.
Equally impressive is the new Allroad.
It also comes as standard with four-wheel drive, although in this case, it's a part-time system that normally drives the front wheels only.
The rear axle can be brought into play if necessary in a fraction of a second.
It's set up this way to save fuel.
The Allroad, along with most models in the range, will come with a mild hybrid setup, based on a 12-volt architecture.
The Allroad gets a suspension which has been raised by 35mm as well as a wider track to help it deal with difficult terrain.
It also gets some body cladding, not in the usual grey but instead some attractive piano black plastic.
Audi clearly believe there's life in diesel engines yet because there is a completely new 2-litre diesel on the way with a choice of power outputs.
I tried the middle version, which comes with 163bhp and front-wheel-drive as standard.
It's a smooth and punchy engine, with plenty of power to break traction, a situation ably dealt with by the traction control system.
Almost all models will get an automatic gearbox as standard, with either seven or eight speeds when first customer cars arrive around September.
Only the base petrol model will later get the option of a six-speed manual.