The infectiously energetic television advert for the new Audi A4 was an indication that the brand was making a concerted effort to shake off its somewhat sober image.
The edgy electric guitar riffs, the creative interpretation of human faces on just about any object you looked at and the eventual front view of the A4 showing off one of its most prominent upgraded features — the single-frame grille — gave one the feeling that significant changes had been made to the new A4. This was also, of course, the perfect way to introduce the A4’s new catch-line ‘The face of vorsprung [progress]”.
Despite the wonderful ad, I have to say that while there was an overall facelift to the new A4, you would be forgiven for confusing it with the outgoing model — but there have been some noteworthy technological advances.
Among the changes is the combination of FSI (direct injection technology) and turbo-charging, which gives the A4 a distinctly enjoyable performance edge.
The model I test-drove was the 2,0T FSI multitronic avant (station wagon) and I was thoroughly impressed with the performance, road-holding and overall feel off the new A4. I expected that the avant wouldn’t feel as nippy as the sedan version, but the 147kW of power and 280Nm of torque ensured that every time I put my foot down, I wasn’t given any time to be disappointed. And the formula one-styled gear levers attached to the steering wheel add to the excitement of this turbo-charged model.
The claimed zero-to-100kph sprint stands at 7,6 seconds with a top speed of 230kph, though I would think that people who buy station wagons are the responsible parent-types who spend a lot of time transporting their sprogs to and from school and therefore might not care much about the zero-to-100kph dash.
However, Audi obviously realised that responsible parents shouldn’t be left out of the performance loop, which is why the company offers an avant version of almost every sedan model (including the mind-blowing 253kW S4).
Standard equipment on the entry-level A4 includes a rain and light sensor, multi-function steering wheel, servotronic steering (as an optional extra on the 2,0l, 1,8T and 2,0 TDI), dual-zone climate control, remote central locking, a CD-based sound system, electrically operated windows and side mirrors, ESP (electronic stabilisation programme), six airbags and ABS (anti-lock braking system).
The servotronic steering (a new feature) adapts to the speed of the car, so you would find it quite easy to turn the steering wheel at 60kph, however when you’re driving at 120kph, the steering wheel responds by stiffening slightly, thereby giving you more steady control of the car. All six-cylinder models and the 2,0T FSI also have 17-inch 235mm tyres as standard.
There’s no doubt that the new A4 raises the bar for entry-level luxury sedans and the safety and specification levels are excellent, with a host of new features such as dynamic adaptive light technology and xenon plus headlights now available. However, I was somewhat disappointed when I discovered that the six standard airbags are primarily for the safety of the driver and front passenger and you have to pay an additional R3 500 for two rear-side airbags. While I know this is a small issue, a safety feature such as the rear airbags should be standard on the entire range at no extra cost.
That said, the optional-extras list on the new A4 is quite extensive and offers a host of creature comforts, such as the entirely unnecessary addition of heated seats for both front and rear passengers. And, while being unnecessary, this is quite a welcome extra for a coastal girl having to cope with bitter Highveld winters.
I can just see the motoring purists frothing at the mouth, saying ‘pathetic sissy”. Yes, I am a pathetic sissy. The more comfortable a car, the more likely I am to enjoy pushing it to its limit. I don’t find anything romantic about rattling around in a beaten-up skorrokorro where I’m confused as to whether my teeth are chattering because of the chilly breeze coming out of the ‘heater” or whether it’s owing to to the go-kart-like suspension. So I’ll gladly take whatever they invent, although, even a sissy such as myself has to wonder about the kind of idiot who forgets to switch his wiperblades on when it’s raining and therefore needs a rain sensor to do this for him.
All in all, I’d say the Audi 2,0T FSI multitronic avant is definitely worth its R303 000 price tag.