Compact premium-branded saloons are the stuff of dreams for company car drivers. These days, models from the luxury German manufacturers sell in greater numbers than former fleet car fodder such as the Ford Mondeo. The Audi A4 saloon is one of the freshest entrants in this segment, combining understated executive car looks with cut-above refinement and comfort. There’s a broad range of engines, a well-equipped range of variants and the option of front- or four-wheel drive.
Did you know? The A4 saloon range offers a staggering choice of 14 different alloy wheel designs, sized from 17-inch to 19-inch.
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The Audi A4 saloon is a seriously accomplished compact executive car. It’s more well-rounded than previous generations of A4, with an outstanding interior and the availability of some advanced technology. It’s a car with few weaknesses and, although it’s not particularly exciting to drive – or much of a head-turner – it should be a satisfying machine to live with. Competitive prices and good economy are further positives.
Design & Exterior
Interior & Comfort
Technology & Connectivity
Performance & Handling
Spec & Trim Levels
Running Costs & Fuel Economy
Strong range of diesel engines
We Don’t Like
Lack of driver engagement
Stiff ride of S Line models
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Design & Exterior: (7/10)
The A4 saloon is conservatively styled and the design closely follows the Audi idiom. Some find it hard to distinguish from its predecessor, which was sold between 2008 and 2015. It’s a car created for those who like precision-cut attention to detail rather than head-turning good looks.
The image reflects this. The A4 is a classy saloon sold as a feel-good alternative to a mass-market car. Its popularity means the curtain-twitching impact of switching from a Ford Mondeo into one has passed (these days, you need an Audi Q5 SUV for that). Fleet users buy the majority of them, most are sold in TDI diesel guise and the car’s status these days is as a staple of the corporate car park.
Its understated looks conceal details that those who live with it find very satisfying. The exterior is clean and fuss-free, so less likely to date. Precise panel fit and flawless paint give a quality feel. The fact all models have LED running lights and either xenon or LED headlights means no variant need look ‘basic’. Audi has ensured entry-level A4 buyers look and feel like premium customers, even if their budget is only at mid-ranking Mondeo level.
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Interior & Comfort: (9/10)
A highlight of the A4 is its superb interior. In design, layout, build quality and overall ambience, it’s best-in-class, making rivals such as the BMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE seem disappointing by comparison. Audi has long had an advantage in interior quality, and the latest A4 underlines this.
The layout is fresh and airy, with a free-standing central infotainment screen taking visual bulk out of the dash. Smart heater controls with digital displays built into the precision-click temperature dials are a gorgeous touch, while all the minor switchgear feels jewel-like. Plastics are expensive and Audi offers a broad selection of trim inlays, including cold-to-the-touch metal.
Conventional instruments are big and clear, enhanced by an optional full-colour display between them. Buyers can go one step further and pay for the full-screen Virtual Cockpit. It’s stunning. The 12.3in display has a fully-flexible instrument display and can also show full-screen 3D mapping via Google Maps. It’s currently class-unique tech that is a very appealing optional extra.
The roomy Audi A4 is based on a flexible platform, one that offers better all-round space than is normal in this sector. As with all executive saloons, the driver is very well catered-for, with a driving position offering an enormous range of adjustment. Even really tall drivers can position the seat so far back they’ll barely reach the pedals. While they remain a bit offset to the right, it’s not as bad as the previous model. Most won’t notice this.
In the rear, space and comfort are decent. There’s more room back there than in a Jaguar XE, for example, and bigger windows plus an airier cabin design make it feel more pleasant. Two adults shouldn’t grumble, even on long trips – not least because all A4s come with three-zone climate control with separate rear-seat heat controls and air vents. All but base variants have ultra-bright LED interior lighting, too.
Rear seat-backs that split 40/20/40 are standard on all Audi A4s, and they can be locked in place with the ignition key to ensure the security of valuables in the boot during smash-and-grab raids. The bootlid is electronically controlled and, for convenience, pops open via a button on the keyfob, or an additional button inside the driver’s door.
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Technology & Connectivity: (8/10)
Audi is generous with tech features on the A4 saloon. All models come with the Audi Smartphone Interface, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity via a USB socket in the centre console. It will also display smartphone navigation on the standard seven-inch MMI colour display, although all A4s apart from base-spec SE models get Audi sat-nav and Audi Connect infotainment services as standard. Bluetooth and voice control are standard on all.
A value-priced Technology Pack is offered across the range. This comprises MMI Navigation Plus with the MMI Touch controller that recognises handwritten data entry (you spell out letters by tracing the dial surface with your finger). Dynamic route guidance and online map updates are also included, and the hard drive can store 10GB of music. A seven-inch colour display within the instrument cluster and Audi Phone Box wireless smartphone charging are included, as is Audi Connect infotainment, which adds Google Earth navigation, internet access and onboard Google and Twitter functionality.
Other tech options have been taken from the A8 luxury limo. Optional Matrix LED headlights cleverly provide a broad area of lighting while automatically shielding oncoming drivers from glare, while many models feature Audi’s distinctive ‘dynamic’ indicators, which sweep in the direction the car is turning. A 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system has a 3D sound feature for the front seats. A head-up display is available and twin 10.1-inch touchscreens can be fitted to the front seat-backs for streaming content via a smartphone.
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Performance & Handling: (8/10)
The latest A4 saloon is notable for its refined, smooth-running drive. Noise levels are very low in everyday use and the ride quality of volume models – those without larger alloy wheel options or sporting S Line suspension – is excellent. Comfort can be improved further by optioning Audi’s affordable adaptive suspension system.
Conscious that the ride quality of sports-trim models favoured by many British buyers can prove too firm for some, Audi lets S Line buyers choose the more comfortable standard suspension as a no-cost option, instead of the lower, stiffer sport suspension set-up. Do note, this firmer suspension is also standard on all TDI Ultra models – here, to help save fuel.
The A4 is a front-wheel-drive machine, as opposed to the more dynamic rear-wheel-drive layouts of most rivals. This is reflected in its less driver-focused feel; controls are light but lack feedback, and the A4 is characterised by a precise, low-effort drive rather than a truly engaging one. Four-wheel-drive Quattro models are very reassuring when grip levels are low, though – and the A4 is a very stable and assured high-speed cruiser.
Most models are sold with a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine. It’s a modern unit that feels strong even in 150hp guise, while the 190hp version is all you need. The V6 3.0-litre TDI engines are smoother and sound nicer, though, and don’t cost much more. A surprise of the range is the entry-level 1.4-litre TFSI petrol, which has impressive performance and refinement given its budget price. However, the 2.0-litre TFSI does give a notable performance step-up with a minimal on-paper fuel economy penalty.
Recommended engine: 2.0 TDI 150 Ultra
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Safety Features: (8/10)
Euro NCAP tested the A4 saloon in 2015 and awarded it a five-star safety rating. It scored highly across all areas, with 89% for adult occupant protection and 87% for child protection. Pedestrian protection and safety assist scores were both 75%.
A pop-up bonnet to protect pedestrians is standard on the A4, as are Isofix child seat mountings and ESC stability control. Autonomous emergency braking is a praiseworthy standard safety feature, standard cruise control includes a speed-limiter function, plus low-speed safety is boosted by standard front and rear parking sensors. Light and rain sensors, an anti-theft alarm and full seatbelt monitoring are also included.
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Specs and Trim Levels: (8/10)
No fewer than 17 colour choices are offered on the Audi A4 saloon, but only two of them, Ibis White and Brilliant Black, are no-cost options.
Metallic paint colours all cost the same and are dominated by silvers and greys. Glacier White, Cuvee Silver, Floret Silver, Manhattan Grey, Monsoon Grey and Mythos Black form the core colour line. More distinctive hues are Argus Brown, Gotland Green, Tango Red, Matador Red, Scuba Blue and Moonlight Blue.
Dakota Grey is an S Line and S4-only colour, while rich Misano Red and Navarra Blue are reserved for the range-topping S4 variant. An even broader selection of Audi Individual paint colours arrives later.
The Audi A4 saloon is offered in SE, Sport, S Line and S4 guises. In Britain, the S Line is a popular variant, although more affordable SE and Sport versions generally sell best. Sport is less than lb1,000 more than SE and brings slightly more distinctive exterior styling, plus the significant equipment addition of sat-nav. The front sports seats and three-spoke sport steering wheel are also nicer.
The extra features on S Line models are largely visual, including 18-inch alloys, S Line bodykit, lower suspension and full LED headlights. Part-leather sports seats have embossed S logos, while perforated leather features extensively. This extra visual clout costs just under lb1,500 more than a Sport model.
Overall, the Sport is the best-value A4 trim level. The extra equipment it brings over the already well-equipped SE easily exceeds the additional price premium. In contrast, the extras on the S Line trim are largely style-oriented, perhaps making it harder to justify the price-hike over a Sport model. Try telling that to its image-conscious buyers, though…
As for engines, you won’t go wrong with the 2.0-litre TDI, and even the more affordable 150hp version won’t leave you lagging. We’d stick with the regular 17-inch alloy wheels, rather than the 18-inch upgrade. The 18s spoil both ride quality and fuel economy, as well as costing company car drivers more in tax due to CO2 emissions. The standard wheels look fine.
Size and Dimensions
The Audi A4 saloon is a long car, more than 4.7 metres in length. This is perhaps why Audi fits front and rear parking sensors as standard; it’s longer than a BMW 3 Series or Jaguar XE. Width is more standard for the class, although again, the 3 Series is narrower.
Max towing weight without brake
From 720kg (1.4 TFSI 150 Avant) – 750kg (all other variants)
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Running Costs & Fuel Economy: (8/10)
There’s just a single eco-tuned Audi A4 currently emitting less than 100g/km CO2, but the Ultra-badged 2.0-litre TDI diesels are still impressive. Economy of up to 74.3mpg is achievable, and the efficiency penalty for choosing a seven-speed S Tronic automatic instead of a six-speed manual is only a couple of mpg. Indeed, the penalty is doubled if you simply go for 18-inch wheels instead of 17-inch alloys, while it’s around a 5mpg reduction if you choose Quattro 4WD instead of two-wheel drive.
Both 1.4-litre and 2.0-litre TFSI petrol variants return more than 50mpg, but the most surprising engine for fuel economy is the 218hp 3.0-litre V6 TDI. In standard seven-speed S Tronic guise, this almost level-pegs the 190hp 2.0-litre TDI for economy, something that’s almost unheard of. It’s a classy and executive-feeling engine that doesn’t make you pay for it.
Most volume models come with a small 40-litre fuel tank, which high-mileage users might find inconvenient. A larger fuel tank is an optional extra, but standard on higher-power engines. Engine stop-start features on all A4s, and automatic models have a ‘coasting’ function that drops engine revs to idle when cruising, again saving fuel.
The biggest regular expense may be topping up the emissions-reducing AdBlue additive tank on diesels. The rate of consumption is dependent on driving style; Audi warns it can require filling up between services.
Reliability and servicing
Variable service intervals will help extend visits to the dealer for most A4 users. Drivers who cover mainly motorway miles can stretch them to as much as 19,000 miles or two years. More intensive urban users are recommended to have annual checks, though, with 9000-mile intervals.
12 months or 9,000 miles (urban), up to 24 months or 19,000 miles (motorway) – lb250 est.
24 months or 19,000 miles – lb400 est.
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Prices for the Audi A4 saloon are competitive and generally sit a little below its BMW 3 Series arch-rival. Factor in the A4’s very strong equipment levels and it appears good value for a premium car.
A 1.4 TFSI 150 version costs from less than lb27,000 in SE guise, with the step up to Sport trim costing lb950 and S Line adding lb1450 on top of that. The cheapest diesel version costs over lb3,000 more than this entry-level petrol, though. Indeed, you can’t buy a diesel A4 for less than lb30,000. Avant estate models are priced around lb1,500 more than the saloons.
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1.4 TFSI SE – lacks nothing and the 1.4 engine is bargain-priced
Company Car Buyer
2.0 TDI 150 Sport – something to stand out in the car park for Mondeo money
S Line – how to make a regular A4 TDI look like an S4
BMW 3 Series
Still the best all-rounder to drive in this sector, but starting to age. The interior is dated and it’s hardly a visual standout.
A breakthrough Jaguar that drives beautifully, but is let down by its below-par interior.
Good-looking C-Class is a popular car in Britain, although the diesel engines are ageing and interior quality is patchy.
Alfa Romeo Giulia
The big unknown in this sector. The driver-focused Alfa looks good and is a very accomplished all-rounder. But will Alfa’s UK dealers rise to the challenge?
The Lexus lags others in this class on driver appeal, practicality and desirability, but its hybrid drivetrain remains an eco highlight.
What others say
“To say we like the Audi A4 is like saying cats like the odd drop of milk. This fifth-generation is easily the most complete yet.”
“With significant improvements over the old model, the latest Audi A4 is more practical, comfortable and cheaper to run, with a great interior.”