Sunday, 16 December 2018

You’ll want to fire up this quattro

YOU could write an essay on the merits of this week’s drive, the all-new Audi A4 Saloon.

YOU could write an essay on the merits of this week’s drive, the all-new Audi A4 Saloon.

You might even come up with a working title — something like “How to make a car that is fit for purpose in 2016.”

That last phrase gets overused these days, but here I think it applies. The new A4 Saloon is a car for today in all its manifestations (more of which later).

It might seem a bit strange to praise a car as being an up-to-the-minute 21st century model when it is merely a “saloon”.

A saloon was the kind of motor our dads used to drive. Today it’s all about fancy hatchbacks, superminis, SUVs (sports utility vehicles), MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) and the like.



But this saloon is something rather special — the fact that it has a boot should not put you off.

Audi says that it has made literally “hundreds of improvements” in the all-new 2016 A4 Saloon, including a lighter, more fuel-efficient body and improving performance in “every engine option”.

You could be forgiven for feeling bemused by the new technology on the A4 Saloon. Newcomers to this standard of motor car frequently are. The test car, the A4 Saloon 3.0 TDI quattro S line 272 PS tiptronic, was fit to bust with techno-innovation.

My advice if you are considering buying a car like this is to go online at Audi sales and start with the good old brochure.

Actually, not so much of the old: the A4 Saloon and Avant brochure is a work of art in itself. It is testament to a product of accomplished engineering. Once you have absorbed its contents — give yourself at least an afternoon — you can move to the test drive stage.

This will not disappoint on the evidence of my test drive. Saloon cars generally do not suit me, simply because I am one of these drivers that likes to sit up high — something to do with an old back injury from my squash-playing days.

But the comfort and cabin ambience in the new A4 Saloon soon put me at ease. It should be allowed to work its magic on the most fastidious of drivers.

There is improved headroom — which I seem to recall was an irritation with Audis of old — enveloped in what Audi calls a “wraparound” design aimed at providing a feeling of “space and safety”.

Coupled with the technology on tap, this lends a sophisticated air to driving the A4 Saloon.

There is also the ease of power and handling — the optional Dynamic steering helped. And this ease of passage elevates this car to a level of everyday driving that would be hard to improve on.

There are quattro changes, too. Available with a variety of engines across Sport and S line trims, quattro analyses grip — automatically distributing power between all four wheels to where it’s needed most.

In tight, fast corners and general stability at speed you feel the benefit of quattro.

There was outstanding performance during around 500 miles of testing from the 3.0 TDI engine.

The Audi A4 Saloon has been named What Car? Car of the Year 2016 — an award that acknowledged this fine performing power unit.

“With fuel economy and CO2 emissions barely any worse than those of smaller-engined models, the A4 3.0 TDI 218 is the most impressive car we’ve tried of late,” the magazine’s judges said.

In what Audi calls its Virtual Cockpit, the instrument cluster can be transformed at the touch of a button.

This allows the driver to get all the visual information he or she needs. You might feel this is a technology overload, but I think you might know what buying this car entails from having studied the brochure.

This kind of equipment needs practice to operate swiftly and efficiently.

But with a car such as the A4 Saloon you make up your mind when you buy it what technology you need (or don’t need) to suit your style of driving.

For example, the test car’s basic price was £38,135 but with various “packs” fitted, including Technology Pack (£1,450), Light & Vision Pack (£1,250) and other equipment the resulting cost of the test car was just over £51,000.

But these super elements in car construction make for a super saloon. In years to come there will be, at the rate new cars are improving, even better cars on the road.

Presumably costs will come down on the kind of pristine technology displayed on this new Audi A4 Saloon.

Another German car maker last week sent me an email on the topic of what another century of car manufacture might bring.

Sensibly, the argument was prefaced by the fact that no one — whether they be scientists, economists, politicians or car makers — can predict what will happen in 100 years’ time.

No wonder, then, that at the rate Audi is improving the science and technology of models such as the new Audi A4 Saloon, improvements in the family car of the year 2116 can hardly be imaginable.

For now I’ll take the Audi A4 Saloon as a standard-bearer of how cars should be made.

by Nigel Wigmore



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