2016 Audi A4 2.0 TDI quattro S tronic review
Isaac Bober’s 2016 Audi A4 2.0 TDI quattro S tronic review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The new Audi A4 heralds a luxurious step forward for the workhorse of the Audi range.
2016 Audi A4 2.0 TDI quattro S
Price From $69,900+ORC Price as tested $78,427+ORC Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power 140kW from 3800-4200rpm Torque 400Nm from 1750-3000rpm Transmission seven-speed Stronic Drive quattro all-wheel drive Body 4726mm (L); 1842mm (W); 1427mm (H) Weight 1575kg GVM 2160kg Towing 2000kg braked Towball download 80kg (effective braked towing capacity based on 10% is just 800kg) Spare None Fuel Tank 58 litres Thirst 4.6L/100km combined
What is it?
This Audi A4 is the fifth-generation of a vehicle that can trace its roots back to the Audi 80, a vehicle itself which traces its roots back through four generations. So, all up, more or less, we’re looking at around nine generations of development to get to the machine you see pictured here. The A4 became the A4 in the mid-1990s.
This current A4 sedan has now been followed by a wagon-based variant, which in Audi-speak is known as an Avant, and you can read our first drive review of that car by clicking the link. And also, now, by the A4 Allroad which we’ve also driven (review online shortly). A more powerful S4 variant is waiting in the wings.
More than anything, it’s about what’s going on beneath the skin of the A4 that’s the real headline grabbing news, because the outside, despite being a little bigger than the old model, looks pretty much the same.
But that doesn’t mean it is the same, nope, just about everything beneath the skin has been updated, from the platform which now uses a combination of steel and aluminium to reduce weight, with some variants more than 100kg lighter than their predecessor variants. There are new dampers for the suspension, the engines have been tweaked, safety improved with new active technologies and the infotainment unit is a trickle down of the unit from luxury models, like the Audi A8.
How does it compare?
Our test car was the A4 2.0TDI quattro S tronic sport which lists from $66,900+ORC, but as tested tipped the scales at $78,427+ORC. It was cost-optioned with metallic paint ($1420); an Assistance Package ($1900); Matrix LED headlights ($1700); Technik Package ($2100); adaptive sport suspension ($1700); and sunroof ($1950).
The BMW 320d runs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine producing 140kW and 400Nm and lists from $63,800+ORC. The Jaguar XE Prestige runs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine making 132kW and 430Nm of torque and lists from $62,800+ORC. The Mercedes-Benz C250 d runs a 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that makes 150kW and 500Nm of torque and lists from $70,400+ORC.
What’s the interior like and how practical is it?
Audi has been setting the benchmark for interior design and quality for some time now and this new A4 continues to keep the brand at the front of the pack. Yes, competitors have caught up, but none are executed quite so well.
Some have criticised Audi’s interiors for lacking warmth and personality, but I don’t agree, I mean, the inside of a car shouldn’t be like your grandmother’s sitting room. The A4’s dashboard is cleanly segmented with the tablet-esque infotainment screen at the top and other controls, like climate control cascading down.
And the climate control functionality is, in this day and age of capacitive touch, super cool, in that as soon as your finger approaches one of the switches for, say, fan speed, that item will glow and enlarge. And while dual-zone climate control is becoming common, tri-zone isn’t and the A4 offers that which my kids thought was excellent, although functions, like defrost override whatever’s going on in the back.
Now, don’t make the mistake I constantly did with the 8.3-inch MMI infotainment and communication screen (which is only 13mm thick and try and tap at it to get it to work. Because it won’t. Rather you’ve got to use the MMI dial and shortcut buttons which is forwards of the gear lever. Once you get your hand around swamping your gaze between the dial and shortcut buttons and the screen, although you’ll soon be able to control the unit just by watching the screen, the system is impressive and I’ll go into more detail below.
Our test car came with the cost optional Technik pack which includes a 12.3-inch digital display that replaces the analogue dials for the tachometer and speedometer. These can be displayed digitally or, when using the sat-nav can be given over to show route guidance.
The steering wheel feels good in the hand and the seating position is comfortable and reasonably supportive. Probably my main issue is with the extendable seat squab for additional thigh support – don’t get me wrong, this is a very good thing and for those who refrain from eating in their car, which is all of us for the first five minutes of ownership, there won’t be a problem and it will actually allow you to make your seat more comfortable/supportive, but eat something crumbly and it’s likely to catch in this front part of the seat base… yep, first world problem, I know but worth mentioning all the same.
Beyond this, the front seats in our A4 offer excellent levels of adjustment up and down and forwards and backwards to allow anyone to find a comfortable seating position.
Away from the dashboard layout, the new Audi offers a little bit more room in the front and the back than the old model. In the front, driver and passenger get a little more head and shoulder room, by 24mm and 11mm which is bugger all in the grand scheme of things. But, the front of the car does feel roomy with the vital controls all easily accessible to both driver and passenger.
The arm rest hides a long shelf underneath for storing phone and wallets etc with two USB ports at the back. There are two standard-size cup holders forward of the MMI controller. There’s a small door bin which will hold a 500ml water bottle.
Over in the back there’s an extra 17mm of length and 23mm more kneeroom. Some have suggested headroom in the back is a little ho-hum for taller passengers, but I’m nearly six-feet tall and didn’t have an issue with it.
As mentioned, the A4 offers tri-zone climate control and the unit in the back means that back seat passengers can control the climate to suit themselves. This does, however, eat into back seat room as does the transmission tunnel, meaning the back seat is best left for transporting two adults only and especially so on a longer journey. The middle seat lacks the shape of the two either side and is, thus, more of a perch.
In terms of getting in and out of the back seats, a low-ish hip point means it’s easy for adults to simply slide in and out. The door openings are big enough that you won’t bump your head getting in our out. And, if you’ve got children’s seat fitted, and I did, then you can trust me that wrangling a baby or even a toddler into the back is a cinch; you won’t bump your head or risk bumping your child’s head. There are the usual ISOFIX mounting points on the outboard seats and top tether points.
The boot, at 480 litres, is a reasonable size; it grows to 960 litres with the rear seats folded down. There’s no spare as the tyres are run-flat units only. And despite being an out of the way spot, the fit and finish in the boot is as good as you’d expect from Audi.
What’s the communications and infotainment system like?
Our test car was fitted with the cost optional Technik Pack which includes a 12.3-inch digital display that replaces the traditional analogue dials behind the steering wheel. And it’s absolutely excellent.
As standard, the car comes with analogue dials and these are fine, but the 12.3-inch digital display takes the car to a whole new premium level. And while the unit itself is the same as you’ll find in other Audi models like TT, in the A4 this digital display can also be matched to a heads-up display which displays not just the speed but also things like the lane keeping assist function and when its active and not. It’s not my money, but I’d be suggesting anyone considering an A4 plump for the Technik and Tour Assistance Package.
But the above is cost optional stuff… the main MMI unit is 8.3-inches wide and offers a beautiful display. You can control it via the MMI controller (dial) down forward of the gear lever and, cleverly, the gear lever has been designed as a rest for your wrist while you’re using it. There are shortcut buttons around the controller that allow you to delve deeper into the functionality of the system which is deep and useful. I didn’t once end up down a rabbit hole that I couldn’t get back out of simply and quickly via the Back shortcut button.
The top of the rotary dial is actually touch sensitive and can be used to pinch and zoom just like you do on a smartphone.
The system allows is a predictive search function which allows you, like you would when searching via Google, to input the name of something, or a song title you’re trying to find. And, similarly, the voice control response is now attuned to work with natural speak. And, to future-proof the system, as much as possible, anyway, the processor is actually a plug-in module that can be updated.
Now, if you’re like me, you’ll make use of the sat-nav in a car like the A4 but you’re unlikely to plumb the depths of its connectivity, so I like the fact it’s also got Apple Car Play and Android Auto Connectivity which means, for a simpleton like me, I can master just one interface type.
Anyone who’s connected their smartphone to a VW Group vehicle will be familiar with the way the system works and looks on the A4. Now, on first contact the MMI system in the A4 can seem a little daunting, because you’ve got to look at the screen and then down to the controller to see the correct button to press, but it will become second-nature very quickly. It’s probably the best multi-control system on the market.
But what about Bluetooth audio quality, well, inside the cabin it’s excellent and those who I spoke with on the phone all reported that the call was clear and free of any fuzz on the line.
What’s the performance like?
Right now, the A4 is available with three petrol engines and one diesel engine. Our test car was the A4 2.0TDI, meaning it runs a diesel engine. This 2.0-litre tubocharged four-cylinder engine makes 140kW and 400Nm of torque from 1750-3000rpm.
Fuel consumption for our A4 2.0TDI quattro all-wheel drive is a claimed, combined 4.6L/100km and we got close to that at 5.1L/100km across 450km, incorporating a mix of around town and highway driving. The fuel tank is 58 litres and all engines are Euro 6 compliant with a 24-litre AdBlue tank and a selective catalytic reduction system to minimise harmful emissions escaping out the tailpipe (the A4 2.0TDI emits 121 grams per kilometre of CO2).
There’s only one transmission to choose from across petrol and diesel models, which is Audi’s S tronic seven-speed dual clutch transmission. This transmission is generally good and works well with the torquey engine to provide an effortless and flexible attitude. It does, however, in general driving tend to run to top gear as quickly as possible which is a good thing for fuel efficiency but does mean it generally has to work harder to kick down to the appropriate gear when under pressure.
The dual clutch transmission in the A4 feels a little hesitant on initial step-on, like as if it’s taking a moment to catch a breath. Select Sport mode, however, and the transmission is much sharper and more decisive. The A4 has paddle shifters on the steering wheel and they work well, but it’s not the sort of car where you’ll be routinely using them.
What’s the ride & handling like?
Our test car had cost-optional active sports suspension, which is a clever way of saying it has active dampers, meaning the dampers will constantly adjust and, says Audi even try and predict impact forces, rather than react like a traditional set-up. And the ride is generally very good. There are four settings to choose from for damper performance: Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual.
Around Town: During my week with the A4 my around town driving was at home in my mountain-top village in the Blue Mountains. The roads up there are a varying mix of good highway roads, reasonable main roads in town and some rougher surfaces near where I live.
And so I left the A4 in Comfort mode, although comfort is a relative term. Audi suspension set-ups tend to err towards the sporting end of the spectrum, which is good when the going gets twisty. The A4 handled both smooth and poorer surfaces without a fuss and even out-of-nowhere pot holes are heard rather than felt.
Probably the only thing that can upset the ride is a deteriorating surface and that’s due to the relatively short travel suspension, like a patched back country road which can make it jostle. But away from rubbish b-roads, the A4 feels taut and agile.
On the Open Road: The A4 is a consummate cruiser. It feels planted, solid and comfortable. Select Dynamic and the whole nature of the beast changes, like the volume has been turned up a few notches. Everything about the car becomes crisper from the steering to the ride, transmission and throttle response.
On coarser bitumen there is a slight rumble due to the low-profile 19-inch alloys and run-flat tyres, but I’d emphasise the word distant here.
Away from general commuting where the A4 we drove is the equal of anything else in this segment with its smooth, refined, stress-free nature, the A4 TDI quattro becomes a different beast when thrown into a set of bends. You don’t necessarily expect such a cruiser to be quite so agile or rewarding when the going gets twisty.
The adjustable sports suspension ensures the body is well controlled and with the suspension set to dynamic there’s very little body roll. And the speed responsive steering is nice and light at around town or parking speeds which is as it should be, but while, as the speed rises, the weight begins to build it never feels as natural as it should to get the most out of the chassis.
Grip, thanks to the quattro all-wheel drive is prodigious in both the dry and the wet although, like most all-wheel drives the default setting if you get too heavy handed is for the A4 to understeer. In general, mid-corner grip is excellent but the tight ride and relatively short travel suspension can become upset on pock-marked roads to the point where and harder mid-corner bumps will kick back into the steering. But, push the thing on a smooth road and it’s a different beast with plenty of mid-corner adjustability through the steering.
The brakes are nice and strong with a good progressive action which makes modulating them while crawling in slow-moving traffic easy, or slowing down into a corner easy.
How safe is it?
The Audi A4 wears a five-star ANCAP rating based on EuroNCAP testing: it scored 7.10 out of 8 for the frontal offset test; 8.00 out of 8 for the side impact test; 7.01 out of 8 for the pole test; 43.0 out of 49 for child occupant protection, but just 9.9 out of 13 for the Safety Assist assessment, which looks at thigs like speed assistance systems, autonomous emergency braking and lane keeping assist.
Our test car came equipped with a cost optional Tour Assistance Package which adds high beam assist, and stop&go functionality which can bring the car to a halt at speeds from 60km/h up to 250km/h and then automatically resume driving again. This system uses two radar sensors in the front bumper, they look like fog lights, and a windscreen mounted camera to scan the road for up to 100 metres ahead. This system can also using the same sensors and camera, on “well-developed roads” gently adjust the steering angle if it fails to detect input from the driver. Of course, this isn’t autonomous driving and is there simply as an emergency corrective measure. Having played with the system during the week with the A4 I can say that it’s at once amazing and yet not to be relied on… you have to keep in control of the car because depending on the line markings the system can disengage completely, although via the head-up display it’s easy to see when it’s active.
You can easily adjust the level of intervention via the MMI system and whether it should be active all the time or only activate if you cross a line marking, suggesting you’ve wandered out of your lane. It relies on the camera in the windscreen to watch the line markings and it really is a clever system.
Beyond this the A4 offers airbags for driver and passengers, all-wheel drive, traction and stability control systems, as well as Audi’s pre-sense city system which watches the road up to 100m ahead for pedestrians and other vehicles at up to 85km/h, as well as attention assist which monitors the driver’s behaviour to determine if they’re becoming fatigued or distracted. It also offers a reversing camera and parking system; cross traffic assist; blind spot monitoring and exit warning system.
Why would you buy one?
The simple answer is because you want a premium medium sedan and don’t want either a BMW or Mercedes-Benz or even a Jaguar XE. The Audi offers an interior that feels both functional and premium with a build and material quality that its competitors struggle to match. Those owners who are regular long-distance commuters to work will enjoy its long-legged and relaxed ability to crush long distances as well as its ability be a fun drive on the right road.
Key features by model:
1.4 TFSI sport
- 18-inch alloy wheels;
- LED headlights with adaptive function and dynamic rear indicators;
- MMI Navigation plus with 8.3-inch screen, MMI touch, DVD player, 10GB music storage, live traffic and 5 included map updates;
- Audi connect;
- Audi Smartphone interface (Apple Carplay and Android Auto);
- 7.0-inch high-resolution colour Driver Information Screen;
- Sport front seats including electric driver’s seat with electric lumbar support for driver and front passenger;
- Sport steering wheel with shift paddles, leather-appointed seats;
- 3-zone climate control, deluxe automatic air-conditioning with rear display; and
- New Audi Music Interface, with 2 USB connectors.
2.0 TFSI sport (in addition to the 1.4 TFSI)
- DAB+ digital radio;
- Convenience key with hands-free opening for boot (kick function);
- Auto dimming centre mirror; and
- Electric passenger seat.
2.0 TDI quattro sport and 2.0 TFSI quattro sport (in addition to 2.0 TFSI sport)
- 19-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels;
- Sport suspension;
- Audi sound system;
- Memory driver’s seat; and
- Folding exterior mirrors, with heating, dimming and memory functions.