Audi A4 Saloon Review
The Audi A4 Saloon is one of the obvious choices when it comes to mid-size premium cars. But don’t let you put that off – it’s achieved that status thanks to many, many years of being really rather good. And the latest model? It’s better than ever. The A4 mixes understated style with cutting edge tech, a fantastic interior, a wide choice of engines and trim levels and a driving experience that’ll keep you fresh on even the longest of journeys. Before you push the button to get a BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class, make sure you check out what the Audi has to offer.
Select's rating score* - 4.2 / 5
This latest version of the A4 was introduced in 2016 but given an update in 2019 to keep it fresh, which involved new styling, updated headlights and taillights, new engines and some clever new technology. It was also given some mechanical updates to improve the way it performs on the road, resulting in a more comfort-focused vibe that contrasts with the sportiness of cars like the 3 Series, XE or Giulia. If you want a sports car disguised as a saloon then the A4 probably isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for a luxurious lounge on wheels, then read on.
You can also get the A4 as an estate, called the A4 Avant, and while some rivals have coupe models, Audi’s equivalent has a different name – the A5. As well as the standard A4 saloon range that we’re talking about here, you can get a performance version called the S4, while the estate comes in even-more-powerful RS4 form.
The A4 isn’t really a car to buy if you want to experience razor-sharp handling; instead, Audi has focused on making things as calm and comfortable as possible on the road. That starts with a beautifully made interior that’s crammed full of cutting-edge technology, much of it included as standard.
The driving experience is quiet and laid-back, as effortless as possible, with more technology to help take the strain. Adults will have no issues getting comfortable in the front or the back, and there’s a big boot too. You can choose between a range of petrol and diesel engines, and opt for front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive if you need it.
There’s a big long list of engines to choose from in the A4, which means there’ll almost definitely be one to suit your requirements. The naming system can be a bit confusing, but basically the higher the number, the more power it has. Not all engines are available in all trim levels – generally, higher-powered engines are the preserve of more expensive trim levels, and vice versa.
The petrol range starts with the 35 TFSI, which has a 148bhp, 2.0-liltre engine and comes with a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed automatic. This is likely to be sufficient for most people, as it’s smooth and quiet while still giving enough grunt for everyday driving. It can feel a bit overworked if you demand maximum performance from it, though.
If you want a bit more zip, next up is the 40 TFSI, which boosts the power to 201bhp and comes only as an auto, as does the rest of the range. This feels much punchier, without dramatically affecting the running costs. The top petrol engine is the 45 TSFI, which has 261bhp and all-wheel drive (which Audi calls Quattro). This gives it considerable performance when you want it, but it will impact fuel costs. And, of course, it’s more expensive.
On the diesel side, the entry-level model is the 30 TDI with 134bhp, which is fuel efficient but at the cost of oomph under acceleration. The 35 TDI with 161bhp has more grunt and should be fine for most buyers. Then there’s the 40 TDI Quattro with 201bhp, which gives you lots of low-down punch, which could be reassuring when overtaking.
There’s no hybrid option, unlike in the 3 Series and the C-Class.
Out on the road, you’ll find the A4 is designed for quiet, effortless cruising, rather than any kind of spirited country B-road adventures. That’s not to say it doesn’t handle well – it’s nice and solid through the bends and the steering, while light, feels sharper than in previous versions. But it’s not trying to be particularly sporty.
The ride, in cars with standard suspension, is reasonably soft, massaging away the worst bumps in the road surface. Be aware that S line and Black Edition trim cars come as standard with a lowered sports suspension that’s stiffer than other cars, as well as bigger wheels with smaller profile tyres. If you want extra sportiness, then great, but if that’s a priority for you then perhaps one of the rival cars would be a better option. If you’re able, we’d recommend you pick a car with the optional adaptive suspension, as that’s softer still, and more comfortable with it, but gives you the option to stiffen things up when you want.
Cars with Quattro four-wheel drive are great for extra traction in inclement weather, but if you don’t need it then consider sticking with the front-wheel drive models, as they’ll get better fuel economy.
The spread of engines in the A4 is reasonably broad, and so too therefore are the associated costs. That said, leasing costs are generally very competitive against the main rivals, as are insurance premiums.
If you’re doing lots of longer journeys, a diesel could make more sense for you. While the cost of fuel at the pumps will be higher, the consumption figures will be considerably better than in the petrol cars. As an example, the 30 TDI with an automatic gearbox has an official fuel consumption figure of between 53 and 55mpg, while the petrol-powered 35 TFSI will give you between 40 and 42mpg. Adding Quattro four-wheel drive will drop that further. The top-spec 45 TFSI has an official mpg figure of 34.9.
One area where the Audi could fall from grace is with its lack of hybrid option, specifically plug-in hybrids. These cars have an electric motor and battery that you can charge from a wall socket, giving you 30 miles or so of electric-only running, and therefore using no fuel. But to get the most of them you need to have somewhere to charge it regularly, and do mostly shorter journeys. If you do fall into that category, check out the hybrid BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class models. But if that’s not the kind of driving you do, don’t worry too much.
If you want the lowest CO2 emissions, then the diesel-powered 30 TDI and 35 TDI both emit the same amount, according to the official figure – 133g/km in Technik trim. That puts them in the 29% bracket for Benefit in Kind tax (2020/21), although that bracket will rise by 1% each financial year. Note also that the emissions rise in higher trim levels and with various option packs, so could tip over into the 30% bracket. That’s also where the 40 TDI model sits, with CO2 emissions of 137g/km, which is impressive considering the extra power and weight of the four-wheel drive system.
In the petrol cars, the cleanest is the 35 TFSI model, with a manual gearbox, which has an official figure of 140g/km in Technik trim, putting it in the 31% BiK bracket. The 40 TFSI starts at 43g/km, which is also in the 31% bracket, while the 45 TFSI Quattro jumps up to 175g/km, which falls into the top 37% bracket.
The luxurious quality of the A4’s cabin is one of its biggest selling points. It’s a very nice environment in which to spend time, with materials that feel bulletproof in assembly and suitably premium in quality. You’ll get metal or wood veneers throughout the interior, depending on which model you opt for, and every button and dial feels like a well-engineered bit of kit. There’s lot of adjustment in the front seats, and the higher-end models get more supportive chairs with extra levels of positional modification.
All models get a digital dashboard rather than traditional analogue dials, and you can get elements of the infotainment system displayed there as well as on the big central screen. Overall, this is the classiest interior of any of its rivals.
Audi gave the A4 range an updated infotainment system in 2020, which means it’s bang up to date with some beautiful and easy-to-use systems. All models get a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit, which is Audi’s name for the digital instrument panel, upon which all manner of information can be displayed, from driving stats to sat-nav instructions to music info. All that and more can also be shown on the central 10.1-inch touchscreen, which is fast to respond to your touch. Features include a very nice Google Maps navigation system, complete with satellite imagery, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone connectivity.
All models also get bright LED headlights, which from S line trim upwards have ‘dynamic indicators’ that scroll outwards. Pointless? Yes. Cool? Very. The top-spec Vorsprung model gets very clever matrix LED headlights, which let you keep high beam on at night without dazzling oncoming traffic.
Vorsprung cars also include adaptive suspension, which lets you adjust the firmness of the system between dynamic and comfort modes, depending on your mood. There’s an auto function on it too, which will react to how you drive and adjust the suspension accordingly. This system is also available as an option.
Other options include a head-up display, which projects information like speed and navigation directions onto the windscreen, so that you don’t have to take your eyes away from the road.
If you’re into your music, the A4 comes with a very decent eight-speaker sound system, but upgrade to the top-end Vorsprung model and you’ll get a brilliant 20-speaker set-up from Bang & Olufsen. It’s also available as an option as part of the Comfort and Sound package, which includes multi-colour ambient interior lighting and a 360-degree camera to help with manoeuvring.
There’s plenty of room inside the A4 Saloon. Tall adults shouldn’t have any issues in the back seats, although getting three side-by-side could be a squeeze. If you’ve got particularly lofty passengers in the back then you’ll get slightly more space in the BMW 3 Series, or considerably more in the Skoda Superb, but they’d need to be well over six foot for it to be an issue in the Audi.
Odds and ends will find plenty of homes in a storage space under the front armrest, or in the big door pockets, and there are two cupholders ahead of the gear stick. In the back, there are more big door bins but you’ll only get cupholders if you opt for the Storage Pack.
Boot space is good, although almost identical to rivals, and has plenty of room for several large weekend bags or a spendy shopping trip. The rear seats fold down in a 40/20/40 split, unlike some rivals that will only drop 60/40, which gives you more flexibility for larger items. If you do need even more space though, check out the A4 Avant estate model.
The A4 was tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP in 2015 and scored the maximum five stars. We’d be confident that it’s a very safe car, even if the testing standards have slightly moved on since then.
Every model gets six airbags, Isofix child seat mounting points on the outer rear seats and automatic emergency braking as standard. If you opt for a car with the Driver Assistance Pack, you’ll get an enhanced system that works at higher speeds, as well as lane-keep assist, a camera-based traffic sign recognition system that displays the latest signs on the instrument panel, and adaptive cruise control, which maintains a constant gap between you and the vehicle in front.
The trim levels on the A4 start with the Technik model, and considering it’s the entry-level car, it’s well-equipped. It rides on 17-inch alloy wheels and has bright LED headlights, as well as three-zone climate control air conditioning. The seats adjust manually and are clad in a cloth trip, and you get the full 10.1-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash, as well as the Virtual Cockpit instrument panel and a rear-view camera.
Upgrade to the Sport Edition model and you’ll get bigger 18-inch alloy wheels and a Titanium Black Styling Pack, which colours the grille, window surrounds and spoiler in black. YOu also get a slightly sportier design on the bumpers and side skirts, and sports seats clothed in leather on the inside. Extra interior lights are included as well.
Go for S line, and the wheels grow to 19 inches while the ride height drops 23mm thanks to sports suspension. The bumper designs get sportier still, and there’s a different front grille as well as leather and Alcantara (synthetic suede) seats.
The Black Edition model gets the Titanium Black Styling Pack again, as well as matte 19-inch alloy wheels, while the top-spec Vorsprung model is absolutely loaded with kit, including adaptive suspension, a sunroof, matrix LED headlights and electrically-adjusted seats, which are heated (as are the outer rear seats). You also get the Driver Assistance Pack and the Band & Olufsen sound system, as well as a head-up display.
The options list is fairly long, and highlights include the various packs mentioned above (if they’re not already included on your chosen model), a range of metallic and pearlescent paint colours and a sunroof.
This is an area of the market where there’s a lot of competition, chiefly the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The BMW has more of a sporty appeal than the A4, and aims to keep the driver entertained as well as comfortable, while the C-Class sits somewhere in between and has slightly less room in the back than the Audi or BMW, and a slightly less practical boot. Both BMW and Mercedes offer a hybrid model, too.
Away from the obvious German cars, those after driver enjoyment should definitely check out the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Jaguar XE, while those after premium comfort need to consider the Volvo S60 and Lexus IS. Need loads of space? It’s hard to beat Skoda’s Superb, although it doesn’t have the premium badge.
The A4 should always be on the shortlist for anyone after a premium mid-size saloon. Yes, it has lots of rivals, but it more than matches most of them in most areas. It’s maybe not for those that want lots of fun behind the wheel, but for everyone else there’s little to match the Audi for class, technology and comfort. There’s a reason that it’s such an obvious choice.
Where to next?
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top six leading independent car website reviews of the Audi A4 Saloon
**Correct as of 03/11/2020. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 36 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £2,159.89 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.