Efficiency and refinement are key to new A4

ROAD TEST REPORT AND REVIEW: Audi A4 range. Motoring writer TOM SCANLAN test drives the latest A4 from busy Audi.

Audi's new A4 is now more refined and economical.

Audi’s new A4 concentrates on more refinement and efficiency.
The body is much the same; the bonnet and front bumper are re-profiled and the radiator grille and headlighgts are re-shaped.
However, even so, there are, says Audi, 110 different saloon, Avant and Allroad versions!
The bullet points are engines that use, on average over the range, 11% less fuel, and up to 21%; and the uniqueness of the Quattro and optional Multitronic CVT transmissions.
Audi also underline features such as their ‘take a break’ feature: the car recognizes that the driver’s driving may change its characteristic pattern after a time, indicating possible tiredness: a cup of tea graphic then appears in the instrument display, as a suggestion to ‘take a break’.
The satellite navigation system has also been improved, making it simpler to use.
Also, while Audi interiors have long been of a high standard, further developments and small refinements are now built-in, with the aim of making the cabin feel even better. I counted 10 different types of plastics, cloth and metal materials used inside the car.
I tried three versions of the 2.0 litre four-cylinder diesel, starting with the 163 PS, then the 177 PS Allroad and finally the 136PS saloon that will be the main seller.
This felt the lightest to drive, although there was nothing wrong with the handling of any of them (even if the Allroad Quattro felt distinctly heavier around bends).
The manual gear change was first-class and the braking was of the usual high standard. Audis automatics are as good as any, too.
All the cars were smooth and quiet, with only slight wind and tyre noise at the highest motorway speeds. The least powerful car, the 136PS, required a bit more pushing than the others, naturally, but its performance was more than adequate anyway. Its engine was very flexible, being able to saunter along at fewer than 1,000 rpm in top gear. At 70 mph, the rev-counter indicates 2000 rpm.
As to comfort, the seats felt a touch softer than in some previous Audis, although a bit too firm under the thigh if no adjustment is available; along with a firm suspension, the ride is overall, very comfortable. Cars equipped with driver’s choice of settings can be personalized to an extent, for which, of course, you pay a premium.
Audi’s £220 optional Drive Select system includes an ‘efficiency’ setting, already available on A6 and upwards, allowing the car to be switched between Dynamic,  Comfort, Efficiency, or Personalised, for varying response according to the driver’s wish.
I’d suggest ‘Efficiency’ as the standard setting, only changing to Dynamic if you’re really in a hurry. Why burn fuel unnecessarily?
On identical round trips, the 163 PS car returned 53.2 mpg, while the 136 PS, which will be the biggest seller, averaged 49.2 mpg, according the trip computers. The 136 PS A4 will cost a mere £30 per annum to tax, with its low exhaust emission figure.
Standard equipment includes three-zone climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth interface and light and rain sensors. Start-stop on all engines is also standard; I sometimes found this slightly irritating when I wanted a quicker response away from red lights… the split-second that it takes to start seems a bit longer to an impatient driver!
Prices have increased by only £200, with the cheapest new A4 diesel, the 136 PS, costing (without the usual shed load of options that seem to be on dealers’ cars) £26,555.
PS If diesel’s not for you, think about the new 1.8 TSFI 170 PS petrol engine. Audi claims it’s a huge improvement over the outgoing version. And it starts at ‘only’ £23,625.