Audi A4 saloon
"The Audi A4 is a comfortable and economical executive saloon with a stylish, technology-laden interior"
- Wide range of engines
- Spacious cabin
- Dull exterior design
- Pricey optional extras
- More expensive than BMW 3 Series
The Audi A4 has been involved in an ongoing battle in the executive saloon class with the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class for 30 years. Historically, each of this German trio boasted strengths in different areas; the A4 brought an understated design and quattro four-wheel drive, the 3 Series was the driver’s choice, and the C-Class was about sublime comfort and quality. Times have changed, with all three competitors now more equal than ever before, ensuring the latest versions all need to be impressive all-rounders.
All three of these executive specials now offer an increasingly similar list of qualities making picking between them more difficult. As well as a direct rivalry with each other, recent years have seen strong offerings from rival manufacturers, with the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Jaguar XE and Lexus IS providing strong competition. This means the Audi A4 can’t afford to rest on its laurels, and the latest model is a spacious, practical and relatively fuel-efficient machine.
A recent significant facelift has seen the A4 evolve again to keep itself in the fight with the new BMW 3 Series and updated Jaguar XE. Its looks have changed quite significantly, with a new nose that's now even more purposeful and striking designs for its front and rear lights. The interior has been given a revamp and mild-hybrid engines ensure lower running costs for company-car drivers.
For enthusiastic drivers, the A4 gets off to a lacklustre start whether you pick a quattro four-wheel drive or a front-wheel drive variant, as it lacks the nimble agility offered by the rear-wheel drive BMW 3 Series. This new model is an improvement over the previous generation, though, with a vastly improved ride quality that is more compliant with the potholed roads of Great Britain, with the optional adaptive suspension allowing you to choose between a soft or firm spring setup. There's no option of air suspension, like in the Mercedes C-Class, though.
There's a wide range of engines to choose from. Those who cover fewer than 12,000 or so miles a year will be well served by the modern, turbocharged 2.0-litre petrols. Available with either 148bhp, 187bhp or 242bhp, and badged 35, 40 and 45 TFSI respectively, our favourite is the mid-level model, returning up to 42.2mpg despite a swift 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds.
Those who cover a higher annual mileage might prefer a diesel, and the 161bhp 2.0-litre 35 TDI is a great all-rounder, with up to 55.4mpg claimed, combined with low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company-car tax rating. There's also a high-performance Audi S4 saloon, fitted with a 343bhp diesel engine, which we've reviewed separately.
Most versions of the Audi A4 come with front-wheel drive, but Audi's famous ‘quattro’ four-wheel-drive system is available higher in the range for even more security. A seven-speed automatic gearbox is standard with the more powerful engines, and optional on the entry-level 35 TFSI petrol, where a six-speed manual is standard.
Even the cheapest Technik trim is well equipped, with a 10.1-inch infotainment screen and Audi's Virtual Cockpit fitted as standard. Sport, S line and Black Edition add desirable styling to the mix, while the top Vorsprung grade includes adaptive suspension, LED Matrix headlights, a sunroof and lots of driving assistance kit to make the A4 safer.
The Audi A4 finished 73rd out of the 100 cars ranked in our 2019 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK but didn’t appear in our 2020 list. Euro NCAP awarded the A4 a five-star score in crash-testing.
If you're in the market for a compact executive saloon, then the Audi A4 ticks virtually all the boxes. It's economical, spacious, well built, packed with tech, has a beautifully designed interior and, while rivals such as the BMW 3 Series, Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Giulia may be more rewarding to drive, the latest generation A4 is the most competent yet on a twisty road. While there's not a lot to separate most of the models in the A4's class, the Audi is a great all-rounder.