AUDI BUYERS HOLDING OUT FOR NEW MODELS ARE SURE TO LIKE WHAT THEY SEE, FEEL AND HEAR
It started life for Audi in 1972 as the 80 sedan, then morphed in 1995 into a global top-seller for the German brand. Now the A4 is diversifying to satisfy changing customer demands.
The ninth generation has been launched in New Zealand, providing two petrol and two diesel engines, plus the choice of Audi’s quattro AWD system, while S-Line and now a Design Line package have been offered for Kiwis to pimp their sedans.
In April, the popular Avant (Audi for “station wagon”) will join the sedan models before the Allroad and S4 sports versions go on sale in New Zealand.
The 2-litre, 140kW petrol sedan starts at $71,900 and the diesel equivalent is $79,900, while the 180kW version is priced at $85,900. Topping off the range is the $106,400, 3-litre 200kW diesel.
Last year, Audi New Zealand sold 200 A4s, accounting for 12 per cent of total sales for the company, with the A3 the top-performing car at 26 per cent. The SUV models — from the Q3 to the newly launched Q7 — followed the trend in New Zealand of taking 36 per cent of sales.
The 200 sale figure for the A4 wouldn’t have been unexpected for Audi NZ as it was a run-out model with potential buyers holding out to see what it was like. After spending a day driving the car, I’d expect to see more than 200 sold in 2016.
Audi NZ managing director, Dean Sheed, will probably expect a bigger total of A4 sales by the end of this year.
“[The A4] is the model we’ve been looking forward to for a while now,” said Sheed.
The new A4 is 25mm longer than the previous model and has had 16mm added to its width, while the 1427mm height remains the same. The wheelbase has increased by 12mm to improve luggage space.
Visually, the A4 has an edgier appearance, with a dominating grille and clam-shell-style bonnet while the light clusters have been designed horizontally to create a wide stance at the front of the sedan.
Along the side, the A4 has a sharp shoulder line; the rear continues the horizontal design. Inside, the A4 has a clean, low-profile dash and the sedan gains the virtual cockpit from the Audi TT.
The A4 has a dash-mounted MMI display that is designed to look like a tablet while the infotainment system has been updated with smartphone interface, including Apple Car Play that, via a cable, allowed my iPhone content, including texts, to be displayed on the MMI screen.
It also gains Audi’s latest safety technology, including pre-sense city (where the car can brake autonomously up to 40km/h); pre-sense rear (the hazard lights blink rapidly to warn vehicles behind you); adaptive cruise control (the car maintains a set distance); traffic-jam assist (the A4 takes over steering at speeds up to 65km/h using lane markings); and active lane assist, that lets you know if you stray out of your lane.
On the 220km launch drive from Taupo to the Lakeland House Restaurant south of the lake, I opted for the top-of-the-range 3-litre TDI quattro sport A4, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Sitting on 19in tyres and with a damping control sports suspension, it was an ideal vehicle for the lesser travelled route via Benneydale.
When torrential rain hit during a winding steep decline country road, I was grateful for the A4’s quattro system to give me reassuring stability.
The A4’s chassis also came to the fore with the snaking, slippery route taken at speed, giving the sedan a reassuring stability on the road.
Hitting straight, main roads was a chance to test the TDi’s 3-litre with 600Nm of torque. A tap of the accelerator and it confidently overtook a line of particularly slow traffic.
On the post-lunch 100km route back to Taupo past Kinloch, I swapped into the 2-litre TDI that produced 400Nm of torque and was paired with a seven-speed auto transmission.
While the drive — and weather — was tamer than the route to lunch, the overtaking power of 2-litre diesel proved impressive.