What stands out?

The Audi A4 is a talented and luxurious mid-size sedan. It is beautifully trimmed, very fuel-efficient, and swift, and it’s available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Automatic braking is standard among a big – and innovative – range of active safety features.

What might bug me?

The failure of friends to notice you have the latest A4. Although attractive and contemporary, the current A4 looks a lot like its 2008-2015 predecessor, underlining Audi’s unrelenting evolutionary design philosophy.

Thumps from sharp bumps, especially at city speeds. On standard suspension, the ride on all A4s is firm – and especially if you order a bigger wheel and tyre package. If you think this would bother you, a solution is to order the Adaptive suspension. Its electronically controlled dampers soften the response to sharp hits.

How much you paid for your A4, after adding the options you wanted. There is a vast number of options available, and they can add tens of thousands of dollars to the price.

Driving under 80km/h on your space-saver spare tyre until you can fix your full-sized flat.

Drivers born and bred on traditional automatic gearboxes may need to approach the A4’s DSG dual-clutch gearbox with an open mind. The DSG transmission is essentially an automated manual gearbox – albeit a highly sophisticated one – and sometimes it won’t match the smoothness of a conventional automatic when starting from rest.

What body styles are there?

Four-door sedan, and a five-door wagon named the A4 Avant.

Some A4s drive their front wheels, while others drive all four wheels. The A4 is classed as a medium car, higher priced.

The wagon is available only with a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine, but you can have it in FWD or AWD (quattro) form.

What features does every Audi A4 have?

Part-leather upholstery (it’s a mix of leather and vinyl), offset by aluminium inlays on the dashboard and doors. Leather facings for the steering wheel and gear lever. Ambient interior lighting (which illuminates the cabin softly at night.)

Sports front seats, which are contoured so as to hold you in place when cornering. Power adjustment for the driver’s seat, including adjustment for lower-back (lumbar) support.

Three-zone climate control air-conditioning, which allows the driver, front passenger and rear passengers to set temperatures independently.

Reach and height adjustment for the steering wheel, from which you can operate the auto transmission, audio system and cruise control.

An 8.3-inch central screen with a fixed rotary controller known as MMI Touch. This offers satellite navigation, radio, CD and DVD play, and 10GB music storage. There are two USB ports, Bluetooth audio and phone streaming, and a smartphone interface that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (which mirror your smartphone display on the screen and allow you to control the phone from there).

Headlamps that rely on efficient and long-lasting LEDs, and which switch on automatically when it’s dark. Windscreen wipers that operate automatically when it’s wet.

The ability to tailor how immediately the car responds to the accelerator pedal, how directly it steers, and how fiercely the air-conditioning works, for your driving conditions. Audi Drive Select offers Comfort, Sport and Eco fuel-saving modes (and you can configure them together or individually).

Eight airbags. Electronic Stability Control (every new car must have this feature).

Active safety features include Autonomous emergency braking, Exit warning, Cross traffic assist, Blind spot warning, and Attention assist (which warns you to take a break). For more on these systems, and for the placement of airbags, please open the Safety section below.

Additionally there are front and rear parking sensors, and a reversing camera.

Front-wheel drive cars have 18-inch alloy wheels, while the quattro models begin with 19-inch alloys. There are tyre-pressure monitors, and a space-saver spare wheel.

The A4 is offered with a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

By far the most frugal engine in an A4 is the only diesel, the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that powers the 2.0 TDI quattro. It consumes just 4.6 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined).

In most driving conditions, this performance-orientated diesel pulls at least as hard as any engine in an A4, with a considerable 400Nm of seamless, tree-lugging twisting action available. This makes the A4 diesel ideal for towing or grand touring, especially as it brings you the extra road-grip of all-wheel drive.

One reason you might not choose this engine is that when refuelling, diesel bowsers can be dirty to handle. A second is that Volkswagen Group, which owns Audi, remains notorious for the September 2015 diesel emissions scandal, which may adversely affect resale of any of its diesel cars, regardless of whether its engine contravened a regulation. (VW Group says its latest diesels, including that in the Audi A4, all comply.)

A third reason could be that you want to pay less for an A4. If you would be happy with front-wheel drive, you could pay at least $10,000 less for a 1.4 TFSI, the least costly A4, or $5000 less for the 2.0 TFSI, whose maximum power output matches the diesel’s. And both these turbocharged petrol engines are almost supernaturally quiet compared with the diesel.

Each consumes about 5.4 litres/100km on the official test, with the 2.0 marginally better – a hugely impressive feat considering its significant (and welcome) performance advantages over the 1.4. While the 1.4 TFSI feels sprightly and smooth in normal driving, add a full load of passengers and a steep hill – or overtaking opportunity – and you may wish it did more when you pressed the accelerator.

The driving enthusiast’s pick is the petrol engine in the most expensive A4, the all-wheel drive 2.0 TFSI quattro. It feels measurably stronger than the front-drive 2.0 in all conditions, and still uses only 6.3 litres/100km.

All A4 engines use stop/start technology, which extinguishes the engine at idle to save fuel and cut emissions. They start instantly when you press the accelerator to drive away.

All A4s come with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (dubbed S-tronic in Audi-speak). These cannot match the fluid take-off from rest that you get from conventional or CVT automatics, but the rest of the time they are extremely smooth – and they save fuel.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The 1.4 TFSI comes with the features common to all A4s. Spend more for a 2.0 TFSI, 2.0 TDI quattro or 2.0 TFSI quattro and you get a more powerful engine (as described above), all-wheel drive (in the quattros), and some different equipment. You can also order the 2.0 TFSI or TFSI quattro as a wagon.

The 2.0 TFSI brings you keyless entry and start (so that you can unlock the car and drive away without taking the key from your pocket or bag). A foot-operated sensor opens the boot hands-free. The front passenger joins the driver in having powered seat adjustment, and digital reception is added to the radio.

Either the 2.0 TDI quattro or the 2.0 TFSI quattro get you, in addition, a memory for the driver’s seat adjustment and for the external rear-view mirrors (so that you can restore your preferred settings quickly after a companion has driven the car). A better sound system in these includes a subwoofer. And both drive all four wheels.

Most of these extra features can be added to the less costly versions at extra cost. And as usual with an Audi there is a vast array of additional extra-cost options, some available individually and others combined in packages.

The most helpful of these is Adaptive suspension, which comes in either comfort or sport form, the former also lowering the car by 10mm and the latter by 23mm. Either way, no A4 should be without these electromagnetically adjusting dampers – they complete the car.

(There is also a Sports suspension option, which lowers the car 20mm but does not have the Adaptive dampers.)

Full leather upholstery is an extra-cost option on an A4, and Audi offers several choices (including the soft Nappa variety). You can also get heating and ventilation for the front seats.

The Technik Package brings you Audi’s virtual cockpit, introducing an expansive, 12.3-inch high-res colour display, in the instrument binnacle ahead of the driver, that replaces conventional dials. Multi-configurable, it is like a desktop for important vehicle functions, including sat-nav mapping, audio, and climate control. In addition, a head-up display projects speed and other information onto the windscreen, so that you can read it without taking your eyes from the road.

You can also add active driving aids, an area where the A4 excels, with Assistance Package Tour. The most outstanding element here takes the lengthy title Adaptive cruise control with stop and go including traffic jam assistant. This brings you radar-guided cruise control, which maintains a set distance to the car in front. Stop and go will control your speed automatically in stop-start traffic, while Traffic jam assistant will gently steer the car for you in those conditions.

A sunroof, rear-seat entertainment tablets, and a wheel upsize to 20-inches diameter are among other choices. Matrix headlights shine into corners and (automatically) dip only a part of their high beams for oncoming drivers, continuing to illuminate outer parts of the roadway. Parking Assistance provides hands-free help with perpendicular and parallel parking.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The bigger the wheel and tyre package, the harder the ride gets – particularly on standard or (optional) Sports suspension.

Be aware that the Sports suspension option does not bring you the desirable, electronically controlled, Adaptive dampers. To get these, you need to order either the Adaptive sport suspension or the Adaptive comfort suspension.

Only two colours – white and black – are solid and come at no extra cost. The other 13 are metallic and cost extra.

How comfortable is the A4?

Slim pillars, deep side windows, and a low-slung, flowing dashboard layout afford an airy and inviting cabin ambience – and that’s before taking in the A4’s almost fanatical attention to detail. Every surface appears to be painstakingly presented, offering tactile as well as visual satisfaction.

Yet the Audi also majors in practicality, thanks to acres of space on excellent front seats, plenty of rear-seat room (even for three broad adults across), storage places galore, and a big boot that extends well beyond the standard 480 litres with the split/fold backrest folded.

The standard analogue instrumentation layout is arguably the better choice, for its sheer simplicity and beauty. But the arcade game-style multi-faceted display of the optional Virtual cockpit is a fresh take on things.

More points are scored by the fabulously simple ventilation system, combining brilliant design and fuss-free operation, as well as the MMI central-screen menu system, which puts almost all vital vehicle control aspects within an easily learned interface.

(Note, however, that while even the base 1.4 TFSI is well equipped, many of the really dazzling cabin accoutrements you see in press photos cost extra, including the lush wood finishes, Alcantara upholstery, and coloured ambient lighting.)

When fitted with Adaptive suspension, the A4 soaks up most bumps with sufficient smoothness, matching the silken powertrains – while also containing body movement to a bare minimum. There’s also very little wind noise, though coarse bitumen occasionally causes tyre drone to invade the hushed cabin.

With the standard suspension set-up, the ride seems that little bit busier and unsettled on anything less than smooth roads.

What about safety in an Audi A4?

Every A4 arrives with eight airbags – dual front (for the driver and front passenger), a side airbag for each outer occupant that protects the upper body against side impacts, and side-curtain airbags that do the same for their heads.

Autonomous Emergency Braking is standard, operating up to 85km/h. If the camera-based system concludes that a frontal collision is likely – typically with another car that has slowed suddenly, but also with a pedestrian – it warns you and, if you do not react, will initiate a full emergency stop automatically.

There is also a blind-spot warning, which tells you if you are about to change lanes into another car’s path, and rear cross-traffic assist, which tells you if you are about to reverse into another car’s path. Attention assist warns you to take a break if it thinks you’re tired.

Audi pre-sense rear monitors cars behind you, and intervenes in a range of ways to protect you if it concludes you’re about to be rear-ended – including flashing your hazard lights to wake up the approaching driver.

Audi A4s also come with an Exit warning, which flashes an alert if you are about to open a door while other vehicles are approaching from behind.

And there is a standard reversing camera (with 360-degree coverage), and parking sensors front and rear.

This standout package can be augmented with active driving aids from the optional Assistance Package Tour. Its radar-based cruise control brings automatic partial braking at highway speeds. Among other features are turn assist (which acts at intersections to inhibit your turning right dangerously into oncoming traffic), and avoidance assist (which helps you steer around a car ahead that has suddenly come to a halt).

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has awarded the A4 its top rating, five stars.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The A4 has been engineered to take the hard work out of driving – and nowhere is that more evident than in the powertrains.

Every one of the four-cylinder engines on offer – from the new 1.4 TFSI to the 2.0 TDI quattro – is Teflon-smooth in the way its performance is delivered, aided by an equally sweet dual-clutch transmission.

Be careful, however, because even the least powerful A4 is deceptively fast in the way the sweet-spinning four-pot turbo keeps the car gliding along in near silence. There’s a zingy mechanical refinement that’s quite addictive.

To keep up with the BMW 3 Series dynamically, the Ingolstadt engineers have also dialled in pleasingly responsive steering that’s neither too heavy nor remote in feedback, even if keen drivers may wish for a bit more feel for the road.

The result is quite eager and confident handling, while the chassis safety systems help ensure that the A4 remains four-square planted even when hustled quickly through tight turns. In wet or otherwise slippery conditions, this is especially so of the quattro AWD versions.

The A4 benefits from the Adaptive suspension option not only because of its cushier ride but also from the tauter body control the system brings.

How is life in the rear seats?

The latest A4 boasts the biggest cabin among premium medium cars, and is 17mm longer inside than any previous version. Rear legroom has increased more than that. Combined with firm but supportive outboard seat cushions, this allows a pleasant and roomy back seat experience. At a pinch a third adult will fit, though optioning a sunroof may result in a scalp scraping the ceiling.

Assisting the airy ambience back there are deep side windows, rear- climate control outlets with a temperature display and adjuster for rear passengers, and receptacles in the door cards for phones and other paraphernalia.

How is it for carrying stuff?

In-car storage is looked after by a moderately large felt-lined glovebox, pockets in all four doors, nets behind the front seats, and a fairly deep centre console.

The A4 sedan’s boot is rated at a very class-competitive 480 litres, rising to 965 litres with the 40/20/40 split/fold rear backrest folded.

There is a luggage net and tie hooks to help secure loads in the boot, which has a low loading lip. A foot-operated remote lid release and opener – optional on the 1.4 TFSI and standard on other A4s, including both wagons – adds convenience should you have your hands full approaching the car.

A4 wagons offer 505 litres behind the rear seats, and 1510 litres with the seats folded.

Where does Audi make the A4?

All Australian-bound Audi A4s are made in Germany.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Perhaps rear-wheel drive, if you are an enthusiast driver. Despite the sporty bias, the A4 does not offer a rear-wheel drive only configuration, meaning that drifting and oversteer manoeuvres are not easily executed. Among rear-drive alternatives are the BMW 3 Series, Infiniti Q50, Jaguar XE, Lexus IS, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

The A4 is not quite in the same league as the class-leading Jaguar XE for steering feel or ride comfort - even fitted with the Adaptive suspension option.

You might wish for more all-round performance in something very like an A4. That is available from a sportier version of the A4 that Audi calls the S4, a car that shares many A4 features but produces much more grunt – with a turbocharged V6 petrol engine – and delivers it to all four wheels.

Alternatively, you might like an A4 tailored to handle snowy or gravel roads a little more comfortably. Audi offers that in the A4 allroad, which rides a bit higher and also drives all four wheels.

Are there plans to update the Audi A4 soon?

This ninth-generation A4 (designated by Audi the B9 series) was new from the ground up when it made its global debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2015 – so we are not likely to see a facelift until late 2018 at the earliest.

The B9 A4 allroad arrived in September 2016, and the S4 in February 2017.

I like this car, but I can’t choose which version. Can you help?

If easy overtaking with a full load is important to you, then avoid the base 1.4 TFSI because it simply does not have sufficient grunt.

Gutsy A4s start with the 2.0 TFSI. Every 2.0-litre engine on offer is remarkable for its strong performance, smooth operation, and impressive efficiency. But the more you spend, the more compelling each attribute becomes.

That adds up to a good argument for choosing the all-weather security and effortless ease of the swift 2.0 TFSI quattro – with Adaptive dampers, of course.