5 0 5
Plus & Minus
New MMI system brings touch to A4; body styling updates subtle but effective
New MMI system not intuitive out of the box, new hybrid set-up so mild it may not as well exist
The Wheels Verdict: The Audi A4 has long been a solid, stable and trustworthy four-door exec express, and this facelift, while subtle, is effective in giving the A4 a much-needed shot in the arm in the face of rejuvenated competition from its Bavarian rivals.
WHAT IS THE AUDI A4 45 TFSI QUATTRO?
Launched in 2016, the Audi A4 in B9 guise is the German company’s best-placed product to withstand – even if slightly – the onslaught of the luxury SUV wave. It runs a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, a seven-speed DSG and all-wheel-drive, seats five in comfort and has long been a favourite of the Wheels road test team.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
This is the mid-life update for the MLB-based Audi A4, and it’ll land in Australia before the middle of 2020. Audi is plunging headlong into an electrified and hybridised future, and it feels as if the A4 may have missed out on the nip in the usual mid-life nip-and-tuck update procedure. Panels and screens are the focus, not powertrains and platforms.
THE AUDI A4 45 TFSI QUATTRO REVIEW
You have to feel for the Audi A4 a little. Here’s a decent, well-specced, good looking sedan that’s garnered plenty of positive praise across the media spectrum, including our own COTY team.
Alas, it languishes on the sales sheets behind its chief protagonists, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the new kid on the block, the G20 version of BMW’s 3 Series. Current figures make for sobering reading; so far this year, the C-Class has outsold it five to one, while BMW’s has double the 700-odd number that Audi has scored.
It’s hard to put a finger on why, but the Audi has – despite being first to market, for example, with a digital dashboard – simply not registered with the voters.
The mid-life refresh for the fifth-generation B9 sees around 30 percent of the car changed, and comprises new sheet metal on almost every surface, including the now-ubiquitous large-framed grille, LED headlights (now standard across the range), a revised side profile with slightly enlarged fenders and more deeply sculpted door panels, as well as a revised taillight architecture and larger rear diffuser.
It arguably still presents the most conservative visage of the Euro power trio, but up close there’s a real sophistication to the A4 that becomes more apparent the longer you look. It’s quite colour-sensitive – bolder hues bring out the changes more effectively – but overall, the new render is a step forward.
Inside, the change is all about multimedia; specifically, the new 10.1-inch screen-based system called MMI touch, which – finally – replaces the aging system aboard the current car. Audi’s other sedan offerings, like the A8, have led the way, and now the A4 joins them in stepping into this decade.
It also sees the end of the centre console-mounted rotary dial and button layout that has long served to supplement the MMI system. “We wanted to avoid the redundancy of the dial,” Audi’s head of A4/A5/Q5 program, Roland Hudler, told Wheels. “We want to make the system easier for the customer to control.”
Audi claims simplicity, speed and an improved voice interface as the key advantages to the new system, and while our time with the system was limited, the claims bear relevance. The initial learning curve will be high, even for existing Audi owners, simply because this is new baby and bathwater in one, but an improved voice interface and simplified menus are definitely a step in the right direction.
Almost no changes, then, for anything affixed with nuts and bolts… and the old adage about not fixing things that aren’t broken applies perfectly here. The 45 variant of the A4’s EA888 engine does score Audi’s slightly puzzling 12-volt mild hybrid set-up that adds ten seconds of in-gear coasting in perfectly perfect conditions but seems to do little else.
Audi claims it saves “up to” 0.3L/100km – it’s rated in Europe at 6.9L/100km – but given its location under the boot floor, it comes at the expense of a spare wheel.
The strut front and multilink rear suspension, then, remains unchanged, while the quattro system carries over as well. So test-driving the new A4 45 quattro reveals nothing new – it’s a lovely, compliant, quiet and composed thing, with excellent sound suppression and high levels of driver and passenger cossetting.
It doesn’t trip over into dull and conservative, though, and you can still switch things up via the drive mode selector. Granted, the detents between the levels are pretty similar, but there is a discernible difference between the two extremes.
So more of the same for the A4, then. No prices or specs as yet, given the potential 12-month wait, but stayed tuned for details as we get them.
THE AUDI A4 45 TFSI QUATTRO VS RIVALS
Mercedes-Benz C Class, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS
THE AUDI A4 45 TFSI QUATTRO SPECS
Model: Audi A4 45 TFSI quattro
Engine: 1984cc 4-cyl dohc turbo petrol
Max power: 180kW @ 5,000-6,500rpm
Max torque: 370Nm @ 1,600-4,300rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed DSG
0-100km/h: 5.8 [claimed]
Price: From $70,000 [est]
On sale: Q2 2020
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