The Audi A4 sedan trails the pricier A5 Sportback in the sales charts, but there’s still a lot to love about a beautifully-built, impressively-packaged sedan like the A4 45 TFSI
We all know the world is turning its back on sedans in lieu of SUVs, yet there’s still much to admire about a really well-developed four-door. Sure, their long tails require knowledge of the forgotten art of boot packing, but thoughtfully designed sedans bring a lot more utility to the table than people give them credit for.
That said, the relatively few buyers who still prefer a non-SUV are increasingly looking to novel body styles: in late 2020, Audi told us that among A4 and A5 buyers, 40 percent opt for the A5 Sportback, with its large opening tailgate and coupe roofline, while just 32 percent choose an A4 sedan or wagon – leaving 20 percent of sales for the six-cylinder S4 and S5 Sportback variants.
Among the many changes included in the A4’s mid-life update was a complete remodelling of its side panels, adding creased wheelarch ‘blisters’ over the front and rear wheels to give it greater visual presence and more of a stance. Combined with Audi’s typically striking lighting signatures (with standard LED units front and rear, even on the base A4 sedan) and standard 19-inch wheels, the standard A4 has never looked sportier.
In the case of the $70,800 A4 45 TFSI quattro sedan tested here, however, that athletic wrapping perfectly complements what lies underneath because this high-output 2.0-litre turbo-petrol with all-wheel drive has long been arguably the highlight of the entire line-up.
Available in every A4/A5 bodystyle – sedan, wagon, coupe, convertible and Sportback – the beauty of the 45 TFSI quattro version of the A4 sedan is that it offers much of what the more popular A5 Sportback version does but with a significant 10 grand saving on the entry ticket.
Indeed, with a handful of suitably tasteful styling options – Quantum Grey paint ($1531), a high-gloss black styling package ($800), and 19-inch Audi Sport alloys ($385) – our test sedan’s appearance implies a vehicle of greater expense than its sub-$80,000 price.
Right from the moment it launched in Australia in May 2016, the B9-generation A4 has been a fierce competitor for dynamics and driver engagement in the premium medium category. While the G20 BMW 330i may have since claimed the title of best driver’s car in its class, the A4 45 TFSI quattro (which was previously badged 2.0 TFSI quattro) runs it incredibly close.
The best way to understand the personality of an A4 45 TFSI quattro is as a suave, deceptively subtle sports sedan. Where a V6-engined S4 is rapid and visually a bit raunchy, the 45 TFSI quattro that sits below it is more about understatement … until you begin to explore its wealth of handling talent and surprising performance punch.
In 45 TFSI quise, Audi’s 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine produces 183kW of power (245 hp) from 5000-6500rpm and 370Nm of torque from 1600-4500rpm, implying on paper what it proves to be in the real world – elastic, enthusiastic and incredibly tractable, with a very impressive 0-100km/h claim of 5.8 seconds.
Tied to a snappy, slick-shifting and intuitive seven-speed dual-clutch automatic ’box, it’s a fantastic engine packing a lovely induction rasp when having its redline explored, as well as terrific smoothness and refinement. It also blends seamlessly with Audi’s mild-hybrid tech and near-imperceptible idle-stop system.
The 45 TFSI’s effortless performance combines beautifully with the quattro system’s all-wheel-drive smarts. Mash the right pedal exiting a tight corner and the A4 transfers drive to its rear wheels and thrusts it forward with serious urgency. And it has poise, too, with a delightful level of handling balance and overall chuck-ability, combined with keen, focused steering.
About the only mediocre area is its ride, which on our test car with optional adaptive sports suspension ($1430) and standard 19-inch wheels could be very firm. Yet if you drive it in Comfort or Normal drive-mode settings and understand that this is a sports sedan in businessman’s attire, then the discipline of the A4’s ride quality is far from unpleasant.
The ride is certainly preferable to an A4 with fixed-rate dampers … unless that vehicle happens to be an A4 Allroad wagon, which has by far the best ride of any A4 variant – in no small part due to the fact that the Allroad is the only A4 or A5 with a 45 TFSI engine that can be paired with cushier 18-inch wheels, while also being the sole A4 or A5 to offer an optional diesel engine.
Safety-wise, the A4 fits the mold of a premium sedan by offering essential active-safety features – a pop-up pedestrian bonnet, eight airbags, driver attention alert, forward AEB with pedestrian detection, and front and rear pre-sense (that automatically tightens belts and closes windows if it sense a collision is imminent) – that all works subtly but effectively.
However, if you want the full suite of safety kit you’ll need to option the Assistance Plus Package (as fitted to our test car for $2900 extra) that brings adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance assist, junction AEB and a 360-degree camera, among other inclusions.
Audi has long been on its game with interiors, to the point where this six-year-old A4 45 TFSI quattro feels amazingly fresh inside.
In terms of materials quality, plastics tactility and overall class, it remains a standard setter, and any adjustments made to this latest (post-MY21) A4 update have only made it appear even more so.
Crowning this beautifully built cabin is a vast new 12.3-inch touchscreen that renders the previous MMI central control dial redundant (substituted by a small lidded tray) and offers wireless Apple CarPlay but only wired Android Auto. The screen looks big and classy, and that’s exactly how it operates, though the 180-watt, 10-speaker audio system in this 45 TFSI isn’t a great match.
The 10-speaker set-up is good for modern music but often suffers from muddy bass and a lack of clarity – especially older music, even if it’s been remastered. You’d be much better off spending extra on the excellent 19-speaker, 755-watt Bang & Olufsen 3D surround-sound system – a bargain at $1950 when including Luxury Car Tax.
The rest of the A4’s interior is surprisingly well-equipped. Standard sports front seats with electric adjustment offer excellent comfort, the Virtual Cockpit instruments are gorgeously clear and classy, and there’s terrific utility everywhere – spacious door bins, proper door grab handles, as well as the world’s best height-adjustable, centre-front armrest – though you have to pay $850 more if you want seat heating: this was not fitted to our tester.
All of that is mirrored in the rear seat with similarly accommodating door bins and grab handles, excellent seat comfort with really good under-thigh support and forward vision, plenty of leg- and head-room, and rear air vents with their own temperature control. About the only area where it’s showing its age is in having only a 12-volt outlet back there and not any USB ports.
As for its cargo capacity, the A4’s luggage area is beautifully trimmed and accommodates a decent 460-litre volume, joined by a cargo net and side bins as well as a 40/20/40 folding rear backrests that go almost flat. Admittedly, there’s a space-saver spare below the floor (because this is a quattro) but that boot space is very competitive for a medium-sized sedan.
The official ADR81/02 government combined fuel consumption figure for the A4 45 TFSI quattro is 7.1L/100km, though we recorded fuel economy of 9.2L/100km in varied driving conditions.
Recommended service intervals for the A4 are every 12 months or 15,000km, with Audi’s capped-price servicing plan costing $2920 across five years/75,000km.
In comparison, the ‘basic’ five-year/80,000km service package for a BMW 3 Series costs just $1800, whereas the all-inclusive service plans for a Mercedes-Benz C-Class (with recommended intervals every 12 months/25,000km) are available to cover three years ($2750), four years ($3750) or five years ($5450).
Regular capped-price servicing for three years for a W205 C-Class totals $2450.
As of 1 January 2022, Audi Australia’s standard warranty coverage is now five years/unlimited kilometres – matching its main competitors as well as its Volkswagen parent – combined with a three-year paint warranty and a 12-year corrosion perforation warranty.
The beauty of the A4 45 TFSI quattro sedan is that not only is it a handsome, beautifully built, eminently stylish piece of machinery, it’s also surprisingly practical and unexpectedly rewarding to drive.
As with any other Audi, an extensive options list means that tailoring the car to your tastes isn’t difficult, yet our test car with just a few intelligent options still cost less than $80,000 (before on-road costs) while looking like it was worth $100K. And you can add Audi’s new five-year warranty coverage to that too.
Admittedly, the Bang & Olufsen 3D stereo should be a must for anyone who ever listens to music, and likewise adaptive dampers because the standard sports suspension on Aussie A4s is pretty firm. But this is still a really capable car – particularly given that it’s already six years’ old and that an all-new A4 generation isn’t too far away.
However, there’s a caveat. If you really value ride plushness and want the best rear headroom you can buy in an A4 of any kind, might we suggest you also look at the A4 Allroad 45 TFSI quattro wagon, because it’s a cracker.
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Variant tested 45 TFSI QUATTRO S LINE MHEV
Key specs (as tested)
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