Avant might just have the nation’s load-lugging, fleet-conscious prestige buyers almost exclusively to itself

What is it?

This is the latest version of Audi’s veteran, dyed-in-the-wool, business-friendly Audi A4. We drove the first of the eighth generation in Europe last year, but now the full range is in the UK ahead of its official on-sale date later this week (March 1st).

As generational gaps go, the disparity between seventh and eighth is faint. The exterior differences are limited to a reworked bumper and revised headlights, along with similarly minor changes inside, and equipment updates.

The real beef occurs in the engine bay where Audi has tweaked, toned and refined much of the range for efficiency gains. Along with the introduction of an overhauled 1.8 TFSI petrol motor, the most significant new entry is the higher-powered version of the 2.0-litre TDIe - expected to carry the carry the vast bulk of sales in its established 134bhp guise.

The 160bhp edition, driven here as an Avant (the 134bhp motor is saloon only) is intended to go toe-to-toe with the forthcoming 320d Efficient Dynamics as the increased output puts the A4 almost on par with its outright performance, even if can’t quite compete with the BMW’s prospective 109g/km CO2 emissions and 68.9mpg economy.

What’s it like?

With the latest addition to the range included, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder TDI is now available as four distinct variants. The 141bhp and 174bhp are not badged TDIe because, apart from their marginal power advantage, they offer buyers the chance to spec bigger alloys - the efficiency-focused models come standard with 17-inch wheels and low resistance tyres only.

That’s a good thing because it gives the A4’s notoriously inflexible ride at least a modicum of elasticity over British tarmac. The Avant still reacts to minor, single-wheel deflections like all four had simultaneously hit a house brick, but at least the worst of the abrasive ricochet has been dialled away.

Along with it, unsurprisingly, goes some of the 134bhp engine’s hesitancy. The newer version is a second quicker to 62mph (8.3 versus 9.3 seconds – 8.7 seconds in the Avant) but it’s the increase in torque which stands out. With a 44lb ft advantage, the 160bhp car feels more limber and less strangled than its mechanical sibling, and requires fewer gear changes on the pithy six-speed manual to maintain a healthy pace.

It sounds good, too. One of the A4’s few standout attributes is its continued high level of refinement. The model keeps the husky diesel at a far greater distance than the latest 320d manages, but retains a surprisingly characterful turbine whine under heavy throttle. The engine also gets a new pendulum-type absorber in the flywheel which helps to reduce vibrations in the drivetrain at low revs.

Should I buy one?

Perhaps. If Audi’s marketing voodoo has you hankering after the A4 then there’s no reason why the 160bhp version - in the business-targeted SE Technik spec rather than the SE trim tested here - shouldn’t be high on your list. The 134bhp saloon may emit slightly less CO2 (112g/km versus 115g/km and 120g/km for the estate) and will therefore fall into a marginally cheaper company car tax band come April 1st, but the brawnier Avant is better looking, more practical and pleasantly quicker.

However, a new engine variant and a light dusting of largely inconsequential changes cannot paper over the A4’s shortcomings. In the driving stakes the model remains too firm to cosset properly, too detached to steer well and just too dull to ever really enjoy. Held up to the new 3-Series (and the current C-Class), the car struggles to make a convincing case for itself.

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Nevertheless, there is a kicker. The new Touring is not likely to make its UK debut until the beginning of next year and the C220 CDI Estate is marginally more expensive and not quite as efficient, meaning the 160bhp 2.0 TDIe Avant might just have the nation’s load-lugging, fleet-conscious prestige buyers almost exclusively to itself.

Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDIe 163PS SE

Price: £28,130; Top speed: 134mph; 0-62mph: 8.7 seconds; Economy: 62.8mpg; CO2: 120g/km; Kerbweight: 1535kg; Engine type, cc: Four-cylinder turbodiesel, 1968cc; Power: 160bhp; Torque: 280lb ft; Gearbox: Six-speed manual

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Safari 3 March 2012

Re: Audi A4 2.0 TDIe

Oh who cares - everyone in Britain drives an Audi it seems and all the car magazines love BMW's and everyone who lives in Essex and Cheshire buy Land Rover Evoques.

Audi's have never been that good at getting the ride right! I can honestly say that the VW Passat is more pleasurable to drive and far more comfortable than the Audi A4 and they both share the same platform. It is the same for the Golf which handles and rides far better than the A3.

It is down to the badge not the car and that has been the same for many years.

scoch 2 March 2012

Re: Audi A4 2.0 TDIe

Having test driven the new C Class estate its light years ahead of the Audi, even the sport model was compliant over everything but the largest of humps.

Would happily drive all day in one.

Like the BMW too but the audi is just not there im afraid, sounds a bit snobbish but its the new mondeo! There everywhere!

Sorry for spending a lot of cash I still want something that is desirable, looks nice and most of all drives well!

Lee23404 29 February 2012

Re: Audi A4 2.0 TDIe

artill wrote:

Lee23404 wrote:
At this rate I'm going to stick two fingers up to the premium marques and just get a top end Mondeo or Insignia, or whatever

Dont you fancy another C5?

I do and have thought about it, I just think life is too short to have the same car twice. I've thought about a 507 but can't decide if it's boring or ugly. I've had or driven pretty much every car in the class and their are few that do much for me.

I have thought about a top of the range Insignia Elite because they are well equiped and very cheap at only a few months old. They have a grumbly diesel engine but my wife had one as a hire car a couple of weeks ago and Vauxhall seemed to have improved the engine a lot over the first Insignia's.

Either that or I'll just keep my A3 and wait for the new one.