Monday, 9 April 2012


One might say, and rightly so, that the new 2012 BMW 3 Series is one of the biggest stories of the current motoring year. Yet one its main competitors is also revving up for a great year. The Audi A4, having received a fresh face for 2012, is now better than ever. Just from a new face you ask? Not at all. There’s a lot more under the skin too.

Audi is now the world’s second-biggest seller of premium cars in the world after overtaking Mercedes-Benz in 2011. New target? BMW of course. Since the A4 is the company’s breadwinner, mistakes cannot be made when it comes to any aspect of it. Least of all the looks, which lately Audi has been somewhat neglecting. We know it’s a very subjective opinion but we feel strongly that the new A6 and A8 could have been more exciting to look at. Audi SA, at pains to counter these and other similar views, brought out one of Audi AG’s design gurus in order to break it down for us. In the end he all but confirmed our stance; that Audi is staunchly German and that its designs will keep following this logical, clinical philosophy.

And so we look at the redesigned front grille. Hexagonal in shape and with a more 3D look painted in grey, the car is certainly more elegant. Add to that the LED daytime running lights which now form a singular strip rather than a dotted line and you have a more uniform front end. From the rear side new strips of LEDs combined with xenon plus bulbs fit well with the new bumper, which comes with a different rear diffuser. Both sedan and large Avant (station wagon) variants are being sold in S, SE or quattro trim. Mzansi has now done away with the old Attraction, Ambition and Ambiente trims altogether.

I was most impressed with the interior, an area Audi is often praised for due to its spaciousness and ergonomical goodness. New phrase. While some of the standard material finishes are a little downmarket (too plasticky), placement is very good. A new, more upmarket gear lever accompanies the new MMI system for instance, which features 50% fewer buttons than before, thus improving the cleaner look while at the same time enhancing button navigation.

Speaking of navigation, Audi is the first – and will possibly be the only – manufacturer in Mzansi to offer Google Maps navigation in their cars. Not only does it show maps in 3D where you can see buildings as if they are standing in front of your eyes, there’s also Google Earth Images and Google Street View. The latter allows you to see a real colour image of the area you want to travel to. That’s very handy. But as they say in kitchen knife informecials, “but wait, there’s more!”

Last year after attending the sexy Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe launch we came away unimpressed with its on-board Internet solution, which basically can only connect through your own cell phone via Bluetooth. Audi A4 addresses this issue beautifully by offering the car itself as a Wi-Fi hotspot. By inserting a data SIM card (8ta, Cell C, MTN, Virgin, Vodacom) into a slot on the dashboard just below the CD loader, one can connect up to 8 other wireless devices into the internet. So your laptops and/ or cell phones can all run Internet through the car’s connection. And that’s exactly how in-car Internet should be.

To compete successfully, the A4 facelift will be sold with a whole range of engines, some old, others new. We’ll chat only about the new ones. These are the 1.8 T FSI, 2.0 TDI, 3.0 TDI and 3.0 T FSI. At entry is the 1.8 T FSI with a small turbo engine, delivering 88kW and 230Nm of torque. We didn’t get to pilot this model though, so I have no impressions of it. I did get behind the wheel of the more powerful versions of the same engine though. Over the 88kW model is the 125kW (between 3800rpm and 6200rpm) and 320Nm made between 1400rpm and 3700rpm. The front-wheel-driven car comes either with a 6-speed manual or Multitronic (CVT type) gearbox. I noticed no turbo lag to speak of while taking sweeps across the Cape area. Instead the Multitronic shone with its smoothness of operation and good response to throttle prods. Audi is adamant an 8.1 second sprint from 0 – 100km/h is achievable, along with a top end of 230km/h. In response, average fuel consumption is said to be a highly optimistic 5.7 litres per 100km. Not very likely in the real world, even with its start/ stop technology switched on. C02 emissions are 134 g/km.

A jump into the even higher-powered 1.8 T FSI tickled the soul, for it produces 155kW between 4300rpm and 6000rpm, while injecting 350Nm of torque between 1500rpm and 4200rpm. Sensational acceleration, in-gear overtaking and calm traffic performance means this car/ engine combo is a winner. Claimed figures are 6.9 seconds for the usual sprint, 240km/h for top speed, 6 litres for fuel consumption and 140 g/km in C02s. Very good, at least on paper. We’ll see how it goes at Gauteng’s high altitude and everyday driving.

A supercharged 3.0 T with a V6 petrol motor, 200kW and 400Nm of torque will also go on sale next month, replacing the old 3.2-litre naturally aspirated V6. While we didn’t even see one at the launch, we were able to stretch the legs of the fiery S4 quattro.

The S4 is pretty special. Over and above standard spec found in the A4 range, the car also comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, xenon-plus headlights with LED daytime running lights, Alcantara/ leather sports seats and a 6-CD front loader among others. Plus that supercharged V6 engine. Upped to 245kW between 5500rpm and 7000rpm, S4 with a 7-speed S tronic double clutch gearbox delivers scintillating performance akin to a number of fully-fledged sports cars. The supercharger is quite key in accessing the 440Nm of torque. So is quattro, now coupled with the same self-locking crown-differential used by some RS cars. The 0 – 10km/h run is dispatched in 5.3 seconds, top speed limited to 250km/h, fuel consumption is 9.4 litres per 100km and C02 emissions are 225 g/km. Some of these numbers are realistic, some are not. But the feeling behind the steering wheel is dreamy. S4 corners with self-assurance, grips tightly and accelerates out with the urgency of ballistic missile. Without having driven the new BMW 335i at launch, we can still confidently say that the S4 will whip its ass. And it also sounds better.

What would Audi be without its TDI engines? In trouble, that’s where! Therefore the new A4 is offered with a number of TDIs, such as the 2.0-litre TDI and 3.0-litre TDI. The smaller is configured for either 105kW (320Nm), or for new uprated figures of 130kW at 4200rpm and 380Nm between 1750rpm and 2500rpm. With, among others, a common rail injection system, 1800 bar with solenoid injectors, direct injection with 8-hole nozzles, VTG turbocharger with intercooler etc, the new TDI counters increased power and speed, with increased efficiency. Audi says an average fuel rate of 4.8 litres per 100km/h is possible, resulting in a full tank range of around 1 300km. the 3.0-litre TDI also increases its numbers, from 176kW to 180kW between 4000rpm and 4500rpm, where maximum torque is 500Nm between 1400rpm and 3250rpm.

These rather subtle changes – quite clear when viewing new vs outgoing side by side – are only magnified when sitting inside the A4, driving it, touching its new upmarket surfaces. The fresh engines are noticeably improved when mated with the powertrains, especially in the 2.0 T FSI, 2.0 TDI (130kW) and sizzling S4. While the 1.8 T FSI (88kW) is the cheapest entry-level car in its class, it’s also the least powerful. The latter fact will not, however, dissuade potential buyers who want a German executive sedan with many bells and trumpets, without breaking the bank.

New Audi A4 Pricing
1.8 T FSI S [88kW] manual (R309 500)
1.8 T FSI S [125kw] manual (R332 000)
2.0 TDI S [105kW] manual (R336 500)
1.8 T FSI SE [125kW] manual (R347 000)
1.8 T FSI S multitronic [125kW] (R349 000)
1.8 T FSI S Avant [125kW] manual (R349 000)
2.0 TDI SE [130kW] manual (R351 500)
2.0 TDI S [130kW] Multitronic (R353 500)
2.0 TDI S Avant manual (R353 500)
1.8 T FSI SE [125kW] Multitronic (R364 000)
1.8 T FSI S Avant Multitronic (R366 000)
2.0 TDI SE [130kW] Multitronic (R368 500)
2.0 TDI S Avant Multitronic (R370 500)
2.0 T FSI SE Multitronic (R390 000)
2.0 T FSI quattro S tronic (R456 500)
3.0 TDI quattro S tronic (R503 000)
3.0 T FSI quattro S tronic (R504 000)
S4 quattro sedan (R620 000)


Anonymous said...

Very comprehensive range.

Anonymous said...

damn these cars are so expensive these nowadays!

Evan Marcus said...

wooooo what a caaaaar...
truly mouthwatering....filled with load of features...
CAR of dreams...8)