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Car reviews - Audi - A4 - 3.0 TDI quattro sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Revvy low-speed and high-speed response, all-wheel drive traction, load-through facility
Room for improvement
Old man’s wood trim (where’s the aluminium?), lifeless steering, low-speed harshness of sports suspension, paddle shifters could be longer

Audi logo12 Jul 2006

By CHRIS HARRIS

GoAuto 12/07/2006

AFTER a 650km trip around sections of the Targa Tasmania course in freezing cold, damp and snowy conditions, we were struggling to find superlatives to describe the A4 3.0-litre V6 TDI quattro.

Cliches come to mind easily.

‘Tsunami-like wave of torque’, ‘planet turning torque’, or even perhaps ‘pulls like a Mallee bull’ are all apt descriptions, if a little hackneyed as we search for something that can embrace exactly what this turbo-diesel is about.

After all, the A4 TDI delivers a once-unheard-of diesel tune of 171kW at 3500rpm and 450Nm from just 1400rpm, such figures previously the domain of some petrol V8s just 10 years ago.

But to concentrate just on the TDI engine is to overlook the consummate way in which the A4 quattro acquits itself when conditions deteriorate.

And that’s the point of difference with Audis it’s the measure of security offered by quattro all-wheel drive in these cars that can often be overlooked in everyday driving.

Other cars may have sophisticated traction systems – the A4 does too – but Audi is the only prestige German brand to offer quattro across its hatches, sedans and wagons, not withstanding some limos in the Audi-owned Bentley arsenal.

On the one hand the A4 is a compact touring sedan. On another, its all-wheel drivetrain offers safe and secure driving across a wide variety of Australia’s indifferent roads. Then there’s the new 3.0-litre V6 TDI engine.

The TDI is the latest-generation common-rail V6 unit with piezo injection, turbocharging and twin intercoolers, mated to Audi’s Tiptronic six-speed automatic.

It will rocket its way well into triple-digit speeds with the surge of torque continuing way beyond local speed limits.

But the security of the quattro’s velcro-like grip is so impressive you’ll barely see the yellow ESP light flash if the car does come unstuck, such are the high grip levels.

Like many all-wheel drive sedans, the A4 will run wide through corners if left to its own devices. But enthusiasts will enjoy putting down power strong and hard midway through corners to help "drive" the car through the turns.

The TDI V6 also sounds like a muscular petrol V6 with a slightly hoarse voice. The dual exhausts provide an overtly sporty, deep aural resonance.

Away from a standing start the TDI experiences almost no lag as the turbo spools up. Overtaking from 80km/h to 120km/h is lightning quick.

The ride, with the standard sports suspension, is a little harsh at low speeds but irons out beautifully at cruising speeds. Low-speed bumps will catch the car out and at these speeds the "other" Germans may have the handle on suspension suppleness.

As far as real long-distance tourers go, the Audi A4 can now be added to that ever growing list of comfortable and quiet, yet frugal sedans that can cover the continent without a hitch, something Peugeot and Citroen discovered years ago in Australia with its range of turbo-diesels.

Our TDI V6 managed around 8.9L/100km on a mix of high-speed highway and city driving, making Audi’s claimed 8.4L/100km figure entirely feasible.

Driven carefully, the TDI V6 is claimed to offer a touring range of about 750km. Feather-foot it and you may even be able to do better.

Like the rest of the A4 range the TDI offers superb build quality and a sensibly laid out cabin. The fit and finish is impressive and we like the way the ergonomics are simply, and effective, to operate. The soft red night-time illumination also looks up-market.

Equipment levels are comprehensive and include dual front, side and curtain airbags, electric front seats, wood trim inlays, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel, 17-inch alloys, parking sensors, leather upholstery and automatic windscreen wipers and headlights.

Most drivers will find the driving position acceptable, but the A4 remains a tad tight in the back seat legroom. The boot, fortunately, is roomy and there’s a full-size spare.

Annoyances are few. Like other Audi’s we’ve experienced there is some modest steering rack rattle in tight hairpin turns over rough sections of road and some more steering feedback would be appreciated.

The paddle-shifts as well are too small and could do with lengthening for those driver’s who like to exploit the silky six-speed Tiptronic through windy mountain roads.

Speaking of the gearbox, the changes are crispy and fast, particularly when downshifting and the ratios are well matched to the engine’s torque characteristics.

As well, the V6 automatically double-declutches to further increase agility.

Audi may worry that its cars have not really achieved the same kudos locally as its main German rivals, but we have a feeling – just as Audi’s experienced with its A6 3.0 TDI – that the A4 3.0 TDI will start to change many more buyers’ perceptions on just what constitutes a "sports touring sedan".

The A4 TDI V6 has hit a sweet spot. An Avant version would only put more icing on the cake.

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