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Car reviews - Audi - A4 - quattro range

Our Opinion

We like
Versatile and lively updated TFSI engine, interior quality and styling, infallible quattro poise, Q3 cruising comfort
Room for improvement
Occasional Q3 rack-rattle off-road, A5 Sportback price premium over A4, slightly sluggish Q3 diesel

Audi logo4 Oct 2013

FIRST up was the A5 2.0 TDI quattro S-tronic coupe sporting the 130kW/380Nm four cylinder diesel engine, which is also available in the five-door Sportback variant.

On the outside the elegant coupe looks are inviting and the clean uncluttered interior continues the feel of quality and prestige.

Audi’s logical and tasteful interiors are not lost on the A5. with top quality materials used throughout creating a serene but functional cabin feel.

Pure white lighting extends from cabin illumination through to dash controls and gauges and the nicely upholstered leather seats keep occupants comfortable and well supported.

But the fact that Audi’s A5 is a nicely screwed together, good looking two-door is not front page news. It’s the oily bits under the aluminium skin that we are really interested in.

Hitting the start button in an $80K German coupe (ours had a few options) and hearing a four-cylinder diesel rattle was initially a bit perplexing.

Audi have been producing smooth and inoffensive diesels for years but somehow it still doesn’t seem to fit with the sporty persona of a mid-sized two-door, however, the slightly agricultural preconceptions soon evaporated after setting off.

While 130kW might not be enough power to set the world on fire, the 380Nm of diesel torque was sufficient to set a decent clip through winding and undulating rural roads.

Having four-wheel drive grip at our disposal was useful when getting the glut of torque down on waterlogged roads, particularly when pulling away from slippery junctions.

The management of torque to each wheel felt mechanical rather than the result of an overzealous electronic program.

As with most diesels, revving to the red-line is a pointless exercise with the useful grunt low down, and having the S-tronic transmission’s eight gears at our disposal, the diesel-donk could be kept in the sweet-spot no matter what the road ahead threw at us.

The frugal four cylinder does get up to the governor smoothly and without complaint but its impressive fuel consumption of 5.3 litres per 100km would certainly suffer.

Onto the A4.

While the sedan/Avant might not have quite the aesthetic presence of the A5 coupe it does bring a dollop more practicality, the same build-quality and a more appealing price.

Sharing much of the A5’s underpinnings the A4 cabin is just as nice a place to be as the coupe’s interior.

Our $67,955 test car was the 2.0 TFSI quattro S-tronic variant and came with optional sports seats, Audi’s adjustable chassis setting ‘Drive Select’ and lustrous ‘Scuba Blue’ metallic paint.

The new A4 2.0 TFSI quattro has a few changes under the bonnet.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol has gained a 10kW boost over the previous 2.0 TFSI engine thanks to a number of revisions including direct fuel-injection, and the result is impressive.

When combined with the eight-speed S-tronic automatic transmission and quattro four-wheel drive, the A4 is capable of demolishing B-roads in all conditions with surprising and satisfying efficiency.

With a light engine up-front, the front-to-rear balance is good, allowing the A4 quattro to be pushed harder in to corners without a sense of impending understeer.

Instructions form the steering wheel gear-shift paddles translate to cog-swaps with little noticeable delay, but the vocal engine note made us want to hang on to gears right up to the limiter.

With such abundant, accessible lag-free power we wouldn’t be surprised if this is the same engine found under the bonnet of the Audi S3 and recently arrived Golf GTI.

The A4 2.0 TFSI quattro is a good balance of practicality, fun and euro individuality and will take a fierce fight to BMW’s 3-series and the C-Class from Mercedes.

Finally, the Q3.

A 2.0-litre diesel version of Audi’s best selling model has been available since it launched last year, but if customers wanted an automatic they would have to lump for a CVT.

Now though, the Q3 2.0 TDI quattro has gained a more aggressive seven-speed double-clutch S-tronic transmission.

The new transmission manages the four-cylinder’s modest output of 103kW/320Nm noticeably better than the superseded CVT, and its response to throttle changes is a big improvement.

The Q3 remains a sharper tool than the average small crossover. There is a hint of bodyroll but sharper turn-in than most, light but direct steering – albeit with occasional rack rattle – and a well-sorted ride compromise.

Freeway motoring was an entirely different affair and the Q3 took long, straight roads in its stride returning a quiet relaxing ride.

But let’s not forget this is an SUV, and a little extra air under our feet gave the Q3 a distinct advantage over the low-riding quattros when the bitumen ran out.

On unsealed winding roads the Q3 really came in to its own allowing progress to continue at on-road speeds thanks to confidence inspiring traction and generous suspension travel.

Even a soaking-wet grassy paddock couldn’t phase the oil-burning Q3 and even on a very low friction surface with road-tyres the quattro system afforded ample grip to negotiate a tricky auto-khana circuit.

At the limit of adhesion the Q3 would respond with slight understeer, but a solid prod of the throttle would bring the back-end around in a predictable manner, dispelling the myth that all four-wheel drives plough-on at the limit.

Verdict

BMW’s X-Drive technology and Mercedes’ 4Matic system may not have the heritage to compete with the original quattro brand, but the technology is certainly comparable.

However, until its two biggest rivals start introducing more all-wheel drive sedan models to the Australian market, Audi has a valid unique selling point here.

The introduction of more affordable and accomplished quattro options such as the ones we tested will only help its cause provided consumers respond accordingly.

The quattro system has undergone a significant revision and development in its 33 year life but even the most modern applications honour the original with an honest, uncomplicated and mechanical feel that translates in to real-world practicality.

Driving the latest additions to the quattro line-up gave the impression that the engine was linked to the wheels with drive-shafts and clutches - not wires and silicon-chips and that in itself is commendable.

When applied to smaller engines, the quattro system loses none of its purpose, providing the same sure-footed all-weather and all-surface confidence found in the larger engined stablemates.

We are all-four it.

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