Audi has always been known for some of the best interiors in the industry.
Here is the 2021 Audi A4 quattro. Looking back in the history of the brand in North America, the A4 is arguably the car that put Audi on the map in terms on being a real option amongst the German luxury brands. The first generation was introduced in 1996 for North America. Boasting quality interior, European handing with its rally bred quattro all-wheel drive system. More importantly, Audi was the first luxury to manufacturer to have all wheel drive standard on most models. It was a key advantage it had over its rivals allowing Audi to quickly cement its position amongst the competition.
As it became apparent that all-wheel drive is reaching necessity status in the Canadian market Mercedes and BMW both made their 4MATIC and xDrive models the standard, slowly erasing the advantage Audi had. Fast forward to the fifth generation, the Audi A4 appears to have fallen out of favour. Sightings on the road are far and few compared to Mercedes and BMW. What happened that led to the Audi A4 falling behind after four successful generations.
When Audi updated the A4 from the fourth to fifth generations, they took an extremely conservative approach in hopes of continuing the success of the highly successful fourth generation A4. Despite being a completely new model built from the ground up, from the exterior it appeared to be another facelift. In the eye of a non-enthusiast, the new an old model can barely be differentiated from afar. Our 2020 A4 tester pushes more changes for a much more refreshing look. You can see Audi is using the R8 as inspiration, adapting the new fascia to the A4 for a much sportier front end.
Updated LED headlamps give the A4 an aggressive character, and sharp character lines over the fenders create an illusion of widened shoulders. Integrated rectangular dual exhaust tips widens the stance and give a sporty yet sophisticated look from the rear. Our tester was equipped with an S-Line black package giving the A4 a sleek gloss black grille, lower grille and wing mirror caps. Also part of the package are 19-inch wheels in titanium finish giving the A4 an athletic stance. The facelift provides a refreshing design better suited for a sport sedan.
Audi has always been known for some of the best interiors in the industry. The A4’s interior is a beautiful balance of simple contemporary lines and functional luxury. Our tester being a midgrade Progressiv trim did not quite live up to the expectation of lavish interiors Audi has been known for. You will need to pony up and pay for $600 for wood inlays, or go for the S4 to get diamond stitched leather seating, carbon inlays and suede interior trim.
That said, the materials in the Progressiv trim feel excellent to the touch, and the perforated leather on the steering and shifter adds a sporty touch. The piano black inlays contrasts with the brushed aluminum trims for a sophisticated look. Leather seating is standard while competitors only offer leatherette standard. Our tester is a better representation of what most buyers will experience. Even not fully decked out, the cabin is excellent and feels top notch.
Ergonomics are by far the best of any competing German sedans. There are plenty of cubbies and storage for your day to day items such as wallets, phones and beverages. The seats are plush and supportive with a wide range of adjustability to ensure comfort even on the longest drives. Rear seating feels excellent with ample room for two adults, and trunk space is plenty for most day to day needs.
The Audi virtual cockpit gives the driver a virtual customizable gauge cluster. It is paired with the contoured flat bottom steering wheel for full control and overview of vehicle data with minimal distraction. The crisp display delivers a high tech experience which will definitely attract the more tech savvy drivers. The control interface in the virtual cockpit and Audi’s MMI navigation plus infotainment is responsive and intuitive.
It’s very rare to drive a vehicle nowadays without the need to use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, also on board here. The tech in the Audi A4 is excellent, but unfortunately if you want a heads up display unit, it is a $1,100 standalone option only available on the top trim Technik. I am sure that it’s a box which will be frequently checked especially when the digital gauge is already exceptional.
The driving experience is special in the Audi; it continues the theme of user friendliness without being dull and boring. Audi has done an excellent job with its electromechanical steering with speed sensitive power assistance. The steering tuning gives the Audi dual personality; it is light and easy in parking lots immediately weights up with speed ensuring you feel connected to road. The suspension tuning achieves a high level balance of comfort and control you would only expect from top tier manufactures.
Unfortunately adaptive damping sport suspension is an option only reserved for the Technik. However, we did not feel the need for it with Audi’s already superb suspension tuning. The A4 can cruise in comfort, gliding through rough city streets and carving up twisty bits. Paired with Audi’s renowned quattro all-wheel drive, confidence is immense.
The A4 is powered by a 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder engine with Audi Valvelift system. The engine produces 248 horsepower at 5,000RPM and 273 lb-ft. of torque at just 1,700RPM. The engine is mated to Audi’s ultra-smooth and responsive seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission with power going to all four wheels. The result is a responsive powertrain with tons of accessible torque at any time. Rolling on the throttle at highway speeds this engine feels a lot stronger than the horsepower figure suggests. According to Audi, the A4 can sprint to 100km/h in 5.9 seconds.
Even with so much performance, the A4 is frugal at the pumps. Fuel consumption is rated at 10.0L/100km city and 7.3L/100km highway for a combined 8.8L/100km. Engine power is ample, but the four-cylinder cylinder harshness still creeps up when under load, especially going uphill. Otherwise the drivetrain is smooth as silk with an all-wheel drive system that is completely seamless in operation.
The A4 starts at $46,200; our tester is the midrange Progressiv trim starting at $50,100. It also adds the S-Line package for $2,350 for an as-tested $52,450. Key rivals are the Mercedes C 300 4MATIC at $46,400 and the BMW 330i xDrive at $49,350. If similarly equipped, the BMW will cost $58,004 and the Mercedes $56,200.
Amongst this group of competition, the A4 is the most practical and solid performer with a more simplistic approach. The C 300 gives you a flashier interior but sacrifices some interior space. The BMW is the athlete of the group with the most performance available. It is also the newest model where both the Mercedes and Audi both have just received their mid-cycle updates.
Choosing between the three brands is really down to personal preference with all three options being solid choices. What each brands offer are very similar with different packaging and different flavours. The A4 drives superbly with excellent road manners, performance and performance. It lacks standard safety tech requiring add-ons to have those equipped but that is par for the course. What you pay for at base price is the driving dynamics and superb craftsmanship.
The problem is that Audi was too conservative with the fifth generation model. Buyers got bored of the design, and the competition also caught up with vastly improved all-wheel drive systems. The 2020 Audi A4 quattro has taken drastic steps, and we fully anticipate seeing more A4s on the road as a result of this.