New luxury Audis land in Australia
High-riding SUVs represented more than half the new cars sold in July.
That was a first for the broader market, but old news in the prestige sector where crossovers take about two-thirds of the market.
Still, conventional sedans, coupes and convertibles play important roles for luxury brands such as Audi. Taking the fight to BMW's 3 Series with a blend of understated design and sure-footed dynamics for more than two decades, the A4 is an important element of Audi's range.
The latest model is a subtly facelifted take on the A4's fifth generation, one with fresh tech to help keep it competitive.
As before, there are three body styles in the A4 range (a conventional sedan, "Avant" wagon and high-riding Allroad), plus three stylish A5 cousins (in two-door coupe, convertible and four-door "Sportback" form).
The range starts from $55,900 plus on-road costs (about $63,000 drive-away) with the A4 35 TFSI, which combines a 110kW/270Nm four-cylinder turbo petrol engine with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto driving the front wheels. An S-Line sports package adds $4000 to the bill, while the A4 45 TFSI quattro with all-wheel-drive and a punchier 183kW/370Nm version of the same fundamental engine is $13,000 dearer than the base model at $68,900 plus on-roads.
A wagon body for the A4 quattro costs $2500 more, while the high-riding Allroad adds $1500 to that. A 2.0-litre turbo diesel option is reserved for the Allroad, appealing to cost-conscious customers with its superior fuel economy and a $69,900 sticker price undercutting the petrol variant by $3000.
The A5 coupe and Sportback come at a $11,000 premium over the A4 quattro, bringing extra features including matrix LED headlights and adaptive cruise control as standard.
The price hike may sound steep but Audi says the Sportback quattro is the most popular variant of the lot. As with BMW, Audi recognises sedan buyers value driving poise, so the standard car comes with 19-inch wheels and taut sports suspension.
Solid safety features join tech such as wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a 10.1-inch high-resolution touchscreen in all models and Audi's latest digital dashboard in all but the cheapest car.
The quattro upgrade is a worthy one for enthusiasts, as superior traction and the high-powered engine make it quicker - both from a standing start and accelerating out of bends - and more rewarding than the front-driver. Mild hybrid tech in the quattro saves 0.3L/100km of fuel, though 7.1L/100km economy isn't particularly impressive. The A4 and A5 are athletic when pushed through corners but feel a little firm on bumpy roads. Sharp steering and brake responses combine well with high-performance tyres to make quattro models feel more engaging than high-riding SUVs.
Handsome, fun to drive and loaded with tech, the A4 and A5 offer a worthy alternative to the high-riding hordes.
Audi's updated S4 and S5 performance family arrive in September. Ditching the four-cylinder engines of lesser models, the S4 and S5 are powered by a turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol V6 sending 260kW and 500Nm to all four wheels.
Able to hit 100km/h in 4.7 seconds, the sports models are limited to 250km/h. Bigger brakes, sports suspension and the (highly recommended) option of a torque-vectoring rear differential help make it sharper to drive than the A4. Priced from $99,900, the S4 also has more generous standard features including a Bang & Olufsen stereo, better interior trim and superior lighting and more comprehensive driver aids.
Folks who want even more performance should wait for an updated version of the RS 4 wagon and RS 5 coupe and sedan, which should have even sharper dynamics backed by a twin-turbocharged 331kW engine for about $150,000 plus on-roads.
AUDI A4 VITALS
Price: From about $63,000 to $80,000 drive-away
Warranty/servicing: 3 year/unl'td km, $1710 for 3 years
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, 110kW/270Nm or 183kW/370Nm
Safety: 5 stars, 8 airbags, auto emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert
Thirst: 6.1L/100km or 7.1L/100km
Spare: Space saver
Cargo: 460 litres (sedan)
Originally published as New luxury Audis land in Australia