Audi A4 2.0 TDI 150 Ultra SE12 | 10 | 2015Scotcars rating

    We get to grips with Audi's its latest-gen A4 saloon packed with electronic wizardry

    THE LAUNCH OF ANY new Audi A4 is an event which attracts the necessary attention. And its UK launch cleverly coincides with the opening of the new £9 million Audi Terminal — the largest in Scotland — in Aberdeen. Not only is the A4 one of the Ingolstadt car builder's principal revenue-generators, but it's beloved by fleet managers and family drivers alike. So what's the latest version like?

    This is the ninth generation of the A4, which first appeared in 1972 as the Audi 80, and this all-new version is bigger and sleeker than before, and drives much better than its predecessors.

    Based on Audi’s new MLB platform, which it shares with the Q7, the latest A4 is up to 110kg lighter than the previous generation A4 and feels much more nimble. There's no denying it's a much better driver's car.

    As you'd expect, there's a comprehensive array of powerplants, ranging from the 1.4-litre petrol with 150PS, to a range-topping three-litre V6 diesel with 218PS. Sandwiched in the mainstream are a 2.0-litre petrol with 190PS, and two two-litre diesels with 150 or 190PS.

    Drivers get the choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed S Tronic automatic, while as you’d expect on an Audi, quattro all-wheel-drive is also an option. And while an Avant estate model will follow shortly, the saloon is certainly something of a headturner.

    It's the fleet manager's preferred choice, and the model which will account for the largest volume on the UK — the 2.0 TDI 150 Ultra SE — which we'll be concentrating on here. Audi claims it is capable of up to 74.3mpg and 99g/km of CO2, so definitely worth checking out.

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    There's a mindboggling list of optional electronic driver aids — many of which point to the slightly controversial target held by the majority of global car manufacturers of autonomous driving — which includes a barrage of sensors and cameras that cab already virtually let the car drive itself through slow traffic. The A4 also has the option of Audi's virtual dashboard — first seen on the latest-gen TT — which puts the sat-nav map in the driver’s line of sight and replaces conventional dials. The A4 can also be had with Apple CarPlay

    For £1450, Audi's technology package — which adds the navigation, an extra Bluetooth connectivity slot, wireless charging pad and two USB connections — as well as the fully digital instrument cluster, is a no-brainer. If you can afford to, tick the box on the option sheet: the system works brilliantly.

    Externally you'll know it's the new A4, but the differences between this and its predecessor are very subtle. In true Audi fashion, this is an evolution rather than a revolution, certainly in terms of exterior styling.

    Look closely and you'll see there are some stylish new bodylines and creases along the side of the A4's body, while there's also a new set of LED headlights and taillights.

    Despite the fact the latest A4 has grown in size — it's 25mm longer (12mm of the stretch is in the wheelbase) and 16mm wider — its drag coefficient of 0.23 is said to be lowest in class.

    That increase in wheelbase is felt in the cabin where knee room is particularly impressive for rear passengers — worth highlighting though that the chunky transmission tunnel in the back remains, meaning it can be awkward to sit three adults comfortably in the back — while front seat occupants have a satisfyingly capacious cockpit.

    Related: Roadtest — Audi Q7 3.0TDI quattro

    As for bootspace, with the rear seats in place you can pack 480 litres of goodies, increasing to 965 litres when you fold them flat. When the Avant arrives, the stowage volume increases to 1510 litres.

    Inside the cabin, the new A4 sets new class standards. And not only is it crammed with new technology, but it's all so beautifully crafted and feels more premium than its rivals.

    You would expect, certainly in an Audi, to feel that everything has been well screwed together, but in addition all the materials feel soft and plush, while I defy you to find a piece of plastic in the cabin which feels cheap to the touch.

    Audi's infotainment and navigation system requires a special mention. The combination of the brilliant virtual cockpit and Audi’s new touchscreen display makes the whole infotainment system very simple and intuitive to use.

    For the first time, the 8.3-inch display is now a touchscreen, and such are the technological advancements that it now responds to functions similar to how you would operate a smartphone, so you can pinch to zoom in and out and swipe across the screen to move across the navigation map.

    As I mentioned earlier, the A4 is now also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which essentially mirror your smartphone’s functions and menus onto the 8.3-inch central touchscreen display.

    And just for good measure, buyers can also opt for LTE mobile connectivity, which will turn their cars into a wi-fi hotspot.

    The 2.0-litre engine fitted to the test car may be the entry-level diesel, but it's something of cracker. Producing 148bhp and 236lb/ft of torque, and returning up to 74.3mpg at the pumps, it also emits just 99g/km CO2, meaning no road tax.

    Our car was fitted with the standard six-speed manual gearbox, which was pleasingly slick contributing to the car hitting 62mph from standstill in 8.9secs.

    Related: Roadtest — Audi SQ5

    Like all A4s, the test car came with Audi's Drive Select system, which gives drivers the chance to choose from five different driving modes, altering things such a throttle response and steering weight.

    All Audi Ultra models come with lower, stiffer sports suspension as standard — something I personally like, but others tend to find a bit too harsh — all in a bid to be more aerodynamic and reduce CO2 emissions.

    Over a combination of A- and B-class roads, allied to a stretch of motorway, the Ultra remained surefooted and the ride both pliable and comfortable.

    So, is the entry-level diesel worth considering? We definitely think so. Sure there are slight benefits by going for the same engine in 190PS guise — you'll know 1.2s off the 0-62mph 'sprint', for example, but truly, how relevant is that in normal everyday motoring — and there's always the attraction of the higher-powered 3.0-litre TDI A4 waiting in the wings.

    But if you're a company car driver, and someone who's naturally aware of looking after the pennies, the tax advantages of the 150PS seal the deal.

    Like its big brother, the entry-level is quiet — even moreso if you opt for the impressive acoustic glazing — economical and comfortable, plus the new A4 is laden with the kind of technology usually reserved for cars in the class above.

    Take a hint: debadge the 2.0 TDI 150 Ultra SE, and no one will know you've got the entry-level powerplant, and you can happily look smug when you park one of the best cars in its class in the office car park.

    Related: Roadtest — Audi TT 2.0TDI Ultra

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    Jim McGill


    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £28,465 / £33,565.00
    Engine / Power: 4cyls, 1968cc, turbocharged diesel, 6sp manual gearbox / 148bhp
    How fast?: 0-62mph 8.9sec; / Max 130mph
    How big/heavy?: L4726mm W1842mm H1404mm / 1430kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: 74.3mpg combined / 99g/km CO2
    InsGP/Road tax: n/a / Zero
    Alternatives: BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Jaguar XE

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