Last weekend's Saturday drive included included Graskop, Ohrigstad, Pilgrim’s Rest, Graskop and back to Mbombela where I drove the new Audi A4 2.0-litre S-line.
I could, however, not resist the temptation to do another longish drive on Sunday. This time we drove via Kaapsehoop, Waterval Boven, Schoemanskloof and back to Mbombela.
Why? Well, this new A4 certainly is a driver’s car. Not so sure whether one can refer to the 2.0-litre as a performance car in the true sense of the word though? But yes, I just wanted to drive it all the time!
A new design
The new A4 is a large sedan. Audi did, however, manage to produce a car that is lighter (about a 100kg, depending on the model) than its predecessor and this of course, despite similar engines, improves, among other things, performance and fuel consumption. The new car, in my opinion, is not really a completely new design, however it is edgier. The front end is more aggressive and dominating - the rear end has a broader more kick-ass energy to it, and from a rear-side-on view, the overall view offers a powerful latent energy that is ready to explode when “that itch” just cannot be contained any longer.
The stance is low and wide and the wheel arches are subtle but still enhance the coupé-like feel of the A4. Even with the new features, one will have to stare deeply to recognise this model from the previous one.
Three trim level packages (standard, sport and design) will be available - two petrol versions and diesels will follow in due time.
Should we ooh and aah about it?
From the first moment I sat myself down in the driver’s seat I liked it – it feels planted. Fit and finish inside is typical Audi quality. The interior ergonomics are uncluttered but still ooze elegance and an air of sophistication.
The driver’s space is focused but not claustrophobic - access to all the controls - from that of the MMI navigation via a tablet-sized screen to the audio controls and the rest is uncomplicated. The digital display behind the steering wheel offers different modes which also allow for displaying the navigation screen right in front of the driver. In this mode the speedometer and rev counter feature as smaller displays on both sides of the primary display.
The test vehicle also offered technology which will, via the use of a 3G card, offer a three dimensional navigation and - Wi-Fi on the move. Amazing stuff huh? All this technology may just have one living in your car possibly sooner rather than later. The test vehicle also came with park-distance control which is not standard and while on this point, the A4 lends itself to serious customisation and your budget will determine where you will end up. Luggage space on offer is 480 litres but fold the seatbacks down and it increases to 926 litres.
The engine room
The current engines are a 1,4-litre 110kW, 250Nm and a 2,0-litre TFSI that produces 140kW and 320Nm and this is the one I drove in the S-Line derivative. My fuel index during normal open cruising registered a mere 5.8-litres/100km. When you force-feed it, it moves to the 12 litres/100km mark, which in my opinion is still quite acceptable.
The Audi is an extremely quiet car, inside and out and this is the only query I have. I am also not really interested or moved by top speed - it is about what a car does through and between corners, the short sprints, hard emergency braking and evasive (pothole) manoeuvres. I pushed it through Robber’s Pass, we skipped our intention to do a brunch at Pilgrim’s Rest and drove on to Graskop. The looks and energy at Pilgrim’s were not welcoming at all, the dereliction of the town is actually quite shocking.
The short stretch between Pilgrim’s and Graskop also offers a good performance drive opportunity. Pity though about the long grass which grows right up to the edge of the road and limits one’s forward view. There are also a couple of potholes here and in Robber’s Pass right on the power drive corner lines, so if you are not aware of these, be careful.
The A4 was as flat and firm through these tight corners as a Bruce Lee six pack. The only thing lacking was that it was not talking back through the sound box (exhaust). I consider this a serious oversight by the Audi engineers. The weight on the steering during hard driving is perfect, it sticks to the chosen line, and small corrections (if and when required) are taken in its stride. It is surprisingly agile for such a large car and although I have not driven the 1,4, I do believe that most, if not all, are surprised by its performance.
Whether you are cruising the open road Miss Daisy style, or power driving, the A4 is a car that you can drive with total confidence. We loved it - but for the lack of the vroom-vroom exhaust note.
Only time will tell whether it will attract new and first-time Audi buyers. Compared to its competitors (Mercedes and BMW), Audi used to be more affordable than it currently is, while still offering the same luxury features. Be that as it may, the A4 has a lot to offer.