2008 Audi A4 | road test

Posted on Oct 23, 2008 by

A4
Effort

The
has always figured towards the top of the premium mid-size
sedan league because of its agility, its ability to score from a wide
range of perspectives and its athletic all-rounder million dollar
sponsorship looks. But can it still live up to the hype and run rings
around the opposition?

Genetically,
it would be virtually impossible for to inject new design
thinking into the A4 and for it to emerge from the laboratory looking
anything less than seductive and sporty. The A4 has always oozed a
subtle blend of sophistication, adrenaline and functionality, and
this 2008 model continues that lineage with aplomb. Having previously
adopted in the 2006 model the trapezoid grille common to the face of
all new Audis, the new A4 has enhanced the sportiness of the ‘mask’
with angular race-inspired sculpting to the narrow lower intake and
the blacked out intakes either side which also house the fog-lamps.
Another significant design update is the adoption of the R8-inspired
headlamp clusters with their row of LED running lights presenting the
lower ‘lid’ to an almost reptilian pair of eyes.

If
you compare the new A4 with the old, you’ll notice that the front
wheels have been pushed a few inches further forward for improved
weight distribution and better turn in and that the car is a huge
12cm longer than the one it replaces.

It
must be said that in profile the A4 has more than a passing
resemblance, especially towards the rear end, to the BMW 3 Series but
without the boot spoiler, however this is far more to do with
aerodynamics than a lack of imagination on behalf of Audi designers.
The A4 has deeper doors and higher shoulders than the 3 Series and is
also more angular in the design of its door frames, featuring a thin
rear pillar which also emphasises its 4,703mm length. This in turn
makes the rear passenger seating more roomy and airy with ample space
for two tall adults or three children.

In
fact, apart from the drive, it is the interior of the new A4 which
really sells the car to you. The new A4 is beautifully built, using
materials that feel expensive to touch and a pleasure to use. Aside
from some silver-painted plastic around the speedo there’s little to
remind you that you’re driving an A4 rather than the A6 or A8. For a
medium size premium sedan the quality doesn’t get much better:
perforated tan Milano leather seats and door panels; black stitched
leather steering wheel with race-style contouring for better grip;
subtle wood veneer highlights above the glovebox and across upper
doors, and the linen black roof lining. All these elements together
create a stylish, cosseting cabin which still manages to feel
‘roomy’. And it is – 8-way electrically adjustable semi-bucket
front seats plus 4-way bolstering allow for plenty of leg and upper
body comfort. The semi-bucket padding is firm enough to hold you in
place in the turns without feeling restrictive on longer journeys.

The
rear seats too have contouring, making the centre position a little
less comfortable but the head restraints all-round (active in the
front) are evidence of Audi’s safety concerns.

Continuing
the comfort theme, the front seats are vented to keep the back cool
and shirt dry, while the air con at full ‘whack’ is sufficient
without blowing your head off, although it is still rather noisy.

A
minor foible with the operation of the air con etc. is the fact that
in order to adjust the air con/heater power and direction, you first
have to press the appropriate button positioned down the side of the
monitor in the centre console and then make the adjustment using the
on-screen display for guidance, as all the adjustments share the same
knob. As a driver this is a little too distracting to do while you’re
driving.

The
same can be said of the entertainment system controls on the steering
wheel. If you want to change radio station, for example, your options
are shown on the red digital display between the rev and speedo
dials. You adjust using the roller button on the left of the wheel,
but it takes a certain degree of your concentration away from the
road to do so.

But
these elements apart – which are not limited to just Audis, the A4
has class-leading interior space. And it should be when you consider
that it is bigger than the competition. Rear passengers get most of
the benefit, with plenty of head and shoulder room. Storage is
generally good with large a glove-box and sufficient door pockets.
The centre storage is limited due to phone mount while inside the
rear armrest is the first aid kit. Boot space is also excellent, with
more than 480 litres available.

 

 

A4
has always been good fun to drive, and the 1.8-litre turbo ’08
model is outstanding even though the competition will still give it
more than a run for its money. The steering is well weighted and
accurate, offering you plenty of feedback and control without the
feeling that you’re driving a tractor. The car also responds with
very good grip levels although for a front wheel drive 1.8T still has
a tendency to understeer when you plant it a little too firmly into a
corner, and it finds it hard to recover even when you lift off
(unlike the rear wheel drive BMW 3 Series which feels more controlled
and balanced). When the 3.2-litre Quattro arrives, the four wheel
drive system will obviously help address this as well as offering a
more potent driving experience over all, one hopes.

Audi
has made the most of the Audi Drive Select system which, at the touch
of a button in the A4’s centre console, transforms a sedate family
cruiser into a taunt planted sportscar – or at least that ‘s how
it feels – by varying the suspension’s damping, the shift speed in
auto and the steering ratio. The settings are defined as:

Comfort
– throttle response is balanced, steering is light and suspension
is soft.

Auto
– comfortable but dynamic. The steering a bit heavier, and
suspension is stiffer.

Dynamic
– tighter setup. The steering is direct, throttle response is
immediate, gear changes are higher, and suspension is stiffer.

Last
year we drove the lumbering Lexus LS460 with its 8-speed gearbox and
at the time couldn’t understand the point on such a large luxury
car, but on the Audi A4 it all seems to fall into place. The box is
close ration but perfectly adaptable for either cruising or
performance driving, and is also good for economy. In Dynamic mode
you get very good power and torque delivery for a more spirited
drive, and paddle-shifters connected to the wheel allow you to change
gear during mild cornering and will override the automatic selection
in any mode. Meanwhile the DCP (Dynamic Gear Control Program)
responds to your driving style to offer the most sporty or relaxed
drive by monitoring the smoothness or aggression with which you are
making your inputs.

From
a safety perspective, the A4 features active systems such as adaptive
cruise control with ‘braking guard’ collision warning, Audi Side
Assist to help prevent collision during lane changes, and Park
Assist. It has also received the 5-star rating for occupant safety
from EuroNCAP and comes fitted with 6 airbags as standard.

The
new A4 is vastly better than the previous model which, to be honest,
wasn’t so bad. In the past this model has accounted for 50% of Audi
vehicle sales, and one assumes that the suits in Ingolstadt would
like that to continue. But times are changing and with two other
German marques producing stunning premium mid-size sedans in the
shape of the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C-Class, the A4 won’t
have an easy task.

Technical
Specifications

Model2008 Audi
A4
Bodystyle4-Door
Sedan
Engine1.8 Turbo
TransmissionMultitronic
Power160bhp
Torque250Nm
Acceleration0-100km/h
in 8.2 secs
Top Speed218km/h
Prices
Starting from
AED130,000
onwards

 

 

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