What is the Audi A4 Mk 4?
The smallest saloon in Audi’s line-up is the automotive equivalent of a relaxing shoulder-rub and the choice of thousands of company car drivers who want to soothe their nerves after a stressful day in the office.
Its competition includes the BMW 3-series, Mercedes C-class and Volvo V60, and even Ford and Volkswagen stray into this territory with high-spec Mondeos and Passats, respectively. The range of Audi engines is more bewildering than an accountant’s spreadsheet, but our pick would be the higher-powered of the two 2-litre diesels, the 175bhp 2.0 TDI. If you want an estate, the Avant model has that covered.
The BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-class are more likely to put a smile on your face as you sashay along your favourite B-roads, but given that 95% of a typical owner’s driving time will be spent commuting from home to work, that is an irrelevance for most. The A4’s strengths of low road and wind noise and engine refinement will be what matter in everyday use.
There are front-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions, but we’d stick with front-wheel drive and its lower price. In this form the car handles well enough, tackling corners with a tidy composure and strong grip, and the ride is pliant — a must on badly surfaced British roads. As with many Audis, the steering is lacking in feedback about what the front tyres are up to, but this will be a minor criticism for most users.
The 2-litre TDI engine in 161bhp specification is flexible from 1700rpm and free-revving toward its red line, but some competitors’ motors, such as BMW’s, are smoother still and perform better against the stopwatch. With stop-start technology, Audi is able to cut emissions to just 120g/km of CO2, and if you apply the throttle delicately and time your gearchanges right, it’s possible to achieve fuel economy of 60mpg.
Audi’s interior treatment is among the best in the class. The A4 is the company’s baby saloon but it feels decidedly upmarket, substantial and built to last. In an effort to give a sporty feel, the driving position is low-slung and the dashboard rises fairly high, so it’s advisable to take a test drive and ensure you can get comfortable behind the wheel. The controls are logically laid out and there’s an ingrained feeling of high quality to everything you see and touch. Cabin space is on par for the class, and the 480-litre boot is larger than that of most rivals, so the A4 saloon offers practicality as well as comfort.
What to look out for when buying a used Audi A4
Some of the Volkswagen Group’s reliability issues of recent years have affected the A4. The TFSI engines are said to drink a lot of oil, the diesel engines have suffered problems with their fuel injectors and other reported problems are water-pump failure and coolant loss from the 3-litre V6 TDI engine. Some owners have also complained of problems with the dual-mass flywheel assembly and the exhaust particulate filter, plus occasional gearbox and turbo failures — all with the 2.0 TDI, which seems to be the most unreliable of Audi’s diesels. There are also reports of software glitches, failure of the central locking system, steering and wheel bearing wear and general rattles and squeaks from interior trim.
Audi is currently ranked 29th out of 35 manufacturers in the Warranty Direct reliability index of older vehicles, with the A4 trailing the Lexus IS, BMW 3-series and Jaguar X-type in its class, although it’s slightly ahead of the Mercedes C-class. It has also had mediocre results in the Auto Express Driver Power survey. The Lexus, Jaguar, Mercedes and even Audi’s own A5 again do better in the 2012 JD Power/What Car? survey, though younger A4s do seem to be overtaking the 3-series for reliability and customer satisfaction.
Additional reporting by Farah Alkhalisi
The one to buy
Audi A4 2.0 TDIe (177PS) SE Technik saloon
- 1968cc, 4 cylinders
- 175bhp @ 4200rpm
- 280 lb ft @ 1750rpm
- 6-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 8.2 sec
- Top speed:
- Road tax band:
- £28,900 (price correct at time of publishing)
- L 4701mm, W 1826mm, H 1427mm