The A4 used to be touted as the poor man’s BMW. Could this version finally overcome the previous version’s dynamic limitations and give the 3 series a real run for its money?
In a word, no. Although improved in many areas, BMW’s rival compact executive was still the better drive. But that doesn’t mean the A4 should be dismissed altogether.
Audi A4 Engines And Specification
From launch, the A4 was available with a multitude of petrol and diesel engines. The petrol line-up comprised 1.6, 1.8 turbocharged, 2.0, 2.0 FSI, 2.0 turbocharged FSI, 3.2 V6 units, ranging from 101-252bhp. The 414bhp 4.2 V8 RS4 was launched in 2006. The diesels included 1.9, 2.0, 2.5, 2.7 and 3.0 units, ranging from 114-230bhp.
The base 1.6 petrol isn’t great for motorway work – it needs to be worked hard if it’s to keep up with fast-moving traffic. Most of the diesels are exceptional and return excellent economy, although the 1.9 pump düse unit isn’t exactly refined, especially when run from cold. More powerful petrol and diesel engines are mated to Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive, which works well but the downside is worse fuel economy.
A4 Avant And Cabriolet
The majority of A4s on the used market are saloons, although an estate (Avant) and Cabriolet (from 2006) also sold well, and there are plenty to choose from.
The base spec is (unusually for a German carmaker) good: you get alloy wheels, climate control, electric front windows, an alarm, electric mirrors, and traction and stability control. SE brings electric rear windows, a CD multi changer, and cruise control. S Line adds sports trim.
Audi A4 Gearboxes
Most A4 manuals came with the six-speed ML gearbox (five-speed manuals were offered on less powerful petrols and diesels. It’s an excellent, slick-shifting transmission and is highly recommended. But if an automatic is an absolute must the six-speed Tiptronic Multitronic auto also gets the thumbs up. A CVT unit is also offered but is best avoided.
What To Watch Out For
Check the oil level of 2.0 TDi diesels – the engine is very fragile once the level drops below the minimum.
Dual mass flywheel failures are common on manuals and automatics.
Check for uneven rear tire wear on Avant models – it’s a sign that the bushes are worn.
Central locking can prove troublesome – check all doors lock and unlock.
Check that manual gears engage easily and that the clutch isn’t stiff/hard to operate.
Audi A4 Engines And Dimensions
The following list shows the engines’ performance, and dimensions, as quoted by Audi:
1.6 petrol, 100bhp, 0-62mph 12.6sec, top speed 118mph, 36.2mpg, 187g/km CO2
1.8 turbocharged petrol – 160bhp, 0-62mph 8.6sec, top speed 141mph, 34.0mpg, 199g/km CO2
2.0 FSI petrol – 128bhp, 0-62mph 9.9sec, top speed 131mph, 34.9mpg, 194g/km CO2
2.0 FSI turbocharged petrol – 197bhp, 0-62mph 7.3sec, top speed 149mph, 35.3mpg, 192g/km CO2
3.2 FSI petrol – 252bhp, 0-62mph 6.8sec, top speed 155mph, 29.4mpg, 230g/km CO2
4.2 V8 petrol S4 – 339bhp, 0-62mph 5.6sec, top speed 155mph, 21.2mpg, 322g/km CO2
4.2 V8 petrol RS4 – 414bhp, 0-62mph 4.8sec, top speed 155mph, 20.9mpg, 324g/km CO2
1.9 TDi diesel – 113bhp, 0-62mph 11.2sec, top speed 124mph, 49.6mpg, 154g/km CO2
2.0 TDi diesel – 138bhp, 0-62mph 9.7sec, top speed 131mph, 47.9mpg, 158g/km CO2
2.0 TDi 170 diesel – 167bhp, 0-62mph 8.6sec, top speed 142mph, 48.7mpg, 154g/km CO2
2.5 TDi diesel – 160bhp, 0-62mph 8.8sec, top speed 141mph, 40.9mpg, 186g/km CO2
2.7 TDi diesel – 177bhp, 0-62mph 8.4sec, top speed 143mph, 40.1mpg, 185g/km CO2
3.0 TDi diesel – 201bhp, 0-62mph 7.2sec, top speed 146mph, 36.7mpg, 206g/km CO2
335d – 3.0 diesel auto – 282bhp, 0-62mph 6.2sec, top speed 155mph, 37.7mpg, 200g/km CO2
Boot space (seats up/down) 460/720 litres (saloon) 442/1184 (Avant)
Used Audi A4 For Sale
Audi’s A4 might not be able to give the BMW 3 series a run for its money when the two are compared dynamically, but they’re neck and neck on quality, kudos, and reliability. Audi interiors have always been brilliantly built from quality materials, and this A4 is no exception. Soft-touch plastics adorn the dashboard, the instruments are easy to read and the controls are laid out logically, and are easy to use. The MMI interface used to control the sat-nav, audio, and ventilation, is generally accepted as being a better system than BMW’s iDrive.
In Europe, the top choice has to be one of the refined diesels, such as the 2.0 TDi. It’s smooth, quiet, has plenty of torque, and should return low 40s MPG in daily life.
In markets that favor petrol engines, the 3.2 FSI is a good all-rounder, although FSI engines operate best when run on zero sulfur gasoline. Otherwise, the high-performance S4 or RS4 gets top billing; the weak 1.6 petrol should be avoided.
The Avant model should be considered a lifestyle estate rather than a true load-lugger. Nevertheless, it will carry a couple of retrievers without any bother and is attractively styled. Uneven rear tire wear should be checked out though.
The Cabriolet wasn’t available with the 1.6 engine or the RS4’s 414bhp unit but came with everything else between (including the S4’s engine). The body is prone to scuttle shake and tends to float over high-speed highway undulations but it’s a good cruiser. A canvas electric folding roof doesn’t get its full marks for security – or peace of mind – but at least it’s generally trouble-free.