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First drive: Audi launches A4-midable challenger

Vital: B8-series A4 will be vital to Audi's sizeable growth ambitions.

Audi's most formidable A4 ever leaves us wanting more and should worry BMW and Benz

7 Apr 2008

THE newest compact Audi sedan to hit Australia in 13 years has arrived ahead of the redesigned B8-series A4's official release in May.

Ranging from $50,990 for the base 1.8 TFSI to $89,500 for the 3.0 TDI quattro - for now - the all-new A4 range will once again comprise a wagon. Due in August as the $57,100 Avant 1.8 TFSI, it offers 1430 litres of cargo space, while – for the first time – a diesel joins the bandwagon in $58,500 Avant 2.0 TDI guise.

Further models will be unveiled in due course, including an S4 V8 and a range-topping RS4 bahn-stormer to meet the latest BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C63 challenge.

Audi Australia may also import the high-economy/low-emissions A4 2.0 TDIe, but is assessing the availability of high-grade diesel fuel here before committing.

A complete generational model change, the A4 sedan’s body is now longer by 117mm at 4703mm and wider by 55mm at 1826mm, and sits on a 167mm longer wheelbase at 2808mm, with the front tracks being 45mm wider at 1564mm and rear tracks 36mm wider at 1551mm. There’s also 3mm and 6mm more front and rear headroom respectively.

The B8 also features the new-from-the-ground-up Modular Longitudinal Platform (MLP) that underpins last year’s A5/S5 two-door coupe range.

Still basically a front-wheel drive vehicle featuring a longitudinal engine layout, as well as the option of quattro torsen differential all-wheel drive, the 2008 A4 sits on a longer wheelbase.

Its engine, gearbox and drivetrain have been repositioned backwards to achieve a better weight balance and lower centre of gravity than previously. This is why the front axle has also been pushed forward.

7 center imageThe upshot is improved steering, handling, roadholding and ride characteristics – with the latter being one of the A4 engineers’ greatest challenges.

Aiding this is the first A4 application of what is catchingly referred to as ‘Audi Drive Select Dynamic Driving System’ - a $3200 option that sharpens up the steering and dampers and increases throttle response for a sportier drive.

A new variable ratio rack-and-pinion steering set-up is also available, while brakes are now bigger than before.

The front suspension is an aluminium five-link design, while the rear is a multi-link arrangement. Quattro cars now have up to 60 per cent of drive channelled to the rear wheels.

Four engines and three gearboxes have been announced initially, with more on their way next year.

The 1.8 TFSI ousts the previous B7’s long-lived 96kW/195Nm 1984cc 2.0-litre normally-aspirated and 120kW/225Nm 1781cc turbocharged DOHC 20-valve four-cylinder petrol engine family for an all-new 1798cc DOHC 16-valve direct-injection unit delivering 118kW of power at 4500rpm and 250Nm of torque from 1500rpm to 4500rpm.

Available with a six-speed manual or a redesigned Multitronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with eight stepped ‘speeds’, it returns 7.4L/100km and does a 0-100km/h sprint time in 8.6 seconds.

The B8 continues with a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine, but the revamped 1968cc unit now features common-rail and piezo-injector technology and a diesel particulate filter.

Teamed with the Multitronic transmission, it produces 105kW at 4200rpm and 320Nm at 1750-2500rpm, and boasts 5.8L/100km combined average fuel usage and 9.4 second 0-100km/h dash times.

Mid-year will see the Australian debut of Audi’s 2698cc 2.7-litre V6 TDI common-rail turbo-diesel with Multitronic, dishing out 140kW at 3500rpm, 400Nm from 1400-3250rpm, 6.6L/100km and a 7.7-second sprint.

Like Mercedes with its W204 C-class rival, Audi will pitch both a petrol and diesel A4 luxury sedan flagship, with each using a conventional six-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox like before.

The former is a derivation of the 3197cc 3.2 FSI V6 delivering 195kW at 6500rpm and 330Nm from 3000-5000rpm. Using quattro drive, it hits 100km/h in 6.4 seconds and uses premium unleaded at a rate of 9.3L/100km.

Topping this is a 3.0 TDI quattro due in October, with 176kW at 4000rpm, 500Nm from 1500-3000rpm, a 6.1 second sprint time while sipping an average of 6.4L/100km.

New to the A4 are features such as an electro-mechanical park brake, adaptive cruise control, Audi’s MMI driver interface, a lane-change indicator, side proximity alert, rear camera, keyless entry and start, a standard 6.5-inch colour screen and three-zone climate-control air-conditioning.

All models include the latter two items, plus ESP stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, eight airbags, cruise control, alloy wheels, a multi-function steering wheel, light and rain sensor technology, leather upholstery, power windows, remote central locking, aluminium exterior trim, a trip computer and split/folding rear seats.

The B8 is the eighth-generation ‘compact’ Audi sedan since the B1 80 series was launched in Germany in 1972. Since then there have been around 8.5 million units made, with the A4 badge usurping the old numerical nomenclature from 1994’s B5 generation.

Some of the innovations that this series has employed include quattro drive (B2, 1980), full body galvanisation (B3, 1986) Audi’s ambitious but domed Pro-Con Ten secondary restraint system (B3, 1986), and TDI turbo-diesel technology (B3, 1989).

The A4 has become Audi’s global best-seller, averaging around 41 per cent of total volume. In Australia it accounts for 46 per cent. Last year 2247 A4s found homes here, with about 3500 forecast for 2008 and 4000 next year.

The company expects that 70 per cent of all B8s sold in the next 12 months will be the 1.8 TFSI CVT, followed by the 2.0 TDI at 10 per cent. Australian-delivered A4s are now all built in Germany.

“This is [Audi’s] most important launch ever in Australia,” stated Audi Australia managing director Joerg Hofmann.

2008 Audi A4 range pricing:
1.8 TFSI sedan $50,900
1.8 TFSI sedan (CVT) $53,500
2.0 TDI sedan (CVT) $54,900
1.8 TFSI Avant (CVT) $53,500*
2.0 TDI Avant (CVT) $54,900*
2.7 TDI sedan (CVT) $67,900**
3.2 FSI quattro sedan (a) $88,500
3.0 TDI quattro sedan (a) $89,500***
* Available August 2008
** Available June 2008
*** Available October 2008

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