Adept at making the city driver’s life stress-free, Audi’s compact luxury sedan delivers, and how.
Signs of life getting back to normal is starkly evident on my daily drive to the office. A 7km journey that took 20 minutes during the height of the pandemic now takes a good half an hour. And if I’ve timed my departure wrong (which is plum in peak traffic), it can even be a frustrating 40 minutes. People are back on the move, offices have started in full swing and traffic is crazier than ever. The way you have to keep your wits about you whilst dodging cars and bikes, it seems that after long spells of staying at home, people have forgotten to drive or ride! To mitigate the return of stress behind the wheel, you need something that is stress-free to drive.
HAPPY RIDE, Exemplary ride quality smothers out bad roads.
That’s the cue for our long term Audi A4 to enter this story and take a bow. Before I proceed, I want to categorically say that the A4 is without a doubt the nicest compact luxury sedan I have lived with. It may seem that I am showering undue praise on what many would consider nothing more than an inoffensive sedan, but after living with the A4 I am completely smitten by its congenial nature, which soothingly lowers my pulse rate.
That’s not to say the A4 isn’t brisk, a couple of trips to Mahabaleshwar have proved it to be an energetic cruiser capable of scything past fast-moving traffic with ease. In fact, the A4 is one of the easiest cars I’ve driven in a long time and here’s why.
Compact dimensions, great visibility and a responsive powertrain makes the A4 a perfect city car.
It starts with great outside visibility, despite the sporty sedan-like low seating position. The A-pillars and mirrors don’t create blind spots and the driving position itself is just perfect, which sets you up nicely for long hours behind the wheel. Then there’s the brilliant 2.0 TSI engine which divulges a little known fact that this same engine, with identical 190hp and 320Nm outputs, used in other VW Group cars is, well, not the same. In fact, the A4’s engine feels much better than the 2.0 TSI units that power the Skoda Octavia and Superb we are running parallelly in our long-term fleet. For one, the A4’s 2.0 TSI feels smoother, more refined and responsive enough to make light work of any traffic situation. Switching between the Skodas and the A4 shows up the nuances of engine calibration and how it makes a world of a difference in the driving experience. The Octavia is over responsive and the Superb has a more measured and slightly duller throttle response in comparison to its smaller sibling, but it’s the A4 that feels just spot on with the right amount of linearity in the way it responds. And it’s this linearity – the way the A4 reacts in direct proportion to any input from the driver, without them having to second guess how the car will react – that is the secret behind the A4’s painless driving experience. The automatic transmission too is silky smooth, and apart from the initial hesitation you experience when you squeeze the throttle pedal (a characteristic of any twin-clutch gearbox), the shifts are seamless and jerk free.
SMOOTHIE, 2-litre engine is refined, responsive and makes for effortless driving.
And then there’s the ride quality, which again is of a different order. The A4’s suspension deftly balances sportiness and comfort like no other compact luxury sedan, and that too riding on a set of conventional steel springs. Sharp edges, which can be felt in other luxury cars, are superbly rounded off in the A4 as it has an underlying suppleness that makes riding over Mumbai’s terrible roads a surprisingly comfortable experience. Audi’s philosophy of using higher than usual profile tyres has paid dividends when it comes to the secondary ride, which is influenced by the tyre’s ability to cushion the shocks.
Turbo-petrol engines deliver wildly varying fuel efficiency and the TSI unit is no exception. On a hard charge up the ghat to Mahabaleshwar, fuel consumption can be as low as 6.5kpl, whilst driving normally in everyday traffic sees the figure rise to around 9kpl. On the highway, a steady cruise returned a thrifty 14kpl on one occasion.
HERE’S A CATCH, Bonnet cannot be released without opening driver’s door.
Living with the A4, you also start discovering some of its foibles and one of them is the bonnet release design. You have to open the driver’s door first to be able to pull the lever that pops open the hood. Now you would think this isn’t a big issue because the bonnet is rarely opened – except when it goes to a garage for routine service – right? Wrong. Security protocol at many Indian hotels require the hood to be opened (to check God knows what), and this was a nuisance every time I entered the Taj Lands End, which I frequently visited in the run up to the Autocar Awards. In a monsoon downpour, opening the door to pull the bonnet latch would be even more inconvenient.
As a long time iPhone user, Apple CarPlay is a must for me and though the A4 has it installed, it’s not wireless, which I found annoying, because you don’t always have a cable handy and there’s no place in the centre console to neatly store a tethered phone.
WIRED, Apple CarPlay is not wireless and there’s no place for a tethered phone.
Otherwise, it’s hard to find faults with the A4 which I am completely smitten with. When you spend long days with it, you realise that you shouldn’t judge a car by its spec sheet alone. Because that would mean unfairly underrating this brilliant, understated car.