The Audi A4 has taken a quantum leap forwards with its latest generation, having inherited refinement boosts like £200 “acoustic glazing” from the sublime A6, and new engines with amazingly low official emissions.
There are few saloons that can match the showroom appeal of a clean A4 in range-topping S line trim, complete with (optional) large RS alloy wheels, sports seats trimmed in special upholstery, loads of gadgets and the availability of more powerful engines.
It’s a car that divides opinion on the road. Some people admire it and others despise it, partly due to the reputation German saloon drivers have for being, how shall I phrase it... impatient? However you view it, there’s no arguing that the A4 has a strong image – all the stronger when its sharpened lines are twinned with this trim level.
A driver over six feet might need to push their seat back far enough to squeeze into a rear passenger’s knee room, and since the seat backs are covered with hard plastic that’s not especially good for Johnny Rear-Seat. Channels are cut down the front seatbacks to improve the knee room a fraction more.
The boot is huge, swallowing large cases and coming back for more. There are also rails for using luggage dividers and barriers to stop things sliding around as much as they might, plus a 12v socket as part of the £175 Storage Pack. In the cabin there’s a similarly impressive range of places to store everyday bits and pieces, along with the option to add a cupholder-based ashtray/waste bin.
The latest 2.0-litre diesel is in imperious form in 187bhp guise. It’s quiet and refined beneath the A4’s impressive soundproofing measures, and it tootles along through town and country like a true modern gentleman’s chariot. Put your foot down, though, and the thrust on tap swells up from nowhere, powering the A4 through overtakes with creamy acceleration.
It stops on a sixpence, turns accurately once the initial delay in the steering response passes, and grips like a limpet. The front end starts to feel heavy once you start pushing on, but it’s no big deal. Much more annoying is the two-button drive mode selector, positioned too far down and all the way on the far side of the centre console. It takes concentration to find the buttons and select the mode you want – a dial would have been much better.
The ride quality is good, considering the gargantuan wheels beneath the arches. They introduce a sharper edge to bumps but the low-speed damping remains excellent. It can’t match an A4 on smaller wheels for long-distance comfort but, for the aesthetic gains S line brings, you can understand why people make the sacrifice.