When I was told I would be given the opportunity to spend two full months with Audi’s compact executive sedan, the 2017 Audi A4 1.4 TFSi with S-Line package, I became very excited because I recently bought its predecessor and was very eager to see what has improved with the latest iteration of the A4.
The A4 is based on Volkswagen Group’s MLB platform, which it shares with its predecessor, the B8 generation. The A4 competes in the highly-contested D-segment with its main rivals being the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Straight off the bat, we need to address one problem; the design. Yes, it looks awfully similar to the generation it replaces. In fact, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is a facelift of the B8 generation. That said, the car looks sharper, more aggressive and sits lower in S-Line guise giving it a sporty stance.
My test car was fitted with standard LEDs which are not as glamorous as the Matrix LEDs (R30K optional extra which come fitted with rear dynamic turn signals) and stunning 18” 5-spoke cast alloy wheels with contrasting polished grey finishing (R12K optional extra).
Audi is known for creating stunning high-quality interiors, thankfully the interior is not as bland as the exterior. Opening the door for the first time I was greeted by an illuminated S-Line doorsill, silver-coated aluminium design door panel, Audi’s virtual cockpit animation displaying A4 lettering and the famous four rings beneath it (R7,767). The standard auto-dimming rear-view mirror has a nice frameless design.
The dashboard fascia is uncluttered and has soft-touch materials. A wide-screen MMI Navigation plus with MMI Touch (R27,553) infotainment display is mounted on the centre of the dashboard and a rather large air vent is slotted beneath it.
Having dual-screens can be quite overwhelming at first but once you set up what you want displaying on the virtual cockpit, you’ll only be left with a user-friendly infotainment screen to control. The centre console is finished in high-quality plastic. One feature that I like is the touch-sensitive rotating knob which allows you to write words with your finger to search for places, radio stations and other media functions.
The A4 has two 12V sockets (one up front and another at the back), two USB ports, two SD card slots, a SIM tray and an aux input. Being an audiophile, I slotted in my 32GB SD card with my extensive media library only to be disappointed by the utterly weak Gracenote sound system. One of the very few disappointments in the cabin I must point out. Do not despair, the optional 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system (R13,346) will satisfy my fellow audiophiles.
Being a sedan, the A4 is quite practical, the door bins can hold large bottles, there is ample legroom for all occupants and the boot space is large measuring at 500 litres. The boot also has four tethering points to hold fragile contents in place and a shopping bag hook. Rear seats can be folded, which is annoyingly not possible (if you did not tick the option) in its predecessor, further increasing the load space.
My test car is powered by a 1.4L 4-cylinder TFSi engine producing 110kW and 250Nm of torque. 0-100 km/h is achieved in a claimed 8.5 seconds. 110 kW and 250Nm is not a lot but with sport mode engaged and 120kg shaved off from its predecessor, it left me with a big smile on my face. The paddle shifters are very engaging especially when pushing it hard around twisty roads. There is noticeable turbo lag when floored from standstill. The exhaust makes a satisfying sound on down shifts, just make sure you downshift at the right rpms.
Highway cruising in this car is sublime. The optional sport seats are very comfortable, and there is minimal wind noise thanks to good Audi noise-cancellation engineering. Fuel consumption is at a claimed 4.9 litres/100 km. I averaged 6.9 litres with a bit of spirited driving.
Being a “bimmerhead” and having spent more than two months with the car, I respect the engineers at Ingolstadt for creating a luxurious, high-tech rival which can still compete with the latest offerings from Mercedes-Benz and BMW. With an entry-level starting price under R540K for the 1.4 TFSi the Audi A4 is a decent offering but be warned, tick a few checkboxes and it can get very pricey.