Car Test   R0327
 
April 2003
Brief Test Audi A4
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 2.0 FSi 4door
VW Group (Audi being the poshest member of the family) pioneered the now-universal adoption of direct injection for diesel passenger cars nearly a decade ago. Since then, further development of high-pressure delivery of the fuel, via unit-injection or common-rail technology, has resulted in a big swing towards diesel cars, that are now so much nicer to drive and listen to, and yet no longer emit filth and smoke in embarrassing quantities.
  
   Direct-injection gasoline (petrol) engines have been slower to surface. Mitsubishi has been offering them for some time, but the biggest snag has been that they don’t work so well when there’s sulphur in the petrol.
  
   Now, however, the advent of sulphur-free fuel is imminent in the UK and VW/Audi is again currently up with the best, with a pair of these high-tech engines. Designed to run best on no sulphur, they incorporate a purging cycle to get rid of any clag that builds up in the exhaust/catalyser as a result of running on the present 95 octane ULS (ultra-low-sulphur) petrol.
  
   This means that our test car’s 38mpg overall included bouts of running hotter and richer as the system got rid of any nitrogen oxide or sulphur dioxide that had built up since the previous ‘regeneration’ phase. Even so, the idea of 38mpg, rising to 44 plus in steady touring, in a 150bhp petrol two-litre (that can also be a tearaway when provoked), merits full marks against any rivals at present.
  
   What the figures in our comparison table can’t convey is that this engine is also wonderfully smooth and flexible, devoid of complaint, even if asked to pull from the low twenties in top. It also purrs along on main road or motorway; its revised gearing, compared with the 130bhp ‘conventional’ two-litre, gives it a relaxed gait at 70mph; yet strong acceleration all the way to 82mph in third gear, when required for overtaking. Glitches? Just an occasional minor jerk on resumed acceleration and a brief knocking sound from the engine after a cold start.
  
   It was also good to be able to test an A4 on standard tyres and suspension settings. We’ve complained about the unyielding ride that accompanies the Sports suspension’s grippy handling; this latest car felt more absorbent and unruffled by poor roads. In truth, there’s a rather under-damped, floaty feel at times, but this isn’t too apparent at normal speeds and the car still steers and corners with deft agility. Arguably, this represents the best ride and handling compromise yet, on any Audi saloon we’ve driven, but there’s still room for further improvement in the car’s ‘secondary ride’ – the bit where the springs are damped.
  
   Our car also had the optional back seat folding arrangement, as well as standard, rather than sports seats. The latter felt fine, with valuable, fixed lumbar support that’s just right for tired spines. The back seat folding is similar to the Avant’s – only the backrests tilt – but it remains a useful facility. One snag is that it incorporates no way of securing boot contents from the interior. The other is that you have to pay £280 for it.
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Space/practicality
Safety Euro NCAP
Security, theft of
theft from
LIKES ...
  • daylight illumination of dial needles
  • standard seats' fixed lumbar support ideal
  • three-pulse lane-change indicator stalk
  • full-size (alloy) spare wheel
  • effective yet easy-to-use locking arrangements
and GRIPES
  • no bumper scuff-protection strips
  • front passenger inadvertently operates window control
  • no pockets on front seatbacks
  • fifth occupant has no head restraint or 'proper' belt
VERDICT
We reckon this new petrol engine will mount a counter-attack on the diesel take-over in the company car park. It offers a very convincing blend of performance, mechanical refinement and frugality, with a respectable CO2 figure for tax purposes, as well. It was good to drive an A4 unfettered with options – as a premium-priced, upper-medium saloon, it doesn’t excel in terms of accommodation or adaptability, but it does drive with a quality feel. Unless you like a vibro-massage ride, avoid the Sports suspension – we found the A4 a much more rounded performer with the £900 unspent.


BRIEF SPECIFICATION
engine 1984cc, 4-cylinder petrol; 150bhp at 6000rpm 147 lb ft at 3250rpm; belt-driven double overhead camshafts, 16 valves with direct, variable injection
transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 22.5mph/1000rpm in 5th, 17.8 in 4th
suspension front: independent damper/struts, integral coil springs
rear: independent trapezoidal links, coil springs
wheels/tyres 7in alloy with standard 205/55R16W (Continental) tyres on test car
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear with standard anti-lock, brake assist and cornering stability controls
0-62mph 9.6sec
official mpg§ 28.5/52.3/39.8
30-70mph through gears 9.5sec
maximum speed 131 mph
AA mpg range 24-44
AA typical mpg 38miles mpg
CO2 emissions 170
§ urban/extra urban/combined


HOW THE A4 2.0 FSI COMPARES engine (cyl/cc/bhp) revs at 70mph (rpm) 30-70 through gears (sec) 30-70mph in 4th/5th gears (sec) fuel (mpg/CO2) brakes from 50mph (kg/m) maximum legroom - front (cm) typical leg/kneeroom - rear (cm) steering turns/circle (m) overall length (cm)
Audi A4 2.0 FSi 4/1984/150 3110 9.5 16.6/23.8 38/170 18/25 113 98/72 2.9/10.8 455
BMW 318 4/1995/143 3290 9.0 15.8/20.4 36/175 17/24 112 100/76 2.9/10.3 447
Jaguar X-Type 2.0 6/2099/157 3140 10.3 17.8/26.0 28/219 18/25.5 110 100/75 2.7/10.8 467
Mercedes-Benz C200K 4/1998/163 2820 8.0 12.6/16.8 30.5/228 19/23 118 98/75 2.9/10.4 453
Volvo S60T S 5/1984/180 2880 8.4 15.3/20.0 30/220 16/25 115 98/73 3.0/11.5 458
Audi A4 2.0 Sport+ 4/1984/130 3170 9.9 16.9/25.4 34/190 18/25 112 97/71 2.9/10.8 455
  + indirect injection engine
© The Automobile Association Limited 2014