Published on Saturday 7 December 2013 20:57
Ten Second Review
Audi's 2.0-litre TFSI engine has always been good but specified in Audi's A4 compact executive model, it produces electric pace with great flexibility and combined economy of up to 46mpg. The A4 package is also at the top of its game these days with the latest model offering refreshed styling, balanced handling and excellent refinement - all with Audi's usual high standards of build quality.
How much power is too much in a car? A great deal will hinge on the type of car we're talking about as150bhp can be like watching paint dry in a large 4x4 or absolutely loony tunes in a Caterham but for most of us, 200bhp is good amount in a mid-sized vehicle like Audi's A4. With around 200bhp, the capacity should be there for entertainment but the costs should be manageable and when that ballpark 200bhp comes from Audi's 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine, we can expect even greater things.
Audi has an exceptional powerplant at its disposal in the 2.0-litre TFSI. Versions of it have powered numerous other Volkswagen Group products including leading hot hatchbacks like the Golf GTI, where it delivers 197bhp in basic form, and SEAT's Leon Cupra where 237bhp is generated. It even powers Audi's own S3, pumping out an addictive 261bhp. The A4 is notably less highly-strung than these performance hatchbacks but with 208bhp coming from the latest iteration of this highly regarded engine, it still looks an inviting prospect.
The key to the A4 2.0 TFSI is not how much power it generates but in the way it generates it. In this guise, the turbocharged engine not only has the FSI direct injection system but also uses Audi's valvelift technology. Together, these innovations work to adapt parameters in the combustion process to maximise power and efficiency. By precisely controlling the fuel/air mixture in its cylinders according to the driver's throttle inputs, the engine can produce maximum performance when needed or work to maximise efficiency when more sedate progress is called for. The result is 208bhp sustained all the way from 4,300 to 6000rpm but, more crucially, torque of 258lb ft from only 1,500rpm. This is a serious amount of grunt in the low to middle sections of the rev-range and it enables the manual A4 TFSI quattro to post a 0-62mph sprint of 6.6s.
Less sophisticated turbocharged engines than the 2.0 TFSI can appear quite meek and mild-mannered at low revs before indiscriminately dumping a huge rush of power into proceedings. The Audi unit, by contrast, builds gradually and stays on song for longer. This smooth delivery in which the action of the turbo is all but imperceptible is what makes the A4 TFSI so pleasurable to drive. And it is pleasurable, Audi products haven't always been blessed with dynamics on the same level as their engineering and build quality but the A4 is a sign of how far things have progressed. The car is not as communicative through its steering and suspension as the finest compact executive driver's cars but it corners with real security thanks to an abundance of grip, especially in all-wheel-drive quattro form. The gear change has a rewarding snappiness and the ride is a good compromise between firmness and comfort.
Design and Build
The latest A4 sits on the longest wheelbase in its class and, sitting in the rear, you will appreciate the difference. Compact executive customers prioritising space have met their match here. The interior is still worthy of the plaudits that routinely head Audi's way for its robust build and effortlessly classy design. The cabin is an evolution on the marque's successful themes, offering nice rubberised finishes for the switchgear and, for the most recent round of revisions accompanying the external facelift, the already user-friendly MMI control interface has been further simplified. More than ever, the cabin is still a mightily impressive environment to travel in.
Valcona leather has been replaced by Fine Nappa, while the colour palette for the interior has been revised. Buyers now get a choice of aluminium as well as wood dash inlays. The stunning Beaufort oak plywood inlay, first seen on the A6 is also offered.
Market and Model
The A4 2.0TFSI is available in front-wheel-drive or quattro four wheel drive form. For a premium of around £1,200, you can also opt for an estate 'Avant' version. Here, space in the back is rated at 490 litres with the rear seats in place and 1,430 with the rear bench folded. There are standard, SE and SE Technik trim levels and all models get a decent level of kit that runs to 16-inch alloy wheels, an 80-watt audio system with single CD drive and 6.5-inch display, electronic climate control, front and rear electric windows and a split/fold rear seat.
The A4 must do battle with its arch rivals, the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class, in the compact executive sector while also side-stepping challenges from the Lexus IS and the gaggle of non-premium models that covert its sales. The Audi's brand image is second to none in this company and that will give it a head start over many rivals. Although the diesels will be the strongest sellers in the range, the 2.0 TFSI engine deserves to be a popular choice with those who want their cars sporty.
Cost of Ownership
Efficiency is the watchword with the 2.0 TFSI engine. It manages to generate strong performance but by scaling down its combustion processes when the throttle pedal isn't being stamped into the engine bay, it can achieve over 47mpg on the combined cycle when teamed with the 8-speed Multitronic CVT transmission. That's very good going indeed for a vehicle with this kind of pace and emissions of 140g/km will also be very beneficial.
Strong residual values are also likely to materialise for the A4 2.0 TFSI based around the general esteem in which the market holds Audi products and the decidedly reasonable running costs for what is a respectably rapid medium compact executive car.
Given carte blanche and a bottomless bank account, the temptation to choose an exorbitantly expensive and ludicrously powerful car would be tough for most of us to resist. In the real world, however, where big power comes with big financial penalties, around 200bhp seems a good fit in a medium-sized car. Audi's A4 2.0 TFSI fits that bill and is a car it's very easy to like. 208bhp, 0-62mph in under seven seconds and 47mpg fuel economy should make happy reading for buyers with around £30,000 to spend.
Audi's technological expertise has been exercised on the 2.0 TFSI engine and mated to the A4 platform, it looks a real winner. The car offers space and build quality that can't be bettered at the price, along with competitive driving dynamics and plenty of desirability. The engine is smooth, ruthlessly efficient and genuinely enjoyable. The A4 2.0 TFSI will be enough to extinguish the desire for more power in many, persuading them that enough is enough.