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Audi continues to raise bar with A4 

NEW models continue to be rolled off assembly lines with many improved features on the ones they are replacing.

You just wonder how long manufacturers can keep raising the bar and that was the task Audi engineers faced when working on the new A4 saloon.

I discovered they had once again set new standards for Audi when I sampled a couple of the models prior to them leaving UK dealerships on November 21.

This is the ninth version of Audi’s compact executive saloon with 12 million sales since it first appeared as the 80 in 1972.

The A4 badge appeared in 1994 and it has improved in leaps and bounds since then to be a major player in this premium market.

The newcomer might look similar to the outgoing model but everything under the skin has changed.

It’s built an all-new platform, is up to 120kg lighter, is up to 21 per cent more economical, and has up to 25 per cent more power from its greener engines.

There are also redeveloped six-speed manual, seven-speed S tronic and eight-speed tiptronic transmissions.

A motorist driving 36,000 miles in three years will spend the equivalent of 42 days in the car and Audi has intro-duced the highest level yet of sophisticated in-car techno-logy.

On the entry-level SE, this includes a seven-inch colour screen with a smartphone interface that supports Apple CarPlay and android auto platforms, xenon headlamps with led daytime running lamps, three-zone climate control, cruise control, rear parking sensors.

Sport models add MMI navigation plus a three-month subscription to internet-based services and in-car internet browsing options offered by Audi connect, 180-watt sound system, five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, sports seats and a sports steering wheel.

Top-of-the-range S line spec includes 18-inch alloys, LED headlights and rear lights with progressive sweeping action, sports suspension and upgraded seats.

On-the road prices start at £25,900 rising to £38,950 with the choice of 1.4 litre and 2.0 litre petrol engines or 2.0 litre and 3.0 litre TDI engines.

All have impressive efficiency and performance figures and two versions of the 2.0-litre TDI with front-wheel drive are named ultra as they produce the best economy in the Audi range.

Most popular model will be the 2.0 TDI with 148bhp and six-speed manual transmission.

Its combined consump-tion figure is a whopping 74.3mpg with Co2 output of just 99g/km.

The 2.0 TDI ultra with 187bhp and manual gearbox is just as impressive, achie-ving 72.4mpg and 102g/km.

With outstanding build quality inside and out, you won’t fail to be impressed when you settle into the driver’s seat and there’s 24mm more headroom and 23mm more rear passenger legroom.

I sampled the more powerful 2.0 TDI engine in an S line model with the seven-speed S tronic transmission.

It was quickly off its mark, taking just 7.7 seconds to go from standstill to 62mph, and the S tronic gearbox reacted immediately when extra power was needed when overtaking.

Driving on a variety of country roads and motorway around Newbury, it was real luxury motoring and ever so quiet in the cockpit with very little engine, road or wind noise.

The handling didn’t disappoint as the power came through the front wheels and gripped the tarmac when cornering at speed.

A driver swap allowed me to enjoy the ride in the front passenger seat and it was so relaxing while cruising that I almost nodded off.

You could happily drive hundreds of miles in this model, and with a top speed of 147mph, it was never pushed at legal road limits.

Drivers looking for even more power won’t be disap-pointed if they go for the 3.0 TDI Quattro S line model.

I blasted away from the blocks when I got behind the wheel of this one – capable of 155mph and reaching 62mph in 5.3 seconds.

The 268bhp diesel engine provided power effortlessly through a super eight-speed tiptronic box.

Gear changes were slick and fast, and grip was exceptional on some winding, country roads.

Suspension was a bit firmer but comfortable enough for driver and passenger as we enjoyed the thrill of this model.

I don’t imagine I got close to these figures du-ring my spin in the car but this model is capable of achieving combined fuel consumption of 55.4mpg.

Audi believes connectivity and driver assistance systems are as important as ride and handling and there are lots of high-tech options for the A4.

These include the Audi virtual cockpit that replaces analogue dials in the binnacle, Matrix LED headlights, 19-speaker 755-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system with 3D sound, entertainment mobile incorporating two detachable touch-screen tablet computers built into the rear seats, phone box with two separate Bluetooth connections and wireless smart-phone charging and larger 8.3-inch monitor.

Other state-of-the-art driver assistance systems include traffic jam assist, rear traffic crossing, exit warning and turn assist.

The new A4 is certainly a car you won’t mind spending many hours in.