Product Type: Audi cars
Newest Review: ... end. The internal styling on this model is not ostentatious but understated. Carbon fibre trim looks great. However, it scuffs and scratc... more
AUDI'D RICHADA RATE THIS ONE THEN?
Audi A4 2.0 TFSI S Line
Member Name: Richada
Audi A4 2.0 TFSI S Line
Advantages: Performance. Style. Build Quality.
Disadvantages: Power Delivery. Driving Position. Price. Equipment. Soulless. Fuel Consumption.
The Audi A4, is a compact five seat (just) four door saloon car and a very well established competitor in the coveted "junior executive" segment, therefore competing with badge icons such as the BMW 3-Series and C-Class Mercedes.
In terms of size and purpose, this is a segment of the market populated with an immensely diverse and eclectic choice of models from the Alfa 159, through the Ford Mondeo and Mazda 6 to the Volvo S60 and yet in terms of sales, currently at least, Audi, with the A4, is showing all-comers the way.
Audi, and most owners, view this car very much as a "premium product", those who have read past RICHADA car reviews will know that I put no store whatsoever in so called "premium" branding and judge all cars on merit according to how I, as a driver, find them - irrespective of the badge.
WILL IT FIT THE GARAGE?
At 4703mm long and 1826mm wide, unless you have a particularly small one, yes it should indeed fit inside your garage.
WHICH SPECIFIC MODEL?
At £27,830 (aren't these modern day "Cortinas" getting pricy?) and packing 211bhp, the Audi A4 2.0TFSi S Line, that I am reviewing here, is towards the top of a bewilderingly comprehensive range of models. It is the most powerful and expensive four cylinder front wheel drive A4 saloon.
The A4 range starts at £20,485 for the 118bhp 1.8TFSi and tops out at a whopping £33,700 for the 237bhp 3.0 TDi Quattro (four wheel drive) Executive S Line. With each engine configuration Audi offer a quattro (four wheel drive) variant - indeed I will be offering an argument for not offering certain models, the 2.0TFSi included, with only front wheel drive.
IN WHAT CAPACITY AM I REVIEWING THIS CAR?
This is very much a "fleet" model and indeed it is as our company's fleet manager that I am reviewing this car. As a business we have only recently acquired a pair of Audis, an A6 and an A2. I was actually more than surprised to be loaned this particular car by the supplying dealer of our A6, the more that I drove it, the more eyebrow raising proved their choice of loan car......
......as a garage owner I would like to think that I would be responsible enough NOT to be lending a total stranger a 211bhp courtesy car - especially if I had no idea what his "regular" car was.
A TECHNICAL TERM EXPLAINED - without letting the cat out of the bag prematurely, I do need to explain a technical point in order to aid the uninitiated in the reading and assessment of both this review and the specific product being reviewed.
In the course of this review you will read in several categories an automotive technical term "torque steer". Rather than assuming that you all know what this is - many of you may indeed, without ever having experienced it, and to those I apologise - I felt an explanation is in order.
Putting it as simply as possible, torque steer is felt through the steering wheel, which writhes and fights in the hands as each front wheel competes to put drive to the road. In the severest of cases the whole car may "snake" up the road until the torque transfer between both wheels has equalised. This is only experienced in the lower gears in some front wheel drive cars, thankfully in the 21st century only powerful ones at that. This affect can be particularly dangerous if both steering and acceleration inputs are required at the same time.
There are models in the A4 range, mostly the diesels it has to be said, that are extremely sensible purchases, either from a business or private point of view, this turbocharged 2.0 petrol model is less likely to be one of them though.
As a company purchase, the remarkably low 149gm/kg CO2 rating stands it in good stead, indeed its closest rival, the BMW 325 looks decidedly smoky and costly by comparison.
In view of the performance offered, an insurance grouping of 15 (out of a total 20) appears more than reasonable too.
Not a subject usually mentioned in my car reviews, but tyre replacement on this very powerful front wheel drive saloon is going to be a major budget item, if you do a high mileage, choosing the four wheel drive Quattro model will keep you from the tyre fitting bay for considerably longer.
PURCHASE COST 6 / 10
Looking around a basic Audi A4, there is no doubt left in my mind that you are paying around a £4000 premium for the cachet of having the four ringed badge on your car.
The A4 is Audi's most profitable model and I can offer a strong argument for the next model up the range - the A6 - in that it offers much more car for very similar money, but that is hardly the point here, it is the 2.0 TFSi S Line A4 that I am examining and to be honest it is hard to justify the £27,830 list price of this car, that being before you start playing the usual German marques option game.
THE OPTIONS GAME: 7 / 10 or "How much do I need to spend to make it habitable?"
This being an S Line trim car, it comes with a set of smart alloy wheels and sports trim as standard. Whilst the days of very austerely equipped German cars are thankfully now gone, do not expect to see leather seats, a sun roof or a premium stereo system included in the price, nor indeed Audi's fine MMI controller, but then as it has no standard sat-nav system the Multiple Media Interface is hardly required anyway.
DEPRECIATION 8 / 10 - Always the biggest running cost.
The A4, as a range, has a fine reputation for holding onto its value, however I am less than sure that this particular model will be number one choice when it comes to a second hand A4 purchase - it certainly would not be mine that is for sure!
With a calculated retained value of 48% (less powerful A4 models achieve 50%) after 3 years and 36,000 miles this A4 2.0TFSi pretty much tops the class - even a BMW 325 only holds on to 40% of its initial value after the same period.
FUEL ECONOMY 6 / 10
I do not care what fantastic claims Audi make for the fuel consumption of this car - I know what I got out of it, and indeed what its overall average consumption for the first 4000 miles of its life had been!
In my, admittedly, short tenure it achieved less than 20mpg, overall it had managed 23.7mpg. Whilst those two figures are not actually outrageous, considering this A4's somewhat alarming performance, in real terms they are figures that I find unacceptable - particularly in view of that 149 CO2 figure and Audi's overall average 44.1mpg claim.
SERVICE & MAINTENANCE COSTS 8 / 10: are you going to make the dealer rich?
Whilst, the brand new, Brighton Audi premises maybe the ritziest motor dealer in town, according to their fixed menu pricing this car should cost less than £1000 to service over three years and 36,000 miles ownership. That may not look cheap, but it is highly class competitive in this day and age.
I also have to comment here that if the standard of customer care displayed by this, my local, Audi dealership is representative of the marque nationwide, then you are going to be made feel like a valued customer - a welcome change from the norm in my recent experience.
Let the "fun" begin! You want to know what this car is like to live with and to drive and be driven in.......
STYLING 7 /10: A very subjective category here.
I was a great admirer of previous A4 designs; however with this, the very latest model, I think Audi lost their touch somewhat. Exaggerated on "my" particular car by the very pretty, but totally unsuited to the shape, pale metallic blue paintwork were the deep side panels and rather clumsy bonnet to front wing design and join. This car is recognisably an Audi, an A4 at that, from any angle, it is just that in an attempt to make it look more modern and muscular, in styling terms Audi have rather thrown the baby out with the bath water.
OVERALL BUILD QUALITY AND FINISH 8 / 10 Does it look as though it was slung together?
In all honesty, whilst the motoring press all hold Audi up as the benchmark in terms of manufacturing quality and finish, no company is turning out badly built cars these days.
Yes, the latest A4 is a finely made car, but no better made than £15000 cheaper Korean cars that carry far more generous guarantees. Carrying the price premium that it does, I am expecting the extraordinary at this level, in fact, the A4 is no better made than a similarly sized, but much cheaper Skoda Octavia (like Audi, also a Volkswagen product).
SAFETY 5 /10 If it comes to the worst, how well are you and your family going to come out of it.
In terms of passive safety Audi have packed all the modern safety aids available into this car. You are likely to emerge from a crash in pretty good shape, possibly better shape than from its competitors even. In isolation a 10 / 10 score here then......
......However, and this is a big one, it is my strong opinion that this specific A4 model is seriously lacking in the area of active safety - i.e. you may be more liable to have a crash in it the first place, simply due to the engine being far too powerful for the chassis. I have driven many, far more powerful cars, both before and since this one and have come to the conclusion that the 2.0 TFSi should carry a health warning.
Why I am so concerned and being so damning of it on this vital point? Well the A4 chassis in front wheel drive only form, is manifestly incapable of handling the huge surge of torque provided by the engine at low revs.
I am not talking about full bore acceleration test starts here either, no, I am talking about 50 yards of snaking and wrestling with the steering wheel as you merely pull away from the curb at ordinary speed going up hill. If you actually pluck up the courage to drive it harder and faster you will experience this highly unpleasant torque steer in second and third gears too. I drove it on bone dry, well surfaced roads - I do not even dare to imagine how unsafe it feels on wet, icy or loose surfaces.
Whilst my "regular" car is a four wheel drive Subaru which, like my previous front wheel drive Honda, displays no torque steer characteristics, I have since driven a 300bhp Ford Focus RS, which, whilst being much faster than the A4 2.0 TFSi also felt 100% safer on the road at ordinary town speeds.
ERGONOMICS 4 / 10 Before I can start the engine and drive away I need to feel at home in the "working environment". The relationship between the controls and how I, the driver, am able to instinctively operate those controls is, all important. This for me is make or break, before I drive a car, if it does not instinctively "feel" right in this department then I will never like it or ultimately buy it.
Odd that, thanks to my standard car review layout, this A4's two fatal flaws should appear here back to back!
Sit in any of the passenger's seats in an A4 and this car has an admirable interior. In an automatic version of this same model, ergonomics would probably be less of an issue for the driver, however, in this six speed manual one, the three pedals are seriously offset to the centreline - that centreline being defined by the position of the steering wheel.
I know that this is a serious fault in all A4, A5's and to a much lesser extent the A6, where the offset is barely noticeable. However, the S-Line package in the A4 actually accentuates the problem as you sit on much more firmly bolstered seats. Due to this, for me, thanks to having to drive it with my whole body twisted sideways in the seat, this is by far the most uncomfortable car that I have driven in many years.
If you are a company driver covering many motorway miles a year, you can expect to be spending time off work due to back problems that you were never before aware of having.
An hour at the wheel, on a proper test drive, would put me off of buying an A4 on this point alone.
Apart from the ever maddening electric hand brake switch (I simply loath these things - whoever does them none of them work intuitively - or progressively), the rest of the controls are well and simply laid out. Unlike other Audi's fitted with the attractive MMI central rotary control, the A4 is refreshingly easy to operate without
VISIBILITY: 9 / 10
Whilst my own Subaru Legacy offers the best all round visibility that I have come across, the A4, even with its heavy pillared design, actually gave me no cause for concern on this score at all.
Being fairly high up the A4 range this model is fitted with the full-house front and rear lighting system with the flashy LED daylight running lights and rear LED side and brake lights too. The only lighting innovation missing here are the steerable headlights now becoming more common.
SPACE: 8 / 10:
Class competitive is probably the best way to describe this one. Some class competitors such as the Insignia - the Vectra replacement, have shrunk inside, whilst others, like the 3-Series are more commodious than they used to be. The A4 has grown externally - the boot is bigger than it used to be too, but the interior has remained much the same as before, fine for four adults, cramped for three across the rear seat.
If you need more space in all directions and a massive boot, then the Audi A6 offers vastly more car for very similar money.
STYLE 10 / 10:
As those who read my reviews regularly will know, I put great store in the interior style of a car. This is where the A4's greatest strength lays. The latest model has pretty much taken the styling and architecture from the superb A6 interior and scaled it down.
The rest of the interior is equally well styled, but it is the dashboard that stands out as an automotive masterpiece.
My comment, expressed out loud whilst behind the wheel, that I would take this dashboard out of the A4 and put it in my own car (sans the electric handbrake obviously!) says all it needs to here.
MATERIALS, FIT & FINISH 9 / 10: Aspreys or Ratners?
In this class of car, the A4 S-Line is as close to Aspreys as you are going to get. Whilst the exterior may be more ordinary, the interior fit and finish are extraordinary and fully in keeping with the style.
High class materials, including decent half leather upholstery, blend seamlessly to give the impression of quality and class. Probably not entirely worth paying a £4000 premium for, but at least the interior ambiance goes some way to letting you know why an A4 is so expensive in the first place.
AUDIO & CLIMATE CONTROL SYSTEMS 9 / 10: Strange grouping?
Tricky one to assess this as the car that I was driving was equipped with a superb and very expensive optional 505 watt 14 speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system. However, assuming that it had the same head-unit and fantastically clear frequency / mode screen on the dashboard, then the standard set up is not going to leave you feeling short changed.
Now being fully used to the slow warn up / cool down of diesel climate control systems, the one in the petrol engined 2.0 TFSi A4 was mighty impressive in its speed of response and of the fine control provided by the totally independent left and right (dual zone) controls.
ON THE ROAD........
......Time to start it up and to offer you a driving assessment.
NOISE, VIBRATION & HARSHNESS 6 / 10 Silk purse or sow's ear?
We live in a day and age of 2.0 litre family cars powered by highly efficient turbo-diesel engines. When a 2.0 litre petrol rival to these units appears, a fascinating comparison arises.
Conventional thinking should dictate that the petrol A4 knocks the spots off of its "inferior" diesel rivals. At heart I am a petrol head, and that should be the case here, only it turns out most definitely not to be. Petrol or not, this car has a very "ordinary" sound to it as it goes about its business, it is not noisy or notably quiet either, just completely soulless in character aurally.
As for vibration and harshness, well if it is possible to describe a car as being harsh, but without vibration, then the A4 2.0 TFSi is the very definition of that contradiction in terms! Thanks to its' frankly frightening power delivery, coupled with over-firm sports suspension, it is a "harsh" car.
Conversely, thanks to its superb build quality, especially in the cabin, there are no vibrations.
PERFORMANCE 7 / 10 Sh*t off a shovel or a constipated tortoise?
Never was my 'Sh*t off a shovel' quip better suited!
This car is a flyer, no doubt about that - "open it up" and it leaves ordinary traffic way behind in its wake......
......what you are able to observe of it that is. Theoretically then, I should be giving the A4 2.0 TFSi a 10 score here. The trouble is that driving it at all speeds takes such dedicated concentration that I walked away hoping that I never drive one of these again.
There is a very old saying that goes 'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely', this car then has absolute power and passed through only the front wheels too. Between 1000 and 2500rpm the power delivery is so vicious, and accompanied by that awful torque steer, that you simply do not want to use it.
Used as a motorway cruiser, merely left in sixth gear you are unlikely to criticise its performance - but first of all you have to get it to motorway speeds and out of the torque steer zone.
RIDE & HANDLING 4 / 10
The one area of dynamics that Audi have consistently fallen behind in is here in the ride and handling departments. Whereas the standard and SE specification latest generation Audis are now acceptable, rather than class competitive, the S Line, with its sports suspension and ultra low profile tyres falls woefully short of offering an acceptable ride.
Couple the rock hard, jarring, ride with the dreadful torque steer at lower speeds and you have a poor handling car too at ordinary road speeds. The A4 was never designed as a track racer and yet that appears to be what the S Line specification is geared up for. On well surfaced German autobahn maybe this car would come alive; here on UK roads it simply falls so far short of being acceptable that I am amazed that Audi market it here.
CONCLUSION - Would I buy one myself and would we want to drive it to Poland in a day?
If you have read the review above I really do not need to answer either question here!
This car is so dreadfully flawed in two distinctly different areas that quite seriously it amazes me that the A4 is so popular a choice, especially amongst high mileage business drivers like myself.
As for driving it to Poland, no, I could not, due to the driving position, drive ANY A4 to Poland, my wife certainly would not want to travel with me in a car so hard riding as this either.
FINAL SCORE: 121 / 170 - 71.1%
An unusual scoring result this time as 71.1% really does not reflect just how much I disliked this car, and for such blindingly obvious reasons too.
That its score is as high as it is, can only be attributed to Audi's interior designers, were it not for that fine interior, excepting the offset driving position, this car would, as far as I am concerned, have very little to recommend it.
Putting that score into perspective are the following cars based on identical scoring criteria:
AUDI A4 2.0TFSi SLine - 71.1%
ALFA ROMEO 147 1.9JTD Lusso (5 Dr) - 67.8%
FIAT PUNTO GRANDE SPORTING 130 Mjet - 75.9%
FORD KUGA 2.0 TDCi TITANIUM - 64.7%
HONDA ACCORD i-DECT EX GT (2008 Model) Saloon - 69.4%
HONDA ACCORD i-CTDi Saloon - 80.0%
HONDA CIVIC 1.8i VTEC SE - 78.2%
HONDA CIVIC 1.8i VTEC S i-SHIFT - 68.8%
HONDA CIVIC IMA SE - 73.5%
HONDA JAZZ 1.4 SE CVT-7 (Automatic) - 74.7%
SUBARU OUTBACK 2.0D RE - 85.3%
SUBARU LEGACY 2.0D RE SALOON - 85.8%
SAAB 9-3 TiD Vector - 68.2%
SAAB 9-3 TiD Linear CONVERTIBLE (2007 Mondel) - 74.1%
VAUXHALL ASTRA TWINTOP 1.9 CDTi DESIGN - 78.8%
VAUXHALL VXR8 - 84.1 %
VAUXHALL MONARO VXR - 71.1%
VW PASSAT TDi 140 S ESTATE - 71.7%
VOLVO S60 D5 SE - 70.6%
RICHADA © June 2009.
Summary: Personally I would attach a health warning to this one.