What is the Audi A4?
Nestling between its A3 and A6 ranges, the A4 is Audi’s mid-sized executive saloon and estate range, going into battle in the office car parks of Britain with sector heavyweights such as the BMW 3 Series, Jaguar XE, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, as well as plusher versions of the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat.
Having made its debut in 1994, the A4 is now into its fifth generation with the current range, launched in 2015, receiving a mid-life makeover in 2019. If you want something A4-sized but in a slinkier style, Audi offers the sportier A5 series in three bodystyles.
- Top-speed: 130-174mph
- 0-62mph: 4.1-9.0 seconds
- Fuel economy: 32.1-83.1mpg
- Emissions: 99-200g/km
- Boot space: 480-1510 litres
Which versions of the Audi A4 are available?
There’s also the A4 Allroad, which offers a 34mm increase in ride height over the standard A4 Avant to appeal to buyers who fancy something different to an SUV.
A wide range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines are available, although presently there’s no electrified option. Trim levels follow Audi’s usual hierarchy, topped by Vorsprung, but with S Line being the most popular by some margine.
What are the Audi S4 and Audi RS 4?
Crowning the A4 range from a performance perspective is the RS 4 Avant, which offers supercar levels of performance in a practical estate body, but if that’s too too rabid, you can also order a slightly milder S4 in both Saloon and Avant forms.
Sadly, the days of the 4.2-litre naturally-aspirated V8-engined RS 4 are behind us, but that’s not to say that the latest model is anything other than seriously fast. Thanks to its lighter 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 powerplant, the RS 4 is 0.6sec quicker from a standstill to 62mph than its eight-cylinder predecessor, completing the sprint in 4.1 seconds. That's is only fractionally slower than the RS 5 Coupe.
Top speed is limited to 155mph, but order the optional RS Dynamic package and the RS 4 will go hunting Porsches at 174mph. However, if you prefer a more relaxed performance car, the S4 is powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 354hp to deliver a 0-62mph that’s only 0.6sec slower than the RS 4.
Styling and engineering
The Audi A4 has the same modular Volkswagen Group MLB platform used by everything from the Bentley Bentayga to the Porsche Cayenne. Its styling is an evolution of the old model, and although you could criticise Audi for playing it safe, the A4 cuts a smart look in the motorway service areas of Britain. A degree of boldness was introduced with the 2019 facelift, with revised lights front and rear, a wider, more defined grille and subtle blisters on the wings that pay homage to the original Quattro coupe from 1980.
Standard range engines include a 2.0-litre diesel tuned for economy and low emissions and a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel designed for long-distance schleps across Europe. But it’s on the inside where the A4 really shines, with a cabin that’s a match for any of its rivals, oozing quality and packed with the latest equipment. In terms of material quality and overal finish, Audi still leads.
How does the Audi A4 drive?
While the A4 is far from engaging or thrilling, it’s a definite step up from its predecessor. The BMW 3 Series remains the default choice for keen drivers, but with a greater level of feedback through the steering and very little in the way of body-roll, the A4 is a very pleasant car to drive quickly, especially if you opt for the 3.0-litre TDI or any model with Quattro four-wheel drive.
The S4 is slightly more rewarding to drive than the regular A4 models, even in S Line trim, with the performance-led model benefitting from suspension lowered by 23mm, four-wheel drive and torque vectoring. That said, we’re always left with the impression that the A4 and S4 are cars tuned for comfort rather than sporty handling. Go for the RS 4 if thrills are central to your purchasing decision.
How much does the Audi A4 cost?
The entry-level Audi A4 SE undercuts its German rivals by a few thousand pounds, but that’s only half the story, because there’s a £20,000 difference between the cheapest model and the flagship S4 Avant (we’re excluding the RS 4 from this equation). It’s more expensive to buy than a Volkswagen Passat, but the A4 has a stronger image and a superior cabin. It’s also marginally more exclusive than the C-Class and 3 Series, which at times can seem ubiquitous on the commuter routes of Britain.
However, the current A4 is approaching the mid-point of its lifecycle, and some buyers will prefer the kudos of having the latest BMW 3 Series parked on their driveway.
Find out what A4 drivers think of the car with our user-generated owners’ reviews.
Audi A4 Model History
Fourth-generation Audi A4 (2008-2015)
In the fourth-generation A4, Audi finally had a car good enough to rub shoulders with the 3 Series and C-Class. This was the most comprehensive overhaul of the A4 since the original replaced the 80, with the new car boasting a lighter but stronger bodyshell, improved performance, better economy and reduced emissions. Two bodystyles were initially available - the A4 Saloon and more spacious A4 Avant - joined a year later by the jacked-up, SUV-like A4 Allroad.
There were improvements across the board, including a more spacious cabin, a large boot, improved ride and handling and an excellent choice of engines. Cabin quality was also up from an already high level.
The B8-type A4 also signalled the end of the eight-cylinder versions, with the 4.2-litre naturally-aspirated V8 making way for the cleaner, more efficient but no less exhilarating twin-turbocharged V6 found in the current RS 4.
Third-generation Audi A4 (2005-2008)
Although the B7-type A4 of 2005 was essentially a facelifted version of the second-generation A4, there were a number of significant changes under the skin and every body panel was brand new. As with its immediate predecessor, three bodystyles were offered: the traditional A4 Saloon, the estate A4 Avant and the soft-top A4 Cabriolet.
Audi also introduced a wider range of engines, from the slow yet frugal 1.6-litre petrol and 1.9-litre TDI, through to 3.2-litre and 4.2-litre petrol variants and 2.7-litre and 3.0-litre diesel units.
As if to mirror Audi’s confidence in its mid-size saloon, the company launched a number of performance variants, including a 344hp S4 and a 420hp 4.2-litre V8 RS 4, first as a Saloon and later as an Avant.
Second-generation Audi A4 (2000-2005)
If Audi was finding its feet with the first-generation A4, the second-generation (B6) saw the brand start to fly. Launched at the turn of the millennium, the new A4 was bigger than the outgoing model and showed a marked improvement in terms of build quality.
The styling, penned by Peter Schreyer, was sharper than before, with rear lights inspired by the fashionable TT. Cabin quality was improved again, pushing the A4 beyond the C-Class and 3 Series.
A4 Saloon, A4 Avant and performance-focused S4 models were part of the range, but more significant was the arrival of the first A4 Cabriolet. Launched in 2001, the drop-top A4 did as much for Audi’s image as Princess Diana being seen driving an 80-based Cabriolet in the 1990s.
Discover if the Mk2 A4 is a sensible used buy with our owners' reviews and search for used cars for sale.
First-generation A4 (1994-2001)
This is where it all began for the Audi A4. In many ways, the first A4 kick-started Audi’s rise from the fringes of the premium car market to a major player in the segment, edging the brand closer to its rivals from Stuttgart and Munich.
Although it was an evolution of the outgoing Audi 80, the original A4 (B5) was lighter than its predecessor and featured an advanced four-link front suspension. Sharing its platform with the Volkswagen Passat, the A4 Saloon arrived towards the end of 1994, with the A4 Avant version going on sale in early 1996, followed by the sportier S4 and RS 4 models.