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Audi A4 engines, driving and performance

How does the Audi A4 drive?

The question here isn’t just how nicely the Audi A4 drives – it’s how it compares to the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, as they’re the most likely cars to be cross-shopped against the A4. For years, the BMW edged this category but the latest A4 handles so well that it’s nearly a dead heat. At a race track, you may notice the 3 Series is fractionally keener to turn into corners but, on regular roads, the A4 is grippy, intuitive and stable, giving you total confidence in all circumstances. Plus, by focusing on the A4’s composure rather than its sportiness, Audi’s made the car a little more relaxing to drive than the BMW.

As standard, all A4s are front-wheel drive but more powerful versions, along with the rapid S4 and RS4 models, add Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive. You’ll be hard-pressed to notice the system working in normal driving but it does subtly amplify the sense of grip and stability if you’re driving enthusiastically. Of course, it’ll add a little extra traction on slippery surfaces, but front-wheel-drive A4s will happily work all-year round with a set of winter tyres.

Is the Audi A4 comfortable?

Yes – the A4 is a very comfortable place to while away the miles. It’s not floaty like the C-Class when equipped with optional air suspension. Instead, the A4’s sophisticated chassis just absorbs each impact from the road, without sending the car pitching or rolling about. The A4’s complete competence leaves a lasting impression – you don’t ride on a pillow of air like some luxury cruisers, but it irons out surface imperfections as if they simply weren’t there to begin with.

Comfort isn’t just about how much you’re bounced about, however, and the A4 also does a great job of subduing sounds from the outside world. Wind noise is minimal and road noise is well insulated, with only the occasional thud from the suspension breaking the relative silence. Sportier S Line cars get larger alloys that send a fraction more vibration and noise into the cabin, but it’s nowhere near enough to spoil the overall experience.

What’s the best Audi A4 engine to get?

Your budget is the best guide here. There isn’t a bad option in the A4’s engine lineup so entry-level cars don’t feel like a cut-price experience. This is evident even on basic engines with the manual gearbox – we still think the automatic suits the car better overall – but the manual shift and clutch action is so easy and intuitive that the car still feels nearly effortless to drive.

Sticking at the entry level, you get a choice of petrol or diesel engines. The petrol has 150hp – provided by a 1.4-litre unit until 2019, before swapping to a 2.0-litre engine afterwards. It’s smooth in day-to-day use, but might feel just a little lacking if you’re going for a fast overtake. There is a rare entry-level 2.0-litre diesel with 136hp that’s a little underpowered, but most A4s at this end of the market come with the 150hp (later 163hp) version. This engine is a great choice with lots of low-down torque so you rarely have to stir the gearbox when overtaking.

Move further up the engine range and there’s much more power to be had. Upgraded 2.0-litre petrols were offered until 2019 with either 190 or 252hp – both of which are approaching hot-hatch levels of performance. Audi has since trimmed this lineup to just a 204hp petrol badged 40 TFSI. The 2.0-litre diesel also came in an upgraded 190hp version until late-2019, when this was boosted to match the petrol’s 204hp output – you’ll probably only appreciate the extra shove over the 150/163hp version, however, under full throttle.

The S4 and RS4 are a very different proposition. Both offer tremendous acceleration and way more performance than you’d ever be able to use on regular roads but, if you truly want a thrill in a well-rounded premium car, they’re two of the most compelling choices. For most mere mortals, the S4 – variously offered with either a turbo 3.0-litre V6 petrol or diesel through the S4’s production run – is fast enough. The red-eyed RS4 Avant, on the other hand, is pretty much as fast as modern supercars in a straight line, with a vast price tag to match.

Audi A4 performance

The A4’s main brief isn’t outright performance but no version could ever be called slow. For us, the sweet spots in the range are the 2.0-litre petrol with either 190 or 204hp – badged 40 TFSI – or the 2.0-litre diesel with 150 or 163hp – badged 35 TDI. These engines offer enough power to make the A4 feel relaxed at high speeds without needing to jump up to one of the stronger but pricier options.

Of course, the S4 and RS4 are a better choice if you want a performance car with the A4’s practical form factor. For everyday use, the S4 is probably the better choice, it’s not as firm as the RS4 and has occasionally been offered with a 3.0-litre diesel that gives it an impressive cruising range if you’re gentle on the throttle. It’s hard to argue with the RS4’s sheer speed, however, because its supercar-trumping launch control is often enough to reduce grown adults to giggling like school children.

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