Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: The comeback car
Leaving behind a catastrophic 2020 and sputtering into the new year with fresh hope and optimism, carmakers have lined up a flurry of launches to mop up the pent-up demand for cars in the aftermath of the lockdown.
The first launch of 2021 was the new Audi A4 which, apart from adding the much-needed firepower to the Audi range, also heralds a fresh start for the German luxury carmaker, which has been starved of models for the past year. The company was unable to make a seamless switch from BS4 to BS6 regulations and hence a lot of models, the A4 included, went out of showrooms in the transition to the new emission standards.
For Audi India, the A4 is a comeback car and the start of an onslaught of new models updated and refreshed for the new BS6 era. Hence, a lot is riding on the A4, which will set the tone for Audi’s fresh innings after a tough few years which has seen the brand’s sales and market share dwindle.
The A4 isn’t all-new but a facelift of the last A4 that was discontinued a year ago before BS6 norms kicked in. So what’s really new in the A4 and more importantly does it have the firepower to take on competition that has only intensified?
Changes to the refreshed A4 are quite comprehensive and the company has gone beyond the typical nip and tuck of changing bumpers, grilles and lights. The body panels are new, it has an all-new engine and revamped interiors too. So, let’s jump in and see what’s new.
What really grabs your attention are new headlights capped by a striking LED strip that go a long way in lifting the looks of the car. The signature trapezoidal grille too looks smoother and classier, with more rounded corners and a flatter and wider profile. The car is wider too and the length has increased by 24mm, which has a subtle effect on the overall stance. The all-new doors have a smoother profile and come with sharper creases, which give a nice tension to the body. At the rear, changes are minimal but like in the front, the tail lights get an eye-catching LED cluster. On the whole, the A4 comes off a lot smarter and classier.
Changes inside the cabin are centered around the infotainment, which has been upgraded to Audi’s latest generation MMI system. You now get a super high-resolution 10.1-inch touchscreen, which is slick to use, easy to read and packed with information. The good thing is that Audi hasn’t abandoned the use of hard buttons like some other luxury car brands and important functions like the volume control and aircon settings can be operated by rotating or pressing a physical button.
What really blew me away was the quality of the cabin. The plastics, fabrics and the multiple materials used are exemplary. Piano black is a very difficult material to get right and if not done properly can look pretty tacky. Not so in the A4, which has piano black strip across the dashboard with a flawless mirror finish, which is an in-your-face reminder of Audi’s exacting attention to detail.
That attention to detail doesn’t extend to the back seat however, which feels a touch upright and doesn’t offer the comfort levels we’d have liked. But most buyers are likely to find themselves in the very comfy driver’s seat, which feels just right even for tall people.
So what’s it like to drive? Diesel lovers will miss the earlier 2.0TDI engine, which has been dropped in the move to BS6. The good news is that the sole petrol on offer is much more powerful than before, offering a decent 190hp of power. Performance isn’t in the league of the BMW 330i, but what you get is a silky smooth and linear slug of power that makes the A4 feel effortless to drive. Couple this with light steering and a cushy ride that smothers bad roads quite effectively, and you get a car that is utterly fuss-free and well-behaved.
No, the new Audi A4 is not at the sporty end, but majors on refinement and luxury. Factor in a competitive price of ₹42.34 lakh for the base 40 TFSI Premium Plus variant and it’s clear that the A4 has what it takes to plot Audi’s comeback.
The views expressed by the columnist are personal
From HT Brunch, January 24, 2021
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