January 28, 2021

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2021 Audi A4 facelift review, test drive

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Its 1am, but in a city that never sleeps the streets are all well lit. Yet, Kuldeep, our photographer is busy painting more light onto the new A4 for this night shoot and I can’t help but think of Audi. The past few years have been tough and Audi will certainly be hoping that the coming year shines new light on them.

Once leaders, and with a wide model lineup, the Ingolstadt brand saw its portfolio severely cut and sales dwindle. In the run up to the BS6 norms Audi steadily dropped its diesels and decided to introduce BS6 powertrains with only new products. However, with regulatory issues and COVID delays, new model introductions were slow and even volume models like the Q3 and the A4 were eventually unavailable.

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The A4 makes a return to our market after nearly a year.

However, 2020 saw Audi step on the gas introducing five new models and this year there will be at least nine more. Importantly, most will be volume segment (relatively speaking) models, beginning with this, the A4.

What is the 2021 Audi A4 facelift?

India saw its first A4 in the form of the 4th (B8) generation in 2008 and in its time here it saw a generation change – to the B9 – as well as many updates, the last one being a very mild one in 2019 called the Quick Lift. Now, though the car we have here is also a facelift, it’s a far more comprehensive one. Nearly every exterior panel is new and there’s a new engine and some new tech as well.

What really grabs your attention are the new LED headlights; they are smoother and topped by neat LED segments. The new lights look nicer and so much more in tune with the car’s character rather than the old jagged-edged headlights that made the car look like James Bond trying to pull off a skull-and-bones tattoo.

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The latest A4 gets a classier grille and new LED headlights that suit it better.
 

The Audi trapezoidal grille too looks smoother and classier, with more rounded corners and a flatter and wider profile. Also wider is the car itself, having grown marginally, by 5mm. The length too has gone up by 24mm but the wheelbase, expectedly, is exactly the same.

The doors on the A4 are new and they appear smoother in profile. There’s a finer and lowered crease line while the earlier thicker crease is limited to the front and rear fenders. The rear has been updated and while it’s milder, the new tail-lights infuse freshness with the eye catching LED segments that mimic the headlight design. On the whole, the A4 comes off a lot smarter and classier, and the facelift is certainly a job well done.

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The design of the LED tail-lights mimic the headlights units.

 

What’s the 2021 Audi A4 facelift like on the inside?

Moving inside, the dash and center console have familiar bits like the continuous AC vent design and the flat gear selector. The big change here though is the addition of Audi’s new MMI system. The older display with its fat bezels gives way to a new slicker high resolution 10.1-inch touchscreen. Thankfully, rather than the twin-touchscreen setup – seen in recent Audis – the A4 uses a single panel mainly for infotainment, while the HVAC and other systems are still button- and dial-driven. With the touch enabled screen, Audi has deleted the rotary controller dial but the combination of the touchscreen and the physical buttons is definitely easy to use.

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New touchscreen-based MMI system is new and the 10.1 screen is responsive and sharp.

The space inside remains the same and while it may not best some of its rivals, headroom and legroom will be adequate for most. The interiors are also comfortable though the rear seats could do with a more reclined backrest. What really stands out is the fit, finish and build. As soon as you step inside, you are greeted by a very premium and classy looking interior. The colour scheme is uplifting and bits like the knurled knobs and polished surfaces all look classy and rich. It’s also all very well put together and everything operates with a positive feel. Even something like the glovebox or the vanity mirror slider operate with a sense of quality.

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Outstanding fit, finish and build. Everything, including the vanity mirror blind, operates with a positive quality feel.

 

Some rivals like the Volvo S60 offer more equipment, but the A4 in the Technology Pack variant we had gets the luxury car basics like a 3-zone climate control, powered front seats, auto park assist, ambient lighting and wireless phone charging. As for safety, there’s eight airbags and, of course, the regular electronic aids like ABS and stability control. There will also be a lower Premium Plus variant though at the moment we do not have its equipment details.

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Comfortable rear seats, but the backrest is a bit upright.

What’s the 2021 Audi A4 facelift like to drive?

In India we’ve had the A4 with petrol and diesel (and inline as  well as V6) motors, however, at the time of its last sale, the sole option was a 150hp, 1.4-litre, turbo-petrol motor. The current facelift also comes with a single powertrain but thankfully it’s the larger 2.0L TFSI unit which produces a more appropriate 190hp and 320Nm of torque.

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New 190hp, 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine is a significant upgrade over the previous 150hp unit.

Power delivery is smooth, very linear and delightfully quick. In our test, we clocked 7.19 seconds for the 0 to 100kph dash, while the in-gear times were 4.29 secs for 20-80kph and 5.52 secs for the 40-100kph run. Interestingly, these times put it ahead of the Volvo S60 (a tad over 100kg heavier than the 1560kg A4), which is also powered by a 190hp, 2-litre petrol engine.

While the engine is a highlight, the gearbox at times does let it down. In some instances, it waits on you before downshifting and if you’re in a hurry or want a spirited drive it’s better to use the 7-speed DSG’s paddles. While there are better boxes out there, the combination of this gearbox with the 2.0 TFSI engine is simply brilliant. Not only is it quick, the drive experience is utterly smooth, and the engine is very quiet and super refined. Even when you rev it hard, it just never feels strained or coarse. It’s certainly a high point of this car and will endear itself to owners who get behind the wheel.

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There is some body roll though the steering tightens up nicely in corners.

The steering feel is also very good with just the right amount of weight, and in Dynamic mode it tightens up nicely in corners. There is body roll, however, and the car did bob up and down on the many undulations and surface changes that we call the Western Express Highway in Mumbai. The ride from the softly-sprung suspension is very good, though. Broken surfaces and potholes aren’t a bother and the A4 can easily soak up most of the bad stuff. 

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Ride quality and road grip is very good, though it tends to pitch over uneven surfaces.

Should you buy the 2021 Audi A4 facelift?

Long overdue, the A4 couldn’t have picked a more difficult time to arrive. There’s rivals like the C-Class, the Jag XE and also the new gen Volvo S60, bookings for which open this month, and then there’s BMW which will be shifting the goal posts with the launch of the long wheelbase 3 Series. The A4 is also available with just one powertrain and it may not have the most comfortable rear, but it does have a lot of ammo in its arsenal, and the best bit is that it’s an excellent all-rounder. The car is comfortable and rides well, it comes with the features you’d expect, a quality interior that is very well put together and a super refined engine which delivers thrilling performance. Plus, all of this is wrapped up in a very premium and classy looking exterior. So, while it may not have picked a very opportune time, it’s certainly picked all the right ingredients, and the A4 looks all set to shine bright for Audi.

Also see:

2021 Audi A4 facelift launch on January 5

Atal Tunnel in an Audi RS Q8

New car launches in January 2021

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