The new B9-generation Audi A4 recently made its European debut last summer, providing a ton of reviews from European publications capable of driving it. However, it didn’t go on sale in America until this month and we’ve just gotten a chance to drive it.
Coming from the B8-genertion A4, the new B9-generation is a dramatic change of pace. Built on Audi’s new MLB platform, the same platform that underpins the Q7 SUV, the new A4 is significantly lighter than the outgoing model as well as far more structurally rigid. It’s a far superior chassis and it immediately feels that way from the moment you set off in it. It feels like a solid chunk of granite, it’s that solid and well-built. It feels tight as a drum. It also grew a bit in both length and width, but it sits a bit lower than the outgoing model.
In terms of looks, the new car isn’t significantly different from the one it replaces, but it’s a good looking car nonetheless. It’s more of an evolutionary change than a revolutionary change. However, it does look much better, sharper and tighter. The new clamshell hood looks good, with sharp creases, and the new headlights look much better than before. The mirrors mounted on the doors look better than the A-pillar-mounted mirrors of the previous-gen, while also improving cabin wind noise. Out back, the new taillights are slimmer, sleeker and much improved overall. All in all, it’s a good looking car, if a bit safe looking of one.
On the inside, things are much different. The new cabin is far more improved over the previous model, with a cabin that could possibly be the best in its class. We’ve detailed what the new cabin is like quite a bit in previous articles, but it’s still quite impressive. The air vents that cross the entire dash gives the cabin a modern, clean look and the lack of buttons or switches gives it a minimalist feel that fits the Audi brand well. We would be remiss to not talk about Audi’s fantastic Virtual Cockpit which is as brilliant as ever. Its digital gauge cluster is crystal clear with beautiful graphics and its ability to put Google Maps right in front of your face while driving is priceless.
If there was one complaint about the interior, it would be with the seats. While the leather is of excellent quality and they’re comfortable overall, they lack some of the support that the sportier seats in its competitors provide. They’re a bit flat in the A4 and the side bolsters aren’t that great. Admittedly, I’m a small guy, at only 5′ 9″ and 155 lbs, but I was sliding about in the seats during hard cornering.
Speaking of hard cornering, the new A4 handles, rides and drives worlds better than the outgoing model. The previous-gen Audi A4 was a fine car, but it was somewhat dull and uninspired. This new B9-generation Audi A4 is a far better driving machine, with great steering and fantastic chassis dynamics. It might be the first A4 I’ve driven that actually felt like I could chuck it around like a proper sports car. It’s genuinely fun and enjoyable to drive. During some seriously hard cornering, there was a bit of body-roll followed by a bit of understeer. But overall, the new A4 is a proper sports sedan, one that can keep up with the best in the class.
That’s helpful, as the 2.0 liter turbocharged TFSI engine can get you into some pretty dangerous speeds pretty quickly. Its 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque make the new Audi A4 properly quick, with a claimed 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds for Quattro models, which is what we tested. While that isn’t blistering, it’s plenty quick enough to be fun. There’s a bit of turbo lag under 2,000 rpm but above that, once the turbos are under full boost, the A4 pulls hard and makes a good noise doing it.
Shifting gears for that 2.0 liter TFSI engine is a seven-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch gearbox and it’s fantastic that Audi decided to use this gearbox instead of the typical eight-speed ZF automatic. While the ZF eight-speed is a great ‘box, the S-Tronic’s shifts are just that much crisper and quicker, making the A4 feel sprightlier than before and more alert. It’s really a fantastic gearbox and could be at the top of the list of best dual-clutch units in the business.
All in all, the new Audi A4 is a spectacularly good car, one that should have its rivals very nervous. We were actually able to test it directly with a 2016 BMW 328i, which we’ll talk about in another article, but it’s scary how close the two are, in terms of performance and dynamics. While the previous Audi A4 was a bit disappointing in the segment, this new car has the capability of jumping straight to the top and taking the crown.
(Full Disclosure: We were able to test drive the new Audi A4 thanks to our friends at Ray Catena Audi of Freehold, who just became one of Audi’s Magna Society Elite dealerships, one of only seven in the country to do so. So we want to say thanks to their team for helping us out.)