2021 Audi A4 Facelift Review: First Drive

A comprehensive update gives the A4 a much needed bump up in performance to match its comfort and sensibilities

Audi’s ‘new’ A4 isn’t exactly new. In fact, it’s been on sale globally since May 2019. After spending a day with the updated sedan, we say ‘better late than never.’ This update has us humming with excitement. For we finally see the A4 living up to its full potential. 

Power On!

Until now, if you wanted a petrol-powered A4, a 150 horsepower 1.4-litre turbo was your only choice. Now though, it’s got a 2.0-litre turbo petrol with an additional 50PS of power and 70Nm of torque. If you compare the spec sheets, you’d also notice it takes 1.3 seconds less to hit 100kmph (7.3s claimed), and if you really don’t care about speeding tickets, it’ll hit 241kmph in a straight line.

Straight off the bat, the added horsepower and torque make their presence felt. Acceleration is decidedly snappier, even if you’re only feathering the throttle to make your way past moving traffic inside the city. While the 1.4 TFSI felt strictly adequate, the 2.0 TFSI dishes out the right blend of everyday usability and fuzzy feelings in the gut when you’re in the mood for some. 

In fact the motor manages to overwhelm the front wheels quite easily. At this point the traction control kicks in full force, cutting fun off like a stern nanny. That said it’s hard to know this is happening behind the scenes from the driver’s seat. The sheer refinement of the engine and the stellar noise insulation means you don’t hear the motor--and in some cases neither the front wheels squealing for mercy. 

At city speeds, the A4 is practically electric-car-quiet. You’d struggle to point out that the motor is running or that the gearbox is upshifting. It’s only when you’re really naughty with the throttle and pushing the engine past 3000rpm that you hear it. Even with the pedal buried into the mat, the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic is swift, never missing a beat. Upshifts never feel harsh or jerky, and downshifts happen before you can blink. It’s the gearbox that’s the star of the show here, even if the brochure might tempt you to think it’s the motor and its mild-hybrid wizardry. 

Speaking of which, there’s more to the A4 than just auto-start stop. Lift your foot off the throttle at speeds above 55kmph and the A4 switches to coasting instantly, dropping the revs to idle. Coast a bit longer and it switches the engine off completely. No wonder Audi claims the A4 will do 17.42kmpl if you aren’t being silly with the accelerator pedal.

Ride Easy

With the A4, Audi has found the magical sweet spot in terms of ride comfort. The India-spec sedan gets ‘Comfort Heavy Duty’ suspension as standard. That in regular joe speak translates well to a lounge on wheels. The A4 simply glides over broken roads, with no unpleasant shocks being transferred inside the cabin. Even over sharper edges — expansion joints or level changes — you will hear the suspension dealing with it than feel a jolt inside the cabin. 

It’s surprising that the comfort isn’t being delivered at the expense of something else. Like you’d expect a thoroughbred German car to, the A4 is p-l-a-n-t-e-d at speeds you promised your spouse you wouldn’t do. Even through the corners, it remains composed and predictable. If you’re pushing it hard, chances of the front tyres getting overwhelmed are higher than you wanting a tauter setup.  

This genuinely makes us wonder why Audi is shying away from offering a ‘quattro’ system for the A4. It’s their signature after all. If we are allowed to be greedy, we’d love to see a V6 under the bonnet too. After all, the previous generation of the A4 made quite a splash a decade ago when it debuted with six-cylinder 3.2FSi and 3.0TDi engines. 

Subtle Switches

Updates to the A4 are easy to be dismissed as a bumper and light swap job by anyone giving it a casual glance. Look closely, and you’d notice quite a lot of sheet metal is different. The haunch at the rear now has more muscle, and the character line is crisper. It no longer meets the sharp line that starts at the headlamp anymore, and the lines on the doors are different too. There’s a new set of 17-inch alloy wheels as well. But they do look quite staid. 

You’d easily spot the new headlamps with their interesting daytime running lamp pattern. The tail lamps too have reworked graphics, even though the shape remains the same. Oddly enough, Audi offers dynamic turn indicators only at the rear. Audi’s signature ‘light show’ would’ve been a sweet bonus here too. 

Changes inside the cabin are harder to spot. It still is among the best in terms of quality, fit and finish. And the design is more classy than exciting. Visually, you’d spot three changes: 

  • The steering wheel looks sportier, courtesy a round horn pad (it is a stretch to reach the horn, though).

  • The free-floating infotainment screen is now larger at 10.1 inches. It supports touch inputs and runs a familiar (read: minimal) interface we’re used to. It gets Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support too.  

  • The cumbersome touchpad that used to control the screen is now thankfully deleted. You get a usable cubbyhole instead. With audio and navigation accessible on the virtual cockpit (and controlled through the steering wheel), you don’t need to take your eyes off the road either. 

Little touches that make you feel like you’re in a luxury car — the touch-sensitive climate control interface, the satisfying click from the knurled knobs--are all in place. It’s got the usual gamut of features too, including powered front seats (driver gets memory), three-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, leather upholstery and a sunroof. 

There’s no update to the space either, which means the A4 continues to be a sedan fit for four six-footers to travel comfortably. You do get enough width to squeeze in a fifth occupant but the raised transmission tunnel will mean a less than ideal experience. The cushioning isn’t overly soft, which means you’d be plenty comfortable over long distances too. 

Rear occupants also get their own climate control, and the side windows get sunblinds. You also have a flip-down armrest with storage for an iPad, and really cool pop-out cup holders. 

Back In The Game?

Audi’s A4 promises more of the same. A stellar ride, a quiet cabin, high quality interiors and ample space. With the new engine, it now has the performance to match the comfort and the luxury. Prices should hover between Rs 42 lakh and Rs 48 lakh (ex-showroom), which makes it a whole lot more tempting to those wanting their first set of luxury wheels. 

Audi A4
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