Giving new meaning to “restrained”, the A4 designers haven’t tugged on many lines for the 2021 facelift. It’s the minutest form of nip and tuck you can imagine and you’ll spot them if you’re lucky and facing the car head-on.
New, all-LED headlights and a slightly reworked single-frame grille are your only clues up front that this isn’t your fathers A4. You do get new design 17in alloys and LED taillights as well but everything else is more understated than Bill Gates at a motherboard convention. You can also read that as boring if you will, but it’s a time-tested design that doesn’t scream flamboyance (read Mallya).
For technocrats, Audi has always been one of the more accomplished of the German trio to fulfil all their demands. To align with that expectation, the first thing you notice in the cabin is the highly polished 10.1in freestanding infotainment screen that is new to the A4, along with the latest version of Audi MMI. It doesn’t retract into the bowels of the dashboard but it also doesn’t hamper the excellent visibility from the large windscreen. When off, it almost looks like a mirror in daylight but has super crisp graphics and the home screen is even more logically laid out now with media, telephony and navigation windows all available in a single glance. Responsiveness is better than ever too and when clubbed with the already excellent Audi Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, the A4 looks like a force to be reckoned with in its class. It does miss out on some luxuries like cooled seats, wireless Apple CarPlay and 360-degree cameras but hey, whatever you do get is built like it could survive multiple World Wars, down to the removable ashtray! Connectivity of the wired kind is basic, with USB-A and USB-C ports for the front passengers but just a 12V socket for the rear. A bit of engineering flexing can be seen on the rear armrest though, which has elaborate cupholders that look like they’re ready to transform into Optimus Prime. Impressive.
To be available in two trim levels, Premium Plus and Technology, in either variant you don’t get the option for premium sound but instead, the stock Audi system which leaves much to be desired in terms of tonal richness and bass definition. But the system does support more natural voice recognition now if you get your kicks by speaking to your car. Amongst the more useful new tricks are powered front seats with memory for the driver, parking aid plus and a remote engine start function. One of the banes of Audis for a few years now has been rear-view cam resolution and on the 2021 A4 too, it reminds you of a 1988 home video on VHS cassette! Why Audi, why? It suffers from fisheye distortion, judder and generally fuzziness that is unacceptable in a premium luxury car.
Push your foot down on the throttle and thankfully, all complaints are laid to rest under the wake of the surging tacho needle. The upgraded 2.0L TFSI 4-cylinder engine has an output of190hp backed by 300Nm of torque driving the front wheels only. The traction control blinks incessantly and your smile will get wider with every 1000rpm climb, all the way up to 6200rpm! It’s quite an explosive motor past the initial turbo-lag below 1500rpm and it makes it fun to find gaps in traffic only so you can hit the rev limiter. The claimed time to 100km/hr is 7.3secs and judging by the look of my 9yr old seated in the passenger seat, Audi’s claim can be believed without contest. The 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox is great for relaxed or spirited driving, given you choose the right mode for the right conditions. The dynamic mode in bumper to bumper traffic can get tediously snappy, so avoid experimenting with the system. The engineers clearly know what they’re doing. The A4’s steering isn’t meant to carve corners at a go-kart track but is well-weighted and perfectly fine for daily driving. In fact, it’s level of refinement and smoothness is utterly relaxing in Comfort mode with ultra-low NVH levels and a ride that is supple and cushy without giving in to body roll. The 17in wheels though should’ve been a sportier design given the nature of the car’s powertrain. While on the minuses, the mild-hybrid in the A4 is limited to an annoying auto start/stop function that just doesn’t work for the blink-and-miss Indian traffic conditions.
If it’s a combination of comfort and straight-line performance you seek, the new A4 will deliver in spades - enough space front and back, sunroof and ambient lighting. superb seats for long journeys and most of the modern features you would need to compete in bragging rights at the gymkhana. What it lacks in the spec sheet, it makes up for in the performance figures and quality that is still the envy of the other luxury carmakers.