IT’S the most hotly contested game in premium motoring.

German premium brands Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have been doing battle in the executive saloon sector for decades, with their respective A4, C Class and 3 Series offerings vying with each other while at the same time trying to keep ahead of the likes of Jaguar and Lexus.

Millimetres, seconds, cost, weight and power – to name just a few areas – are scrutinised, pawed over and compared, with each highlighting the data where they come out on top or fall short.

Audi has now launched its revised A4 range with most of the exterior parts altered to increase the dynamics and a rack of new engines that include mild hybrid systems for better efficiency.

Equally pleasing to customers will be the admission that in the past Audi too often listed features as options rather than standard fare. It has now included much more in the basic package.

For example, even the entry-level Technik specification now comes with the 10.1-inch touchscreen and navigation system, the brilliant Audi virtual cockpit with 12.3-inch colour display, heated front seats, four-way electric lumbar support, auto-dimming heated and folding wing mirrors, LED side indicators, headlights and running lights and a reversing camera.

That’s on top of the host of safety and comfort features that already came as standard on the previous model.

The base price of £30,750 undercuts that of its rivals, too. You can add about £1,500 for each upgrade step to the Sport, S-line, Black and Vorsprung models.

Four years in the making, the new A4 is undoubtedly more attractive. Every panel bar the bonnet roof and boot lid is new. It is also more economical – vital when one considers that 60 per cent of sales will be to fleets.

There’s a flatter, wider single frame grille at the front with revised LED headlights and a nice touch at the back, where a chrome strip connects the redesigned lights.

But perhaps it is under the bonnet that we find the big news, because many of the engine variants now come with mild hybrid systems and 136PS and 163PS TDI diesel units have joined the line-up.

There’s a total of seven turbocharged engines with power outputs ranging from 136PS to 347PS in four diesel and three petrol units.

The A4 in saloon and avant (estate) forms is joined by the new S4 in similar body styles, with the S4 being powered by TDI diesel units for the first time in its history.

These V6 units are a revelation in the S4, providing for punchy acceleration on top of oodles of power that make for a hushed and composed ride. My choice would be the avant version for the perfect combination of performance and practicality.

As an executive express, the A4 and S4 are refined offerings with a choice of trim level, power, transmission fuel and saloon/avant to suit all.

Personally, I would avoid the weakest of the powerplants, unless you are prepared to work a little harder behind the wheel. The seven-speed S tronic automatic would also be my preference over the six-speed manual.

Whichever option you go for, the A4/S4 grip the road so very well. Predictable and satisfying, the drive qualities do not match those of the BMW 3 Series but the overall experience is one of premium motoring at its best.

The A4 has slipped behind the C Class and 3 Series in the sales charts. This is a most comprehensive attempt to win back the top slot and will not disappoint anyone seeking a saloon cruiser with a prestigious badge on the grille.


Audi A4 TFSI S line Saloon

Price: from £36,235

Engine: 2.0-litre TFSI petrol producing 150PS

Transmission: Seven-speed S tronic dual clutch automatic

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 8.9 seconds; top speed 140mph

Economy: 39.2mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 137g/km


Performance: ****

Economy: ***

Ride/Handling: ****

Space/Practicality: ****

Equipment: *****

Security/Safety: ****

Value For Money: ****