The most successful Audi ever will be replaced in the UK next March when the all new A4 saloon reaches Britains showrooms. The model that attracted 1.5 million buyers across Europe has now been completely revised from the ground upwards with a larger, roomier bodyshell, fully independent suspension all round and two all-new lightweight aluminium engines - a 3.0-litre V6 and a 2.0-litre four.
The new A4 combines sleek, timeless styling with revolutionary technological advances such as the unique constantly variable Audi Multitronic automatic transmission. Available in the medium sector for the very first time, the Multitronic system combines exceptional smoothness and user-friendliness with minimal C02 emissions, and can actually improve performance and fuel economy compared with both manual and tiptronic automatic alternatives.
Manufactured in Audis main production facility in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, the new A4 perpetuates the brands tradition for four-wheel-drive, combining a longitudinal engine layout with quattro permanent all-wheel-drive technology just as its pioneering forebears did twenty years ago. In Britain it is predicted that as many as 30 per cent of new A4 sales will feature this trusted transmission system.
One of the most welcome advantages of the new longer, wider and taller A4 bodyshell will be the significantly increased rear leg room its expanded wheelbase provides. The shell is also now 45 per cent stiffer than its predecessor, bringing obvious impact safety benefits. Active and passive safety has also been improved by the addition of both the Audi Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) and the SIDEGUARD head airbag protection system, bringing a total of six airbags in all.
The new Audi A4 is the sixth offering from Audi since 1972 to compete in the prestige sector of the medium segment, a corner of the market which the German marque has helped to define with sales of 6.5 million cars to date.
Fresh from its official press unveiling, staged last month in London and seven other European cities concurrently, the all-new Audi A4 has been drawing the crowds on its World public debut at the Berlin Motor Show. The eagerly awaited newcomer will mount a fresh challenge to the status quo in the UK prestige medium saloon market when it goes on sale here in March 2001.
The new car features improvements to every ingredient in the established A4 formula which has proved so successful in the original, and perennially popular car, launched in the UK in 1995. At the UK launch the new A4 line-up will include four models equipped with a choice of three engines - a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with 130bhp will replace the existing 1.8-litre (125bhp), naturally aspirated unit, and the current 2.8-litre V6 (193bhp) will make way for a new 3.0-litre V6 with 220bhp. A 2.5-litre TDI V6 with 180bhp will complete the initial line-up.
With an aluminium block, five-valve technology and a balancer shaft for optimum smoothness and refinement, the sophisticated 2.0-litre, 130bhp unit is expected to be the choice of the majority of UK buyers. Allied to the standard five-speed manual gearbox, this engine enables the 2.0-litre A4 to accelerate from 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds and reach a 132mph maximum where conditions allow.
Flagship quattro models will be equipped with either the 180bhp 2.5 TDI V6 engine found until now only in A6 and allroad 2.5 TDI quattro Sport models (A4 models have used the 150bhp version), or the new 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine with 220bhp. Like the 2.0-litre engine the new V6 also uses an aluminium block as a foundation and is further refined by a balancer shaft, plus numerous other advances which ensure that it is at the forefront of engine technology. The 3.0-litre A4 quattro can reach 62mph from rest in 6.9 seconds and continue to a 152mph maximum speed.
Following soon afterwards next year will be models powered by a new 130bhp version of the acclaimed 1.9-litre, four-cylinder TDI engine, plus the consistently popular turbocharged four-cylinder 1.8 T petrol unit.
Sophisticated running gear, incorporating a high proportion of weight-saving aluminium components, will combine with these formidable engines to ensure that the A4 evolves as completely in dynamic terms as it has physically.
The four-link front suspension used to great effect in the original A4 has been comprehensively reworked and reduced in weight by 8.5kg for the newcomer, permitting greater ride comfort and even sharper responses. At the rear all models now use the advanced fully independent set-up which until now has been the preserve of quattro versions, uprated with considerably more aluminium input for reduced weight. The end result is a car which is both vastly more rewarding and noticeably more relaxed on the move than its already highly proficient predecessor.
Exact specification for the new line-up in the UK has yet to be announced and further details will follow nearer to launch in 2001.