Years built: 2008 to today
Bodystyles: Four-door saloon, five-door sports estate
What is it?
It is, apparently, the one that everyone wants. Audi has become the biggest-selling premium car brand in Ireland, and the famed four rings are appearing on every road and street in the country now. If it goes on like this, they’ll be appearing on every driveway…
The A4 is Audi’s mid-size warrior, meant to take on the challenge of the mighty BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Its lineage stretches back to the Audi 80 of the, well, the eighties but the current model is far, far more sophisticated than its predecessors.
Bestowed with chiseled good looks that are shared with the rest of the Audi range, the A4 is the perfect car for saying you’ve arrived, but it’s subtle enough to say it softly.
Which one should I buy?
The A4 range has an almost staggering breadth of choice. If you real want to go nuts, you could try and track down an RS4 Avant estate with its race-bred 450hp V8 engine and quattro four-wheel-drive. Don’t want to go fully bonkers? Don’t worry, there’s also the milder S4, although quite how a supercharged 3.0-litre 333hp V6 engine is supposed to be mild is slightly beyond us.
Don’t worry, there are far, far more sensible options around. The ubiquitous 2.0-litre TDI diesel four cylinder engine is the most popular and populous A4 around and it’s the best engine to go for. Decent refinement is combined with solid mid-range punch and it’s best to buy the most recent one you can as the engine got an upgrade from 140hp to 150hp. It’s best to avoid the basic 120hp version though as it’s a bit underpowered and you have to run the engine that much harder to keep up with traffic, which has obvious effects on your fuel consumption.
As ever, it’s worth considering the Avant estate. Many Irish buyers remain resistant to the idea of an estate but the A4 looks even better (to these eyes) with the extra metal and glass out the back, and it’s more practical for everyday ownership than the saloon, transforming a selfish sports saloon into a useful family car.
It’s also worth seeking out a car equipped with quattro four-wheel-drive. The old penalties that the system exacted on fuel consumption and emissions are far, far lower these days and the extra traction pays massive safety dividends on Ireland’s broken and soaked road network. Plus, when the occasional ice and snow storm hits around Christmas, you’ll be laughing while others slip and slide.
How much should I spend? Around €25,000 for a 2011 2.0 TDI S-Line or SE.
Here’s one we found:
2011 Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDI 140hp S-Line , SIMI registered dealer main Audi dealer, 118,000km, one owners, €26,995
What goes wrong?
Very little thankfully. Check the alloy wheels for kerning damage as not only are the wheels themselves expensive to fix but the A4 is somewhat sensitive to any suspension damage and any camber changes or steering alignment issues need to be sorted. We’ve heard reports of manual gearboxes becoming notchy or obstructive but it seems to be a relatively limited issue. Other than that it’s worth remembering that many A4's will initially have been bought first as company cars, and while that means that their service history should be full and up to date, it can also often mean that an uncaring owner has handed out some automotive abuse. Check carefully, especially on the inside and on the bumpers and front wings, for any signs of excessive wear or damage.
We’ve already mentioned the quattro four-wheel-drive system but it really is worth seeking out an A4 thus equipped. Recently, Audi invited us to take part in a comparison test between two ostensibly identical A4 saloons on a soaking wet test track. Both were equipped with the familiar 2.0 TDI diesel engine, but one was front-drive and one was equipped with quattro. Although the front-drive car scrabbled around the slippery track in an acceptable fashion, the difference when we got into the quattro version was like going from night to day – it was more stable, more able to hold a consistent cornering line, easier to pull away even on a surface with all the grip levels of sheet ice and, not surprisingly, faster against the clock. It also felt as if the driver was having to expend so much less effort in the four-wheel-drive version. Improvements in the technology have meant that the penalty in terms of running costs simply isn’t there any more. There’s only a €10 gap in the annual motor tax bill between a 2.0 TDI A4 running quattro and its front-wheel-drive brother, and a minuscule difference in average fuel consumption too.
And don’t forget: For ultimate peace of mind, whichever A4 you settle on, make sure you get its background checked out with Motorcheck.ie.