2021 Audi A4: A Convincing Upgrade, With Fine Integration of High-Tech Elements

Audi S4 U.S. 36 photos
Photo: Audi
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This is a bit strange: Audi has treated the design of the A4 conservatively for the last couple of generations, yet the current model's facelift came with plenty of new design motifs. The current Audi A4 debuted in 2015 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, but those who are now in quest for a convincing premium compact sedan (mid-sized, according to the European habits), should not give up on it because of its six-year conceptual age.
A famous luxury car manufacturer before the second world war, Audi was reinvented in 1965 as the VW Group decided to dump DKW, linked in terms of image to the obsolete two-stroke engines technology. So, in 1965 Audi had a fresh start and a long way to go before regaining its status of excellence.

Regarding the evolution of the Audi compact sedans, a major step was accomplished in 1986, when the Audi 80 (B3 technical platform) was launched. Its clean-cut design was eye-catching and the drag coefficient of the body was surprisingly low, with a Cd of 0.29. This Audi 80 brought the advanced style concept promoted by the larger Audi 100 (C3 platform) in a smaller segment.
2021 Audi A4
Photo: Audi
The model was succeeded in 1994 by the first generation of the Audi A4. Through the following generations, the signature of these Audi sedans has turned from a futurist note toward a noticeable premium-luxury expression. The last 15 years saw the A4 becoming rather luxurious and conservative in terms of image, while having a lot to offer concerning equipment and technology.


Still looking like a typical Audi sedan on the outside, the current A4 got some new incisive details for the exterior design, while digital tech has invaded the car’s interior. New LED headlamps, more striking LED taillights and flattened exhaust pipes – these are the main exterior features carrying a progressive message. A quite coherent one, after all. Regarding the interior, there is something interesting about the configuration of the dashboard: its layout will make accommodation easier for those who are reticent of the coming digital era.

There are still classic functional zones, clearly delimited, for the instruments panel, the multimedia screen (12.3 inch, new MMI generation) and the heating/ventilation system. The high positioning of the multimedia screen is a good idea, and same can be said for the conventional buttons of the heating/ventilation. The digital instruments panel doesn’t have any kind of alien graphics (see BMW), so everybody will be happy with it.

2021 Audi A4
Photo: Audi
Definitely, an important argument: there is plenty of space aboard for the passengers. The fit and finish look great, in fact the interior atmosphere is compatible with the mid-size segment standards (full-size, in Europe). It's hard to find better quality materials at any direct competitor. The trunk volume is more than satisfying: 495 liters. Yes, agree, we’ve seen bigger trunks at some comparably sized sedans, but their passengers are hardly so nicely treated as those travelling in the Audi A4.

Thrust and money

As a consequence of the Dieselgate scandal, only three gasoline engines are now available for the A4 in the U.S.: two versions of the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder TFSI (201 and 261 hp), plus the 3.0 V6 TFSI (349 hp) of the sporty S4 version. All of them are coupled with S tronic dual clutch gearboxes and Quattro all-wheel-drive. All of them can be ordered with three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige.

Obivously, the offer is targeting only a pretentious clientele with a sensitivity for high-tech cars with a certain dynamic potential. The basic version A4 40 TFSI (201 hp) won’t disappoint in this respect, yet the A4 45 TFSI (261 hp) does it right. Base price for those: $39,100, and $40,900, respectively. Definitely, this difference is worth paying for. Important savings may come from a rather wise choice of the trim levels: there is a gap of roughly $5,000 between them.

2021 Audi A4
Photo: Audi
Even if the words “Premium Plus” suggest this level is only a nuance above the Premium configuration, there are some features that, in fact, make a big difference: among others, Premium Plus includes an LCD instrument cluster (Audi virtual cockpit), adaptive cruise-control, a top view camera and full-LED headlights.

The price for an Audi A4 45 TFSI (261 hp) starts at $45,100. Spending furter, for the Prestige trim level, will bring the active Matrix-LED headlights, a head-up diaplay, advanced MMI Navigation with Audi Connect Prime Plus (needs subscription) and a hi-fi Bang and Olufsen 3D sound system. Question comes: nice things, but really indispensable?

From this perspective, the Audi S4 (also available with the three trim levels) is very expensive. Its basic price (Premium trim level) is $49,900 and you could get a fast enough A4 45 TFSI Prestige (0 to 60 mph in 5.5 s) for the same money. On the other hand, in these conditions, the basic version of the Audi S4 (349 hp, 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 s) appears as a big temptation for those wanting the top performance before any conveniences.

2021 Audi A4
Photo: Audi
In the USA, the station-wagon version of the A4 is available only in the crossover A4 Allroad guise, with a 4-cylinder turbocharged (261 hp) engine. Its base price: $44,600. Its practical virtues might be interesting, as is the possibility to raise the ground clearance by 1.4 in (35 mm) at the push of a button.

In Europe, the hood of the Audi A4 can hide a wider range of motors. While the basic 2.0-liter gasoline engine develops 150 PS and comes with a 6-speed manual gearbox, at the top of the 4-cylinder 2.0-liter engine range there is a 265 PS version featuring an S tronic dual clutch gearbox and quattro all-wheel-drive as standard equipments. Base prices range for the gasoline-fed A4s: from €34,600 to €47,350 . Want more? Something with 6 cylinders, maybe?

Above a range of three 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbodiesels (136, 163 and 204 PS), they offer a 3.0 V6 turbodiesel engine developing 286 PS and 620 Nm of torque. Base price range for the A4 turbodiesels: from €40,050 to €52,050. The gaps between the 136 and 163 PS versions with 2.0 TDI engines is of only €1800 only. So, does anybody still buy the basic TDI?

In Europe, the sporty S4 version (it’s a MHEV equipped with EPC - electric-powered compressor) also has a turbodiesel under its hood. A really powerful one: 341 PS and 700 Nm of torque. This technical complexity is considerably expensive: a €63,750 starting price. For some difficult to understand reasons, the only gasoline-fed V6 available in this segment for Europe was thrown under the hood of the station-wagon version of the A4. They call this Audi RS4 Avant TFSI Tiptronic, it relies on 450 PS and 600 Nm of torque, being capable to go over the 100 kph (62 mph) speed threshold in just 4.1 s (0 to 60 mph in 3.9 s). Price for this kind of fun: at least €83,000.

Trim levels in Europe: A4 (standard), Advanced (premium touch and high-tech features added) and S-Line (sporty profile with dedicated performance equipment). The price differences between them may vary roughly between 500 and 1700 euros (A4 standard and Advanced are quite close, which encourages the purchase of the Advanced versions).


Longitudinally mounted engines, all-wheel-drive and some attention to reduce the weight of the car (the previous A4 version, built on the B8 technical platform, was about 120 kg heavier), these details have a dynamic story to tell. Fine steering, efficient brakes and sporty setup for the suspension, here are some other pertinent aspects filling the big picture. Yes, the Audi A4 invites you not to waste time in busy traffic.

2021 Audi A4
Photo: Audi
Sporty driving is something efortless to do and in quite good comfort conditions. Regardlesss of the drive mode selected, the suspension is obviously firm and rigorous. Typical sporty driving won’t frighten the A4. Think of it this way: its platform can handle some 450 PS in the case of that RS4 station wagon. When grip limits are reached, a subtle trend of understeering will emerge, but nothing as critical as its predecessors.


There is some disappointment for those Europeans who would like an Audi A4 sedan with a non-extreme six-cylinder gasoline engine. Also, there is no RS4 sedan. Regarding the RS4 Avant, unless you want to sell by noon in the Munchener market place some 250 kilos of fish caught in Hamburg during the morning of the same day, we can’t exactly understand the need for this fast station wagon. And didn't they sell a lot of those S4 with V6 diesels, lately? We also have some doubts here. Dark spot: certain A4 TDI versions had the “emissions cheating” 2.0 liters turbodiesel of the VW Group under their hoods. That phase is now over, thankfully.


Instead of the Audi A4’s premium high-tech note, customers may prefer the aristocratic style of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the academic sportiness of the BMW 3 Series, the serenity of the Volvo S60 or the feline-like personality of the Jaguar XE. Elseway, the Audi A4 remains a distinct presence.

By the way, the complete list of the worldwide compact (mid-size, in Europe) premium sedans counts ten alternatives: Acura ILX, Alfa Romeo Giulia, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac CT4, Genesis G70, Infiniti Q50, Jaguar XE, Lexus IS, Lincoln MKZ, Volvo S60. Of these, only German, British and Swedish models look like explicit threats for the Audi A4.
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