What is it?
We’ve tried all manner of Audi A4 variants at Autocar and, at first glance, this is one of the strangest. This model has a V6 turbodiesel up front, coupled to a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox. You might expect the word quattro to appear somewhere in the model name; all-wheel drive is optional, but in standard form this variant is front-wheel drive.
So what’s the point? At 215bhp, it’s only 27bhp stronger than the most powerful 2.0-litre TDI, while the torque figure is identical at 295Ib ft. Delve a little deeper, however, and you realise that its torque is available over a much wider rev range and it starts from lower down.
This means it’s not only a full 1.1sec quicker to 62mph than the front-drive 188bhp 2.0-litre diesel, it’s supposedly capable of 67.3mpg with CO2 emissions of 109g/km. There are superminis out there that struggle to beat those figures.
Unsurprisingly, you can’t have this engine in entry-level SE specification; you’ll have to make the leap to Sport trim if you want to tick the V6 box. That means prices start at a not insubstantial £34,250.
What’s it like?
The real advantage of this V6 is that you don’t have to work it hard to make swift progress. Under normal use it’ll happily keep pace with traffic without ever feeling pushed. This makes for a refined drive, helped by there being a smoother six, not four cylinders under the bonnet.
Economy is further assisted by a coasting function that allows the car to freewheel when you take your foot off the throttle. In the real world, this equated to economy of over 45mpg on our test drive without any special treatment.
With the suspension set to Comfort, the A4 proves a relaxing companion over long distances with little in the way of float or roll. No doubt the relatively small 18in wheels of our test car helped in that respect. We suspect the smaller optional 17s would take the edge off sharper ridges.
Should you want to cover ground quickly, the standard drive select system allows you to alter the throttle response, gearbox behaviour and stiffen the suspension. This makes the A4 feel a lot more lively; it needs a lot less throttle travel to get going and body control is noticeably tighter.
A passive Comfort suspension set-up is standard, but our car was fitted with an adaptable version of it. A Sport adaptive system is also available to firm things up even more, but we wouldn’t bother. This is by no means a sports saloon; it feels more like a shrunken luxury saloon and prefers to be driven in a gentle fashion.
At very low speeds, the front wheels can struggle to put down all the available torque. This manifests itself as a flashing traction control light when the aid is switched on, or as a fair bit of thumping as the front axle hops with it off. As you’d expect, wet weather exacerbates this shortcoming.
At least there’s little to no writhing from the steering wheel when this happens. As we’ve come to expect from the A4, precious little feedback is sent through the steering column during hard cornering.
Where this car makes the most sense is on motorways and dual carriageways. At speed, the V6 proves wonderfully flexible, allowing the A4 to surge forward should you want to build speed rapidly. You get the distinct impression it would be just as comfortable at triple-digit Autobahn speeds, too.
In the cabin things are predictably good. There’s plenty of room for four adults, although getting three on the rear bench is a bit of a squeeze. Headroom is good, and all the cabin materials are of a typically high quality. The boot is a decent size, too, and it’s comparable to its main competitor the BMW 3 Series.
Should I buy one?
There’s plenty to recommend the latest generation of the A4. It may look similar to the old model on the outside, but it’s more efficient, better to drive and sets the benchmark for interiors in this class once again. Importantly, it takes rolling refinement to a whole new level.
A Jaguar XE or BMW 3 Series would be more enjoyable to punt down a winding road, but that’s not the A4’s aim. As we’ve come to expect from Audi, the handling is stable, secure and entirely without drama. Traction may not be the best, but realistically this is easily driven around.
For company car drivers, this front-wheel drive V6 makes a great deal of sense. It’s smoother than the four-cylinder diesels and significantly quicker too. At 67.3mpg and 109g/km of C02, on paper it’s not quite as eco-friendly as the 188bhp 2.0 TDI Ultra (72.4mpg and 103g/km), but the financial difference is less than £300 a year for a 40% taxpayer.
Audi A4 3.0 TDI 218 Sport review
Location: Storrington, West Sussex; On sale: Now; Price £34,250; Engine V6, 2967cc, diesel; Power 215bhp at 4000-5000rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 1250-3750rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1615kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 6.6sec; Economy 67.3mpg (combined); CO2 rating & BIK tax band 109g/km, 19%
What is it?