Changes allow the Audi A4 to better compete with the face-lifted Mercedes C-class and the new BMW 3-series
Silence is golden Changes allow the Audi A4 to better compete with the face-lifted Mercedes C-class and the new BMW 3-series. PHOTO: ADUI

The speedometer shows 165km/h and I am passing a line of vehicles on a stretch of autostrade. But there is hardly any noise in the cabin of the face-lifted Audi A4 2.0 TFSI saloon, except for a slight swishing sound coming from the side mirror.

It is one of the quietest cars I have driven. Its ride is pretty decent too. Along broken country roads, the car's all-round, multi-link suspension did a commendable job of soaking up occasional potholes - even in Dynamic drive mode.

Handling-wise, the front-wheel drive coped admirably with twisting and narrow mountain passes along the test route.

Along one stretch 2,000m above sea level, the road was littered with hairpins. I selected "Dynamic" and placed my trust in the A4. It did not disappoint. Brake, steer, throttle and repeat. Each time, the car carved through corners with aplomb.

The only downside was poor steering feedback. Often, I could not discern what the tyres were doing.

Featuring an almost unchanged drivetrain as its predecessor, the car had a 2-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine with a seven-speed, dual-clutch gearbox.

Its outputs are unchanged too - 190hp and 320Nm - and so are its performance figures - 0 to 100kmh in 7.3 seconds and 241km/h maximum speed. In comparison, the Mercedes-Benz C200's vital statistics are 7.7 seconds and 239km/h, while the BMW 320i's numbers are 7.1 seconds and 240km/h.

What is different is a 12-volt mild hybrid system which the car now possesses. Audi claims it saves up to 0.3 litres of fuel per 100km. Centred on a belt alternator starter connected to the crankshaft, the system also enables the A4 to coast with the engine off under certain conditions, at between 55kmh and 160kmh.

Except for the roof and bonnet, all body panels are new. On its flanks, a single, continuous shoulder line is replaced by distinctive "quattro" lines above the fenders and the lower set shoulder line in between. The rear is filled with horizontal lines and looks a little too fussy for my liking.

On the whole, the changes make the car seem wider and lower, even though its dimensions remain unchanged, except for a small increase in length.

Inside, the main changes are a new 10.1-inch MMI touchscreen and virtual cockpit plus. The former replaces a rotary-toggled, 8.1-inch display. Along with a simple layout and nicely sized icons, it is more legible.

But it sticks out from the dashboard. Integrating it into the dash, like in the new A1 and Q3, would have been more aesthetically pleasing. Also, you must reach over to use it. I find the rotary control easier to use while on the go.

The virtual cockpit plus is a gem, though. The clarity and amount of information available is first-rate. During navigation, the map appears in the display so you do not have to turn your head to view it.

These changes allow the Audi A4 to better compete with the face-lifted Mercedes C-class and the new BMW 3-series.