If you’re in the market for a mid-size premium sedan you would be mad to not have an Audi on your shortlist. They are beautifully made, look great and drive wonderfully. Interestingly, the brand’s mid-size range comes in two distinct flavours; traditional sedan, the A4, or rakish hatch, the A5. But which deserves your hard-earned?
Let’s look firstly at the A4. Externally, the A4 is a very conservative three-box design, but its execution is so very, very skilled that it is really quite beautiful. Rear headroom and legroom is adequate for this class. The ride is controlled and, while on the firm side, acceptable. Power from the base model 35TFSI is never found to be wanting and the front-wheel-drive chassis grips like a cat to carpet.
The swoopy A5 has all of the positive attributes of the A4 sedan, but with less rear headroom, a more practical hatch boot lid, frameless doors and an altogether more avant-garde vibe. For me, despite the more attractive and sporty design of the A5, I would still jump for the more conservative, more timeless and slightly quieter A4.
More important than the decision of body styles though is the decision needed to be made regarding the specification you choose.
The A4 range kicks off with the $63000 front-wheel-drive 35TFSI, while the A5 range begins with the slightly more powerful, but still front-wheel drive, $80000 40TFSI. Stepping up a grade though really presents some significant gains in both chassis control and performance. The A4 and A5 are both available as a 45TFSI ($77400 and $89050 respectively), with a big jump in both power and torques and, importantly, the inclusion of Audi’s famous Quattro all-wheel-drive system. It is well worth the extra spend.
This brings me to Audi’s biggest problem. For the money, both of these models are, on paper at least, woefully under-equipped. For example, a 360-degree parking camera is only available as part of the Assistance Plus Package – a suite of equipment that includes some comfort items, such as heated seats, and advanced safety features that really should be standard equipment, like Turn Assist and High Beam Assist. Still, wireless CarPlay is nice and is included in all models.
Of course, I’m being picky. Throw money at the problem, tick all of the boxes and you’ll find yourself with a fantastic car on the driveway. Although, $2k for metallic paint is just taking the piss.
Ultimately, I would still choose a sparsely equipped premium German, like an Audi, over a lavishly equipped lesser brand every time, but that’s just me. For me, the value of what can’t be seen is much greater than trinkets and baubles that often just end up being annoying. Lane Keep Assist, for example, is a great example of this. In the Audi, it is absolutely intuitive. You simply don’t notice its existence.
Other brands will see the wheel tugging and pulling and fighting you all the way. Headlights are another example. The, admittedly optional, High Beam Assist is sensational, providing brilliant white light that automatically bends and shifts in order to provide the maximum amount of illumination while not blinding other motorists. The extra optional LED Matrix lights are better still! Unfortunately, High Beam Assist won’t tick any boxes on the ANCAP list, but it’s a shed load better at preventing accidents than some crappy, half baked Lane Keep Assist system.
If I’m really, really honest, I would choose a sparsely equipped rear-wheel-drive premium German over the Audi every time, but that is my point – the purchase of a new car really is a very personal thing. There’s not a bad new car out there – it’s just that the Audi A4 and A5 are much, much better than most.
Still can’t decide which one to go for? Forget both of them and go for the wagon!