Audi’s new A4, due to be unveiled in Paris this month, will be the freshest challenger in the fiercely-contested compact saloon market. Can the A4, complete with dramatic styling and new powerplants, leave the competition gasping for air?

Audi’s new A4, due to be unveiled in Paris this month, will be the freshest challenger in the fiercely-contested compact saloon market. Can the A4, complete with dramatic styling and new powerplants, leave the competition gasping for air?

The youngest addition to the medium saloon sector, the A4 may give the traditional segment leaders something to ponder… The next edition of Mercedes’ C-Class is only planned for two years from now, though it was recently facelifted in SA while a brochure of BMW’s next 3 Series (due early in 2005) was leaked on internet sites last month. Seemingly to detract from Audi’s big Paris surprise, it may just indicate that the traditional segment leaders are running scared.

Echoing design elements first displayed on the Nuvolari concept, front-end styling of both saloon and Avant models of the A4 is new as it displays a single-frame grille and newly styled clear glass headlamps. At the rear too, the Nuvolari influences can be seen in the arching light cluster.

The new A4 now comes with a choice of 10 petrol and diesel engines including four brand new units. The range includes three existing engines: the 96 kW 2,0-litre four cylinder unit, the four-cylinder 1,8T that produces 120 kW and a 75 kW 1,6-litre engine.

Two newly designed petrol engines with FSI will be used for the first time in the A4: the 188 kW 3,2 FSI V6 and a turbocharged 2,0-litre four-cylinder FSI (the 2,0T) which produces 147 kW.

The turbodiesel offerings will include a 2,0-litre four-cylinder engine with pump-injector fuel injection and a power output of 103 kW and the new six-cylinder common-rail 3,0 TDI. Audi’s top-of-the-range diesel V6, débuted recently in the A6 and A8 saloons, will feature in the A4 as well. This V6 produces 150 kW and 450 N.m of torque between 1 400 and 3 200 r/min. The V8 engine fitted in the S4 will deliver an awe-inspiring 257 kW.

Probably from the beginning of 2005, a coated diesel particulate filter will be offered for the 2,0- and 3,0-litre TDIs.

Drive on all models, to either the front wheels or all wheels with the quattro permanent four-wheel drive, is by five- of six-speed manual transmission or multitronic, the continuously variable automatic transmission. A six-speed tiptronic with sport programme is available for all quattro models.

The dynamic chassis with its four-link front suspension and self-tracking trapezoidal-link rear suspension has been reworked and new components added. Changes have been made to the elastokinematics and the spring and shock absorber settings where several mountings and dimensions of the front and rear shock absorbers have been carried over from the A6. Rear trapezoidal links, wheel carriers and front track rods have been moved across from the S4.

In the saloon and Avant models, all five seats are fitted with three-point inertia reel belts and head restraints. The front seats have belt force limiters and pre-tensioners while active head restraints have been integrated for increased safety.

Safety equipment includes two-stage front airbags, front side airbags and a large head airbag system, or ‘sideguard’.

Customers will have a choice of 15 exterior colours including five new colours.