Tuesday, March 29, 2016


DEFINITION : A gladiator was a professional fighter who specialised with particular weapons and fought before the public in large purpose-built arenas.

Sounds a lot like today’s cutthroat global car market, except in this story there are four of these tyros shaping up against each other:

Mercedes-Benz C-Class
BMW 3 Series
Jaguar XE, and,
Audi A4

The winner will be ‘The Best of All’. Can it be Audi’s new A4?

On first meeting this car, my initial reaction was: “When is an A4 NOT an A4?”
Answer: “When it’s practically an A6!”

Despite narrow cabin, legroom is good
My last company car in 2006, the year I retired, was an Audi A6, which by comparison with this new A4, was just 15cm longer, and weighed about 100kg more.

The interior package was almost the identical size in both cars, except cabin width is less in the A4.

In Europe the A4 is classified as a D-segment car; but comparing the dimensions it almost rivals the full-size, E-segment cars. So, I guess, if you want a D-segment Audi sedan now, it’s the A3 for you!

Okay, enough of the nit-picking. The new A4 retains the conservative styling of its predecessor with taut 'tensioned' flanks, but it bristles with new technologies, driver aids and in this case some extra flim-flam that comes with the S-Line package – for an extra AUD$3200!

The 'S-Line' package is expensive but has lots of nice touches. Probably worth it!
Starting at AUD$69,900, this test car comes in at a wallet-walloping AUD$92,791!
Whoa! It had better be good. In fact, it had better be ‘Best of All’.

The luxury segment that these four cars compete in is probably the hottest game in town, and the current champion is the Mercedes-Benz C-class, with the BMW 3 Series trailing behind. Audi has a huge hill to climb, notwithstanding a completely new gladiator from Jaguar - the XE.

However, I sincerely believe the A4 matches its competitors everywhere!

One of the casualties of ‘Dieselgate’ was a man I’m proud to call a friend, Ing. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg. He was Head of Automobile Development at Audi AG.

He was suspended as the enquiry got under way, but in response to being flagged as a possible culprit, it appears Ulrich chose to resign. He was/is a truly brilliant automobile engineer and this A4 is probably one of the last cars engineered under his experienced eye.

If Dr. Hackenberg led the team that built this car it deserves to be the Best of All – and it’s my opinion that VWAG will really miss his expertise, innovative flashes of brilliance and his solid leadership qualities. I don’t know what role, if any, he played in ‘Dieselgate’, but I still admire and respect his skills and talent.

After a quick trip to the sub-Alpine regions of the Gold Coast Hinterland,

and dropping down into the lush rainforests surrounding the Numinbah Valley

I decided this car matches its gladiatorial opponents with a strong set of weapons.

The interior has everything you'd want in a Teutonic, multi-technology, taut and tasty cockpit
The Tecknik Package features the fantastic fully-digital Virtual Cockpit with a 12.3" high definition screen! You can flick from dials to maps!
It is beautifully built. In fact it’s an automotive production work of art. Fit, finish, materials, trim and body margins and the elegance of its technology will satisfy all but the most diehard fans of the cars from Stuttgart and Munich.

This car, with a 2.0L TFSI engine pushing out 184kW (280 bhp), driving through the 7-speed S-tronic twin-clutch gearbox and Quattro AWD is a super-smooth touring car. 

Blasting up the twisting mountain roads, flicking the up’n’down paddles, and howling out of the hairpins, the A4 was composed, quick and very responsive.

On the open, farmland highway heading back to the burbs, at cruising speed, the A4 displayed very competent touring suspension, with a firm, but not uncomfortable ability to manage our rather ‘dippy’ rural blacktops.

This car is able to match its competitors in every sense, but somehow Audi still manages to finish behind the Benz and the Bee-Em in the 'first choice' stakes.

The 'viewing' options on the digitised screen are truly awesome, but the package costs AUD$2100!
I haven’t compared the Audi’s pricing item by item, but even in its quest to convince the buyers that they’re getting a genuine premium European-bred sedan, I still think Audi should sharpen the pencils and price the car and packages more realistically. Seems to me that’s the only way it will begin to assert itself.

Dare I say it, but especially taking 'Dieselgate' into account!

Having been a part of the VW Group for so long, I'm convinced that this attitude about pricing for 'perceptions of premium quality' was definitely a Ferdinand Piech philosophy, dutifully followed by the now-departed VWAG Chairman Martin Winterkorn.

Quite frankly I think this stance is nothing more than corporate arrogance. If VWAG really does want to take on Mercedes-Benz and BMW, then Audi will have to offer keener pricing – there isn’t any wiggle room anywhere else in this proposition.

By the way, as I really detest most of the new technology and driver aids – such as Lane Assist; Traffic Jam Assist; Collision Avoidance; Autonomous Technology; Perimeter-sensing and suchlike, I discounted ‘my Audi A4’ by around AUD$6,000 bringing it down to AUD$87,000!

Still a chunk of change, but at least I would not be paying for intrusive technology, and I would still be in command and responsible for driving the bloody car! Thank you!

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