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In a perfect world, I would own an Audi A4 2.0T Multitronic and it would be sitting in my parking lot everyday, just like the picture above. But the world is not perfect, but a good compromise would be a test drive so I can bring to you my thoughts on the latest B7 Audi A4 2.0T Multitronic, powered by the 2.0 litre TFSI engine of the Volkswagen Golf GTI fame. I managed to do quite a comprehensive test drive, covering traffic jams, parking lots, dry straights, dry bends, wet straights, wet windy roads, day and night. Check out the test drive report after the jump.

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Audi is one of the few German manufacturers who uses front wheel drive, as compared to BMW and Mercedes Benz who use mainly RWD platforms. The Audi A4 first made it’s world debut in 1995 with the B5, sharing a platform with the 4th gen Volkswagen Passat. It came with a wide variety of engine options, from a 1.6 litre petrol to the largest 2.8 litre V6 30V petrol. There were also 1.9 and 2.5 litre turbodiesel engines. Then in the year 2000 came the 2nd generation based on the B6 platform, which also introduced a cabriolet body form in addition to the previously available sedan and estate bodies. With the B6, Audi introduced Multitronic, a CVT gearbox which replaced the Tiptronic automatic transmission on front wheel drive models. The models equipped with Quattro all-wheel drive continued using the Tiptronic automatic transmission.

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The Audi A4 2.0T Multitronic is the next generation B7, which is actually a reengineered B6 chassis. The test car came in red, and I found that it’s design had plenty of road presence. Perhaps it’s also partly due to the fact that there are much less A4s on the road as compared to the E90 BMW 3-series. The front carries Audi’s new single shield grille from the Nuvolari concept, flanked by two Xenon HID projector headlamps. Move on to the sides of the car and it’s muscular stance is accentuated by it’s high shoulder lines and flared wheel arches. The fat-looking rear is typical Audi, but this time the brake lamps extend onto the bootlid. The brake lamps look like two eagle heads looking at the four overlapping rings in the middle of the boot. The design of the front headlamps somewhat echo the same shape, though the eagle’s necks have been elongated. It looks like curves have replaced straight lines with Audi’s new design direction. Oh, and looks are deceiving, open the boot lid and you’ll find a bigger boot space than you’d expect. More on that later. The big wheels fill up the wheel arches with minimal gap!

The car is a front engined, front wheel drive car and has it’s engine mounted longitudinally, which explains why the A4 has Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), or rather S-Tronic in Audi lingo is missing from it’s line-up. Borg-Warner has not developed a DSG transmission for longitudinal engine bay layouts yet. The newly released A3, based on the Golf Mk5 chassis uses a transverse engine layout, so it benefits from the ability to have DSG/S-Tronic. So the front-wheel drive Audi A4 makes do with Audi’s Multitronic CVT transmission that comes with manual shift function with 7 pre-set virtual gears. You can control manual shifting via pushing the gear lever up and down, or via paddle shifts on the steering wheel. Not that I am complaining about the unavailability of DSG, the Multitronic paired with the good low end torque of the 2.0 TFSI engine is excellent.

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The Audi A4 2.0T Multitronic’s 2.0 litre FSI Turbo engine should be no stranger to most of you. It is the same engine featured in the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Just look at the torque curve above, max torque of 280Nm peaks at a low 1,800rpm and remains constant all the way up to 5,000rpm, where it begins to dip. Very broad powerband. Peak horsepower is 200hp at 5,100rpm. For a turbocharged engine, it has a very high compression ratio of 10.5:1, thanks to it’s FSI direct injection. At idle, you can hear the clattering noise that was once associated with diesel engines, but now has become the norm for any direct injection engine, no matter diesel or petrol. 0-100km/h takes 7.3 seconds, and top speed is 235km/h. I did not test either claims, due to lack of equipment and road.

I took the Audi A4 out on a spin through some windy roads in the dry. There was understeer, and if you put down too much throttle when the car is pointing anywhere but straight, there will be some wheel spin but the car’s ESP stability control kicks in, with the orange ESP light flashing on the meter panel. Torque steer is apparent when you gun the throttle. As usual with a front wheel drive there is under steer during hard cornering, but as most of us grow up driving front wheel drive cars it is our second nature to know how to control it. Body roll is noticeable during hard cornering but nothing alarming. The suspension was what I expected from the car, not anything too sporty and harsh, though there is an optional stiffer Sports suspension package for the Audi A4 in world markets. Ride was comfortable, though I don’t know how this compares to it’s C-class and 3-series rivals as I haven’t tested them before. It was very quiet from the inside too, engine sound is muffled sufficiently and there is no rolling tyre noise. The car is much louder from the outside. If you want an Audi that gives you a much better driving experience in terms of handling, get the A4 Quattro instead with the 40:60 rear-biased all wheel drive system.

Video: Audi A4 – Drive-by 1

Video: Audi A4 – Drive-by 2

Video: Audi A4 – Engine bay

Video: Audi A4 – Multi-function LCD

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So you see, handling is not why I am all ga-ga over this car and want it in my porch. The 2.0 litre FSI Turbo engine is awesome. For a 2.0 turbo, there is just so much torque everywhere, and having a CVT transmission allows you to use all that torque efficiently. Going up Genting with a full load of 4 passengers was a breeze, the Audi was passing car after car without a sweat without having to gun the throttle in any scenario. There is virtually no turbo lag at all, this and the N54 in the new BMW 335i is the future of turbocharged engines. Now I am itchy to try the Volkswagen Golf GTI, as the engine would seem even more powerful in a lighter hatchback. The engine totally lifted up my standards on what a car engine should behave like.

I say 4 passengers is full load because that’s pretty much the limit if you want to fit people in the car comfortably. Things become slightly crampy when a third person joins the folks in the rear bench, but when I say crampy it’s relative to the amount of comfort one would expect from a luxury German marque. It’s far from something as bad as 5 people in a Kancil. Time to consider something larger if you have a third kid coming along. Despite having an average sized interior, the boot is HUGE. 460 litres according to spec sheets, a tad bit smaller than the Honda City’s 500 litres but still huge. Under the boot, you will find a full sized spare.

a4test_smallgear.jpgThe Multitronic gearbox has 7 preset virtual gears, which came in handy on my way down from Genting. I could of course engage Sports mode and let the CVT automatically do all the necessary engine braking for me, but I thought this was the best time to try out the manual shifting. The journey down ran on 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears. Gears shift up automatically when you approach the redline to prevent engine damage. The paddle shifts are built really well, comparable to the ones on the Porsche 911 Turbo. If you do not want to use the paddles, you can also use the gear lever. Simply push up and down to shift. Shifts are almost instant, since this is a CVT and not a Tiptronic slushbox.

I found the slight lag that the transmission had when rolling off from a start kinda irritating. I missed quite a few chances to cross a busy junction because of that. I’m not sure if this is an issue with my test unit or something common on all Audi A4s. But once the car is rolling, there is no noticeable lag with the throttle response. Creeping during actions like parking the car is a tad bit too slow for my liking though, especially on reverse. Combined with a slightly jumpy throttle and equally jumpy braking (due to the big, bad brakes which really bite!) this might end up a little jerky and uncomfortable if you aren’t that skilled with throttle control. But after a while you’ll get used to operating the paddle finely enough to prevent the jerky movments.

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The interior is up to what I’d expect of an Audi, with grey and silver trim. Plastics feel and gap between panels are top notch! Both front seats are electrically adjustable with 4 memory controls. The seat can go front and back, and incline of both the backrest and the seat are adjustable. I found the seating position very suitable, with the center armrest in just the right position and big enough for both the driver and front passengers’ elbows. However, I found myself having no arm rest for my right arm when I am driving using the left hand. Since I am tall, the seat was pushed pretty far back, so my elbow is actually at the B-pillar area. I tried resting my arm on the door, but the shoulder lines were too tall for that. The seats were comfortable, but I found that since they were not of the optional sports seat variant they did not provide enough support during hard corners. If you buy an A4 and expect to do alot of crazy cornering, ask Euromobil if they can get you the sports seat option. The rear bench also has an armrest, which comes with two cupholders integrated in a pop-out design. The front only has one cupholder.

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The dashboard is lit up with a nice red colour, with the meter panel design comprising of 4 meters flanking a central LCD panel. The LCD panel provides a variety of information including remaining kilometers based on fuel remaining in the fuel tank, temperature, gear position, etc. The sound system is an integrated Bose system featuring 6 speakers and unless you’re a real audiophile I doubt you’ll be touching it in any case. I love it. Very good for a standard audio system. There was sufficient amount of bass so you won’t consider adding a standalone subwoofer to the system. The Bose head unit has front slot-loading 6-CD changer. All the buttons of the ICE system and the air conditioning system looks the same, so at first glance it may be abit confusing to you but once you’ve played around with it abit you’ll to develop a mental map of where each button is. All the buttons and dials feel solid and of high quality.

The HID lights are auto-levelling, which means the angles adjust higher or lower automatically according to terrain. This prevents you from blinding oncoming motorists on uphill or downhill roads. They also come on automatically when it is dark if you leave the headlamp settings on auto mode. You also can turn them on manually if you want. Like the headlamps, wipers also have an automatic setting where wiper speed varies according to how heavy the rain is. I’m not sure how Audi detects all of this, but it works. Ambient lights come on automatically when you get into the car and exit. Warning bell if you leave the headlamps on. Warning buzzer when you forget to wear your seatbelt. Auto dimming rear view mirror. Dual-zone air conditioning. These little bits of intelligence and comfort are what separates a luxury marque from the bread and butter car manufacturers.

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Side airbags integrated into power seats, and side curtain airbags for side impact protection to the head.

Safety features are ESP – which I activated more than a few times due to the large amounts of torque available, ABS anti-lock brakes, 6 airbags, and active headrests. Fortunately I did not have a chance to try out the airbags function. The Audi A4 has a 70 litre fuel tank, which would cost RM134.40 to fill up at our current RM1.92 RON97 fuel prices. The Audi A4 needs a minimum of RON95, with RON98 being recommended. So I filled her up with RM2.15 Shell V-Power. The Audi A4 2.0T FSI Multitronic retails for RM275,000. Check out Euromobil Sdn Bhd for enquiries and test drives. Enjoy the photos I’ve posted below.

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Another shot of the Audi A4 in red. This baby is so photogenic. Click to enlarge.

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Rear lamps which reminds me of an eagle’s head.

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Center dashboard console layout. The integrated headunit is a Bose 6-CD front loading changer.

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Pretty big glove compartment not just for show – has lighting as well.

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A huge 460 litre boot.

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Spare tyre compartment reveals a full sized spare. Compartment cover stays up conveniently via hook.

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Comfy leather seats. Rear bench has 3 headrests.

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Rear windows have built in sunshades.

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Nice butt. Twin exhaust pipes.

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One of the twin exhaust pipes. Would be nicer with some chrome tip though!

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Turbo on the left side of the engine bay…

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… earns the car it’s 2.0T badge.

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New single frame grill corporate nose.

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Push the gear lever towards the left of the D position or press any of the two paddle shifts to activate manual mode. Gear indicator appears on the LCD panel.

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LCD delivers a variety of useful information including ICE CD and track number, temperature, remaining mileage on fuel tank, gear position. The mileage computer calculates remaining kilometers according to driving pattern, so expect the number to go up and down according to how you drive.

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The in-car entertainment is provided by Bose, which pretty much rocks.