I bought my Audi A4 10 years ago for I all the right reasons.
Our second son Luke had just arrived on the scene and our little family of three had just become slightly bigger and louder at four, which raised its own set of challenges — not least the need for a new mode of transport.
One pram became two; the number of car seats doubled; ease of access was required to the back seats for all the lifting in and out, wiping, cleaning, drooling, singing, crying, soothing, goo-gooing, and, of course, poo-pooing.
And on top of the prerequisites of a solid (but stylish) car that would envelop us in an array of safety features, the boot was the real deal-breaker.
Armies have invaded small countries with less equipment than what’s required to bring two toddlers for a walk in Fota Wildlife Park.
Prams, check. Rain covers, check. Blankets, check. Spare blankets, check. Umbrellas (in case the sun comes out), check. A complete change of wardrobe in case they get wet, check. A complete change of wardrobe in case they get too hot, check. Then a complete change of wardrobe just in case, check.
Four dozen nappies (each), check. Enough baby wipes to wallpaper the entire Giraffe enclosure, check. Sudocrem, vaseline, talcum Powder, Calpol, Nurofen for Children (in case the Calpol doesn’t kick-in), saline solution nasal spray, suncream, eye drops, insect spray, mosquito repellant, gripe water (sure we might as well), soothers, spare soothers, soft toys (in case they get bored), soft toys (for extra stimulation), teethers, rattlers, baby monitors — CHECK.
Then there’s the food — enough milk to bottle-feed the entire Buffalo population — and related paraphernalia needed to prepare and serve it in a clean and germ-free environment, check.
Pack it all in. Take it all out. Then they sleep through the whole thing. Pack it all away again. Go home and take it all back out again. And get ready for the next day.
Suffice to say the boot size was one of the main reasons I had to cash in the 180hp GTi for the more stately (but sedate) A4. As I mentioned, I bought the A4 for all the right reasons, the main problem was, I didn’t want one.
To help ease the transition, Audi had just introduced the third-generation A4, with sharper profile, new bumpers and headlights, and single frame front grill which gave the class-leader a very distinctive look. The new 1.9 TDi engine was also a big selling point — back at a time when emissions were less of an issue. Inside was all walnut and leather and although it lacked the technical wizardry of modern-day Audis, it still had that executive feel.
Ten years on, there’s 130,000+ km on the clock, she’s still solid as a rock, given years of relatively trouble-free motoring — save for the time I filled it with petrol on the morning of my eldest’s First Communion — and the boot’s still up to the challenge.
So when the new A4 turned up at my front door, I was looking forward to seeing what a decade of evolution looked and felt like.
Straight off, you could see the 2016 version was more taut and toned, lower, lighter, slightly wider, and more cut than its rounded relation.
The hexagonal front grille is distinctly larger and the sculptured bumpers and large intake vents give it an overall more sporty feel.
On the inside, the new A4 is a more 5-star in terms of comfort, styling, and sophistication than its 3-star cousin.
The interior is brighter, the dash offset by the pop-up information 8” screen and the technological advances — push button start, electronic handbrake, varied ride settings, touch button controls, and optional virtual cockpit — underline that while the two models may just be 10 years apart, in reality, they’re separated by light years.
The cabin is as generous as ever, the back fitting three adults with plenty of head and leg room. Storage on the inside is a little mean, but the boot — you’ll be glad to hear — is one of the biggest in its class.
Behind the wheel, you get a much better sense you’re driving a luxury saloon. The steering is far lighter and more responsive — although at higher speeds it doesn’t feel quite as reassuring as its heavier, more solid cousin.
The suspension is stiffer, but the variety of settings makes the ride and appalling state of the roads more bearable.
There’s little doubt that the new A4 is a substantial upgrade on its predecessor — not that that was a bad car in the first place — and anyone looking for a luxury saloon, fit enough to meet the demands of the modern family (babies and all) need look no further.
The question is, do I still want one, improvements and all? To be honest, I can’t see myself buying an A4 again — only because I’ve had one for the past 10 years. But when it comes to changing the car, I’ll find it very hard to look past an Audi.
At a glance
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