By Philip Hedderman
The success of the A4 just couldn’t get any better.
Last October the 10 millionth rolled off the production line making it Audi’s biggest selling car.
From an Irish perspective, the executive saloon is officially our favourite topping the sales chart in the savagely competitive B Segment for each of the past four years.
But it hasn’t always been like that.
Previous generations of the car failed to stir the imagination and quite frankly left me cold.
Take its debut in 1994 where it had the gargantuan task of replacing the mega Audi 80 TDi.
The 80 had won thousands of fans due partly to its radical design (complete with sticky out wing mirrors), but mainly down to the massive grunt and power of the engines.
The diesel revolution had begun the German marques were streets ahead of everyone.
In fact, it was so impressive I actually bought one – a black SE with 17inch alloys and a very sexy boot spoiler which was so heavy it would have your finger off in a flash.
The mere thoughts of her bring back fond memories especially the space age interior complete with lipstick red backlighting.
Unfortunately it was badly damaged in a side-on collision and she went off to a better home.
The design slowly evolved and like a signet growing into a swan it hit the sexy button again over a decade later.
Best known in the trade as the B8 the new saloon was not only wider and lower it was a very decent 160mm longer meaning more legroom and a bigger boot – 480 litres to be precise.
Yes, 2008 was the year the A4 went from runner-up to clear winner.
The Vorsprung Durch Technik ethos swung into action and the team of engineers and designers pull out all the stops adding more grunt to the already brilliant power plants.
But it was the new look that caught everyone’s attention.
LED daytime running lights exploded onto the scene and we were introduced to Audi’s MMI (Multi Media Interface) with 7 inch colour screen infotainment system.
Options included Audi Drive Select, colour reversing camera and adaptive headlights with cornering ability – all previously seen on the flagship A8.
Even though it was destined to slug it out with the 3 series, the level of luxury on-board could see it easily go head-to-head with the 5 Series.
Not surprisingly, it sold by the transporter-load and continued to soar despite the recession and thrived under the new tax and VRT regime – thanks to its cleaner diesel engines.
With news that BMW were upping the ante with the arrival of the new 3, Audi decided to stay ahead of the posse with a mid-life refresh.
Now, Audi don’t do facelifts so an army of boffins took the old one apart bit by bit and tweaked it in pursuit of perfection.
Leaner, meaner and a whole lot greener.
Looks-wise, she gets a much more aggressive stance which can be seen mainly at the front.
The front grille is reworked into a single frame with tapered edges and ribs and finished in a high gloss black.
It is flanked by Audi’s signature Xenon headlights redesigned to envelop the whole unit broken only by an indicator dash.
The front bumper gets a tweak with flat fog lamps and angular air vents which change the whole face.
Inside the class leading cabin is de-cluttered and upgraded.
The MMI system has been made more user-friendly with four buttons instead of eight and surrounds on the dash are a snazzy mix of chrome and piano black while the interior colours have been re-coordinated.
But it is under the hood where all the most important changes have been made and where most of us will gain.
Consumption levels across the whole range has been reduced by a whopping 11 per cent and emissions have been reduced by the band rather than gram.
TakeIreland’s most popular model, the 120bhp,2.0 litre TDI is even more efficient reducing emissions to 119g/km (meaning the lowest Tax Band A and €160 a year) while returning an eye-watering 63mpg.
Drive and handling is better too thanks to improvements to the suspension, taking the sometimes choppiness out of the ride while the steering is also refined.
We tested the 177bhp S-Line saloon with the seven-speed auto box with mounted a flappy paddle which was absolutely sublime.
Not once was there a lull or a hesitation gearing up or down and she hit the spot every single time.
There is a decent level of standard kit too with Leather multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors and 17 inch alloys.
The SE version adds cruise control, snazzier alloys, light and rain sensors, colour display, 3 zone climate control and Audi Drive select for an extra €2,000.
If you’re feeling really flush then you could splash out on the S-Line which comes with 18 inch alloys, lowered sports suspension half leather bucket seats, Xenon headlights, rear LED lights – all for the princely sum of €3,570 more than the SE.
Therein lies the only chink in the A4′s armour – the price.
By the time you get her fully stacked you won’t have much change out of 50 grand or €48,590.
Best advice is select an options package deal which will offer a host of extras for one-off price.
The A4 begins at €33,570OTR.