Ewan Kennedy road tests and reviews the 2005, 2007, 2011 and 2014 Audi A4 as a used buy.
A major player in the trio of prestigious German cars Audi has become very strong in South Africa in recent times. The Audi A4 is a midrange model that’s sold as a sedan, a two-door cabriolet and an Avant station wagon.
A further variation is the A4 allroad quattro. Based on the Avant it has increased ground clearance, added body and underbody protection. This allroad isn’t as common as that of big brother A6 allroad, but is starting grab quite a bit of attention due to the release of the latest model.
While the shape of the A4 was nothing to get excited about in early years, it leapt forward in the style stakes with the introduction of the ‘single-frame grille’ in the B7 series from 2005.
Interior design is a longtime hallmark of the Audi marque and the A4 has the sort of quality you normally associate only with top-grade furniture.
These mid-sized Audis are sold in a bewildering range of engines, with four, six or eight cylinders, fuelled by either petrol or diesel. Naturally all the diesels are turbocharged, but an increasing number of petrol engines also get force feeding. The turbos are generally there to reduce fuel consumption, but some sporting turbo variants are set up to squeeze extra power out of the engine.
Similarly there is a wide range of transmissions, mainly automatic, though some pure sports models do come with manual gearboxes. The automatic transmissions come as conventional torque-convertor units, as well as double-clutch and continuously variable (CVT) S tronic systems.
Audi was an early adopter of tiptronic automatics, with the driver able to use manual-type overrides when they felt that was necessary. These have become increasingly common over the years and are worth the money if your budget is up to it.
Most Audi A4s use front-wheel drive, many of the high-performance versions use Audi’s all-wheel-drive ‘quattro’ system for improved handling and acceleration.
“Audi answered criticisms over the years and later models are better balanced.”
Space efficiency isn’t as good as you would anticipate from a front-drive car and the back seat may not be suited to large adults if the front seats are set well back. Later models are better than the original ones – the B8 series arrived here in April 2008 and is larger in all dimensions. It’s still best to try the rear area during your personal road test.
The most recent Audi A4, now the B9 series, was launched in February 2016 but we haven’t seen any on the used-car scene as yet.
The front-heavy mechanical layout makes for more understeer than we like in early models, but Audi answered criticisms over the years and later models are better balanced. That’s due mainly because of suspension changes, but also due to electronic assistance.
Insurance costs for the Audi A4 are often higher than average, even more of a loading if it’s one of the full-on sports variants. So if you are still young and/or inexperienced shop around carefully for that policy early in the purchase process.
These modern Audis are complex machines and the amateur mechanic shouldn’t attempt anything more than the most basic servicing. Audi’s South African dealer network is well established, though relatively limited. We have heard of no real complaints of parts availability or pricing.
You may also care to look at the Audi A5 range of sporty models that share some mechanical components with the A4.The Audi S4 and RS4 sports are variants of the A4, though considerably more expensive. They feature added engine performance, revised suspension, steering and braking systems.
What to look for
Interiors feature quality materials and are built to a very high standard. Unless treated badly they should still be in good condition even when the car is many years old.
An engine that has done a lot of work or which hasn’t been serviced correctly may prove difficult to start and blow smoke from the exhaust when accelerated hard. Get a professional’s opinion if there’s even the slightest doubt as repairs aren’t cheap.
If an A4 high-performance turbo engine has a high pitched whining sound it may have been thrashed. Again, be very wary.
Automatics had problems in some earlier A4s. Check that all gear changes are smooth and quiet and that the transmission doesn’t change up or down unnecessarily. The Australian importer usually fixed cars under warranty, even outside the normal warranty period.
Manual gearboxes are generally trouble free. Make fast third-to-second downchanges and listen and feel for crunching.
Audis have exceptional corrosion protection and are unlikely to ever give trouble. It’s still wise to have a good look over the car in case it has been incorrectly repaired after a crash.
Expect to spend from
R50,000 to R70,000 for a 2005 Audi A4 2.0;
R65,000 to R85,000 for a 2005 S-Line;
R75,000 to R90,000 for a 2007 2.oT quattro;
R170,000 to R190,000 for a 2012 2.0T quattro Avant;
R170,000 to R190,000 for a 2012 3.2 quattro;
R220,000 to R250,000 for a 2013 3.0 quattro;
R330,000 to R361,000 for a 2014 3.0 quattro.
Car buying tip
Sometimes it feels that the deal of a lifetime has just come up, and if you don’t move right now you will lose if forever. Trust me, there will always be plenty of good deals in the future.