Launchpad - Audi rises up to the competition with a bigger and better A4

The A4 that debuted in 2008 was bigger and better than the old car in almost every way. But with increasing competition Audi needed to re-arm the A4. The facelift is exactly what it needed.

The designers it seems have taken absolutely no risks with the facelift. Except for the new LED array in the headlights, you'll need to take a long, hard look to spot the differences. The LED units are now sharper, flowing down the headlight before doubling back.

For reasons known only to Audi, it has aimed to make the A4's face look ‘flat'. The ‘Bavarian beard' grille has also been trimmed. Angled top edges give it a hexagonal shape, bringing it in line with newer Audis. The rear too gets a mild tweak with the tail-lights getting a revised LED layout.

The cabin has received a few updates too. The new steering wheel gets a sporty round boss and the materials feel richer too. The dashboard, door handles and the surround for the gear lever get a smart wood trim as an option and Audi has also used a glossy ‘piano black' plastic for a sleeker look.

The new A4 will get Audi's MMI Navigation Plus with an advanced graphics chip that can display maps in 3D. Another technological statement is the ability to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot in the car that can handle up to eight devices.

Audi is also deploying a range of technologies and design improvements to cut out the pollutants. Stop-start is now standard on all A4s and improving fuel consumption further is the new electro-mechanical steering assist that doesn't consume power when the vehicle is going straight. The optional Audi Drive Select now features an Efficiency mode for cruise control and air-conditioning. Though fuel-efficient, the pedal response feels a bit dulled under normal driving conditions in this mode.

On coastal Portuguese roads, the 2.0 TFSI proved to be quite pleasant and the engine feeling smooth and very tractable with the manual gearbox. But, the highlight was the steering. The new electromechanical unit made the steering feel well weighted, crisp and very direct.

As before, the 1.8 TFSI will be the base petrol motor, albeit in a reworked avatar. Leading the list of changes is the inclusion of two sets of injectors per cylinder, one for direct and the other for indirect injection, which help improve efficiency and reduce emissions. Driveability is also improved thanks to an electronic waste-gate on the turbo that fattens up the torque curve. The result is a jump in torque from 25.5kgm to 32.6kgm that can be tapped from 1400rpm right up to 3700rpm. Power is also upped to 170bhp.

The top-of-the-line 3.2 FSI V6 is likely to be replaced by a 290bhp version of the 3.0-litre supercharged motor from the A6. With the facelift, Audi is likely to bring the 2.0-litre diesel in two states of tune. One will be the ultra-efficient 160bhp front-driver and a 174bhp version with Quattro. The top-end diesel remains the 3.0-litre TDI with Quattro and the S-tronic gearbox.

A drive in the 2.0-litre TDI showed the merits of the dual-mass flywheel amply. The engine felt much smoother at lower revs. As a result, at times it was possible to stick to a gear higher than you normally would, the motor's strong torque pulling you back up to speed quickly.

The changes to the already sharp exterior and interior design are tasteful. But it's under the skin that the new A4 seems a more exciting, cleaner and better luxury car. We are eager to find out how the car performs in India.