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Will the new A4 put Audi back in the race?

By Pavan Lall
March 02, 2021 09:30 IST
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The answer would have been an unequivocal yes had the A4 been priced more aggressively, says Pavan Lall.

Photographs: Kind courtesy, Audi India

Despite its unique brand attributes that combine understated luxury with advanced engineering, the Audi is yet to take pole position in the luxury game in India where it still trails BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

 

The automobile brand had garnered a great deal of attention from luxury car buyers because of its Bollywood strategy under former Audi India heads Benoit Tiers and Michael Perschke.

Tiers and Perschke positioned the company as a maker of high-tech luxury SUVs (Q5, Q7) that are most popular with the in-crowd. Think athletes and Bollywood stars. 

While this strategy pushed awareness and translated to sales in the short term, it did not expand Audi's volumes beyond a point.

That's because the weakness in the portfolio was always its entry-level and mid-sized sedans, which include the A4 and the A6.

And these ran neck and neck with the BMW 3 Series and 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and E-Class.

In fact, for most of last year, because of a new product cycle, Audi did not have the A4 sedan in the market. But now that it's here, expect it to push the needle for the German car-maker.

So what's different about the new A4?

The car comes with a new two-litre TFSI engine, which is punchier and has more torque.

There is no diesel version, which means this is a refined petrol engine. The other new elements include the 10-inch multimedia touchscreen, voice control, and gesture-based boot lid opening.

The A4 is extremely quiet and well insulated, and is equipped with superior suspension that makes it glide over bumpy roads and rough stretches.

However, while the suspension and ride quality match any solidly built, heavy German car, the smoothness with which its doors shut and open speaks of the Audi's trademark use of lightweighting in its rides.

Audi does not rely on any one material, but instead goes with what it calls a smart “material mix”: Steel, aluminium, magnesium and fiber-reinforced polymers.

Cruising in the A4 is a leap ahead from Audis of the past, but the real cherry on the cake is the new engine which, besides being silent and refined, is also peppy and enables the sedan to hold its own against top-notch performers from BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

What hasn't changed are the subtleties that make an Audi an Audi. There's no sporty flash here.

The A4 remains restrained and classy, and lets its high-quality exterior and interiors drive the message home.

Class, finesse and performance. While the A4 scores high on all these fronts, the question is: Are these enough to drive volumes and bring back the market share for Audi?

The answer would have been an unequivocal yes had the A4 been priced more aggressively. But with a sticker price of close to Rs 50 lakh on road for the top-end variant, brand pedigree and personal preference are what will drive its sales.

Audi has consistently scored high with its line of SUVs that include the Q5 and the Q7. But it needs to up the ante in its range of sedans, which, while being high-tech and high-quality, don't drive volumes like its other German counterparts do. The Audi A4 may well change that.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com

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