It might look like all the other Audis that have been launched in the past few years, but you're staring at the brand-new, totally redesigned A4. Wider and longer than the car it replaces, the new A4 is a technological showpiece that takes advantage of autonomous driving tech and a lightweight construction to save fuel and improve performance. The A4 will also be aiming to continue Audi's reputation for crafting beautiful, bulletproof cabins by combining high-tech infotainment interfaces with high-quality materials and slick design.
Underpinning the new A4's quest for improved economy and handling is a body that is up to 15 kg (33 lb) lighter than the previous model, despite having grown in all dimensions. Audi has used a mix of aluminum, cold-formed steel and hot-formed steel in the body to cut down on weight while providing a strong, safe structure. Overall, the car is up to 120 kg (265 lb) lighter than its predecessor. The new body has also been designed to scythe through the air, with a drag coefficient of 0.23, a figure achieved thanks largely to a sealed section under the engine, coupled with trim underneath the passenger compartment and boot.
There are also plenty of small touches around the car to keep it slick, including special enclosures for the rear wishbones and spoilers to guide air around the wheels and fuel tank. The focus on shaping the air is taken further on the TDI Ultra models, which are fitted with blinds that close for ideal aerodynamics when the engine is cool, but open to supply fresh air when it warms up.
The theme of weight-saving at every opportunity has been carried over to the electromechanical power steering system that is 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) lighter than the unit on the car it replaces. It is also sporting a direct ratio, which is part of Audi's push to improve handling in the new A4. That push is aided by a new multi-link suspension setup on the front and rear axles, although drivers who want a bit more control can spec the car with adjustable damping.
Optional tech is, as you'd expect of a German car, not limited to the dampers. Audi is offering the A4 with its Virtual Cockpit dashboard, as well as its 3D Bang & Olufsen sound system. Both options that the BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class can't match.
Also aiming to elevate the A4 above its German rivals is a renewed focus on material quality inside. As well as the usual swathes of leather, wood and aluminum, Audi has made it look like the dash is fitted with one continuos air vent, a design that accentuates width and makes the interior look flowing and natural. Though the real proof will come when we get to see one in the wild, the layout looks slick in the promo photos.
The A4 is also available with a number of semi-autonomous features that aren't available on its competitors. An optional predictive efficiency assistant system acts as a co-driver, combining information from the car's GPS, cruise control and traffic-sign recognition systems to offer up warnings about curves, roundabouts, junctions and hills before the driver sees them, allowing reactions in advance instead of abrupt braking or acceleration maneuvers.
As the push toward autonomous cars becomes stronger, the new A4 will even steer itself, and cars with an automatic transmission can stop and start in a traffic jam without the driver touching the pedals. When the traffic thins, the car hands control back over to the driver.
Powering the A4's light body is a range of seven engines, including three petrol and four diesel motors. Fuel consumption has been the focus here, especially at the bottom end of the range which kicks off with the 110 kW (150 hp) 1.4 TFSI. Fuel consumption is just 4.9 l/100km (48 mpg) and CO2 emissions are just 114 g/km. Partially, this is thanks to the motor's light weight, it tips the scales at just over 100 kg because of its intelligent packaging and aluminum crankcase.
Moving up in the range gives owners access to a 2.0-liter petrol engine that uses a new combustion cycle derived from the Miller cycle for big engine response and small engine economy. It's available in two different states of tune, one producing 185 kW (252 hp) and a more efficient Ultra model producing 140 kW (190 hp).
The more powerful 2.0-liter engine's 370 Nm is available between 1,600 and 4,500 rpm, and will hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.8 seconds, but uses just 5.7 l/100 km (41.3 mpg) and emits 129 g/km of CO2. Speccing the Ultra model improves fuel economy significantly, returning 4.8 l/100 km (49 mpg).
Audi expects the best seller to be the 2.0-liter diesel A4, which can be had with 110 kW (150 hp) and 320 Nm of torque or 140 kW (190 hp) and 400 Nm. The engine runs separate cooling circuits, two balancing shafts in the crankcase and low-friction internals to achieve fuel use figures of just 3.8 l/100 km (61.9 mpg) and 4.0 l/100km (58.8 mpg) for the two tunes.
Owners who crave more power can also spec a 3.0-liter TDI in two states of tune.
Perhaps the most interesting powertrain in the new A4 lineup is the Avant g-tron, which can run on compressed natural gas stored under the wagon's trunk. Powered by Audi's own sustainably-sourced e-gas, the brand claims the g-tron can be compleltely CO2 neutral, although a petrol motor will extend range when the car's 19 kg of gas (stored at 200 bar) is depleted, something that Audi claims will take over 500 km (310 mi) thanks to gas consumption under 4 kg/100km (8.8 lb/62 mi). The g-tron will hit showrooms late in 2016, having tried the concept on its A3 in 2013.
Audi has not revealed pricing for the A4 yet, and a wagon bodystyle will accompany the sedan from launch.