Audi A4: Get the 1.4L or 2.0L?

By JAY WONG | 2 November 2017

Traction is "king" for anything that rolls on wheels, and Audi has had much success from their quattro all-wheel drive (AWD) system that shot to fame over three decades ago when the world was starting to really toy with turbos.

The quattro, meaning "four" in Italian, has been one of Audi’s main selling points and there was an opportunity to sample two of Audi Malaysia’s latest A4 (B9) sedans in two guises - an entry-level front wheel-drive 1.4 TFSI and a range-topping 2.0 quattro.

Audi A4 2.0 TFSI quattro - 04
Regardless of variant, the A4 has a distinct character and sophistication about it, thanks to its aggressive-looking front LED headlights with integrated daytime running lights (the rear light clusters are also LEDs) and the huge pentagon grille that’s flanked by large gaping faux air-intakes.

The rest of the car, however, has simplistically curved body panels - right to the boot lid, which helps to tone down the aggressive front end and lend it some notion that it ‘flows through the air’ while helping to accentuate its class-leading drag coefficient of just 0.23Cd.

Inside, the interior looks ‘uber’ premium and very much driver-centric, taking after an aircraft’s cockpit layout with a bulky leather-wrapped gear selector switch as standard - which happens to be an ergonomic palm-rest when using a finger to tickle the MMI touch pad (only in 2.0 TFSI Quattro).

Audi A4 2.0 TFSI quattro - 09
In terms of cabin space, there’s enough head and shoulder room for occupants up front, although the rear seems a touch cramped in knee room for this 175cm-tall writer, but it seemingly does its best considering the car’s dimensions to provide an adequate 480 litres of boot space that’s expandable to 965 litres.

Departing on the 96km route to Bukit Tinggi, the first half of the drive would be in the front-wheel driven 1.4 TFSI that manages its 150hp from 5,000 to 6,000rpm and 250Nm from 1.500 to 3,500rpm with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Much of the journey involved long sweeping highway corners which accentuated the 1.4 TSI’s combination of a smooth and comfortable ride when cruising.

In comparison to the 2.0 TFSI quattro, the 1.4 TFSI uses smaller 10-spoke Crystal 17-inch cast aluminium wheels with comfort-oriented 225/50 Pirelli Cinturato P7 tyres that helps in smothering some of the bumps along the way.

Audi A4 2.0 TFSI quattro - 08
Towards the end of the first half of the journey, the corners began to tighten and while belting the entry-level A4 around at speed, overall grip levels felt close to being undramatic with a slightly reluctant rear-end.

With paddle-shifters as standard fitment, the drive became more exhilarating when cycling through the seven-speed transmission.

Power from the 1.4 TSI surges and little of the car’s weight balance will be affected when dropping or shifting up gears during mid-corner manoeuvres.

Being careful not to “overfill” during lunch, it’d be the more potent 2.0 TFSI quattro that will be bringing some of us home with its sportier front bumper, S-line multi-function steering wheel, aluminium pedals and larger 18-inch five twin-spoke Star-design wheels with 245/40 Pirelli Cinturato P7 tyres, which are among the noticeable differences.

Audi A4 2.0 TFSI quattro - 21
The other goodies include LEDs for the front automatic and rear lights with dynamic indicators, automatic anti-glare external mirrors, powered front sports seats upholstered in leather and Alcantara combination with driver-side memory function, rear window blinds, brushed aluminium cabin accents, black headliner, smartphone interface, Audi connect, navigation, MMI touch and an adaptive suspension.

The suspension provides for more dynamism when at speed or when thrown around corners. Either way, it’s a far more assuring drive than its front wheel driven 1.4 TFSI with all four wheels providing corrected traction to ensure sure-footedness is achieved.

At 1,585kg, this quattro’s body roll is somewhat well controlled, but it’s the sharp pointing nose and subservient rear-end that makes the range-topping A4 a real point-and-shoot sedan with the added 102hp and 120Nm for its additional 185kg of kerb heft over the entry-level 1.4 TFSI.

Audi A4 2.0 TFSI quattro - 60

So while the 1.4-litre TFSI is also able to putter about in relative comfort and yet provide some driving excitement, two questions remain.

Will the 1.4-litre A4 be enough to satisfy or will the 2.0-litre quattro do the trick? And after having tried the 2.0-litre car, will you be able to settle for the 1.4? The amount payable for either car will figure greatly in the equation as the A4 starts from RM219,000 with a wide differential of over RM90,000 between the duo.