The BMW 3 series is undoubtedly the benchmark for a luxury sports saloon. An outrageous mastery of driving dynamics is embedded in the 3 series DNA since the advent of the E30. Mercedes C class has over the years fought hard to dethrone BMW but the Bavarians maintain a monopoly of that sublime magic in much the same way that Mercedes has luxury pinned down. BMW’s may set your pants on fire in the corners but a Mercedes overflows with opulence.
It offers an indescribable plushness to the ride, a determination in the engine that makes the smallest, yet most important of differences. Buying either the C class or the 3 series is a compromise. Instead, the Audi A4 is just as good as the big two premium-wise while being better at being different. If you’re going to get one, get the 2010 B8 model as it was a significant step up from the previous B7 model. It was 117mm longer increasing both rear legroom and boot-space despite its low coupe-like roof.
The design language of the 2010 A4 can best be described, as with any other Audi, as simple and unpretentious. Audis are as fashionable as a grey business suit paired with black shoes. But the magic is in the detail. The path of the stitch, the grain of the fabric and expertise of the tailor culminate in a perfect fit.
The 2010 Audi A4 is a blend of contemporary and classic lines, with just a dash of futuristic minimalism in the LED headlights: something Audi is especially good at. The A4 makes its competitors look like they’re trying too hard. However, the best place to appreciate Audi’s design effort is from the driver’s seat. Here you’re greeted by sculptured curves and swoops.
Premium soft-touch materials and distinct design efforts are visible even in the seat adjustment buttons. The touchscreen display and instrument cluster are HD quality, with crisp magazine-esque fonts. While the array of buttons can be intimidating at first, a few minutes poring curiously and you realise they’re as intuitive as scratching your nose. The minimalist approach also makes the cabin a very ergonomic and comfortable place to gobble up kilometres from.
The entry-level A4 comes with a 1.8-litre petrol engine producing a modest 118 horsepower and 230 Nm of torque. This is then sent via an 8 speed CVT transmission to the front wheels. Now, before you question my sanity, I admit that RWD is more fun and purer than FWD. And I’ll equally admit I fail to fathom why Audi doesn’t make liberal use of the DSG transmission like the rest of the VW brands do.
Yet, the set up in the A4 is pretty good: the steering feels light, quick and precise, just lacking by a hair the feel or lush ride quality of a C Class. Throw it into a corner, however, and it rolls a lot less than a Mercedes or BMW.
This gives you the confidence to push it even more as it hunkers down to a 0.273 class-leading drag coefficient. It slips through the air like lathery soap through the fingers. The chubby sidewalls around the 16-inch rims are not as fashionable as low profile 18s but provide excellent ride quality.
Around the bumpier suburbs of Nairobi, the A4 is composed and comfortable. The cushy tyres, supple suspension and rigid chassis keep the 1, 430kg car surprisingly quiet and composed regardless of the surface. On a clear stretch, the A4 will get to 100 km/h in 8.3 seconds with the CVT delivering a smooth surge of power liberally across the rev range.
There’s no aural assault from the tailpipes as the turbocharged four-pot sounds creamy and distant. You just put your foot down and the sleek saloon effortlessly glides past lesser cars. It feels light and nimble yet powerful and luxurious.
However, service and minor spares will be troublesome to come by. And the fact that it’s a front wheel drive trying to prove itself among rear wheel drive giants. But that would be the wrong way to think about it.
Think of it, instead, as a Premio made in Germany. Everything is made just that much better and at about Sh1.7 million, the A4 is justifiably priced. But be prepared to use a lot more in maintenance, I’m just saying.