There’s a new Audi A4 for 2016, and it’s bigger and lighter and better. Every body panel has been redesigned, yet you can tell instantly that it’s an Audi A4. As always, Audi has taken the evolutionary approach, and you can tell each little change was handled with as much gravity and focus as each footstep of a tightrope walker who really has to pee.
Before we go further into the design dissection, let’s discuss the important changes, of which there are a few. The new A4 uses a revised version of the old car’s platform so that it’s some 264 pounds lighter while being a bit bigger. The interior has been totally revised. And for the first time ever, you get a real dual-clutch gearbox for the front-wheel drive model, not the lame CVT. That’s good!
But it’s definitely evolution over revolution on the outside. Just to give an idea of the mentality behind this, here’s Audi’s press blurb, found on the site with all the PR photos of the new A4:
The new-generation Audi A4* and A4 Avant* are a fascinating synthesis of technology and esthetics. All the technology in the brand’s bestselling family has been redeveloped so that it yet again defines the benchmark in the segment. During the development work, high priority was placed on the reduction of CO2 emissions. All technologies were focused on reducing drive resistance.
Audi’s done a commendable job of avoiding the usual breathless PR mentions of “passion” and bad analogies to cars as sculptures or soul-fellating metal gods. Still, it is a little bloodless, with the emphasis on CO2 emissions and “reducing drive resistance.”
But, that’s Audi — they’re detail-minded perfectionists, and while they’d, collectively, probably make a horrible roommate, they do make a handsome, well-engineered car. The Audi design language is also maturing steadily, and this seemingly subtle facelift of the A4 is a good opportunity to scrutinize what’s going on.
The A4 still has the best drag coefficient in its class (0.23) and the aerodynamics are still the primary motivator for the car’s basic shape, which, not surprisingly, hasn’t changed much. The side glass profile and silhouette are sort of the iconic design element of the car, and that may be the part that changed least.
If we compare the two cars (use that slider for this — it works great) we can see that the overall design direction for the new car is a greater embracing of edges, of crispness, of the idea of sharp. Where the previous A4 had character lines, like, say, the crease that runs lengthwise across the car right below the beltline, from headlight to taillight, the current A4’s take on that same basic line is much more dramatic.
Where the previous A4 settled for a slightly-softened crease, the new A4 incises that line, with a firm, constant pressure, down the whole length of the car. You can almost picture the pointed stylus digging into the clay on the styling model of the car, being pulled down the length, a small coil of gouged clay exiting behind the designer’s hand.
The new A4 takes the tentative ideas of the previous A4 and commits to them.
The front end received a lot of subtle attention as well. The now-familiar Audi hexagonal grille is back, but more angular, with no apologetic rounding of the corners. There’s more and more prominent horizontal grille bars, and it looks like Audi’s designers took the time to better obscure the horizontal bumper beam that bisects the grille — I always thought it looked half-assed on the old one, and I’m pleased to see that this was addressed.
The headlights are more committed too, with internal bulb shapes mirroring the car’s angular design aesthetic as opposed to the last A4’s round lenses, and the daytime running LEDs have a shape that feels less gimmicky, and more harmonious to the whole car.
The rear follows the same basic ideas — take the shapes established in the last A4, but commit to them harder, be less ashamed of the angularity, and keep things clean.
Like most Audis, the results make for a handsome, rational, well-designed car. They’re not especially exciting or endearing or emotionally charged, perhaps, but I’m not sure an Audi A4 really needs to be. It’s a solid, well executed update.
And they do seem to offer it in yellow. I hope lots of people buy it in yellow.
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