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Audi A4 Saloon 08 on

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Audi has tried long and hard to make its A4 as desirable as the BMW 3-Series but hasn't quite succeeded, at least until now. While the BMW may still have the edge on ultimate driver appeal, the 2008 A4 is a better all rounder.

A step forward

As beautifully finished as ever, Audi has ensured the A4 saloon is priced a little lower than premium alternatives and is more generous with equipment. Build quality was never in question, but the A4 also offers unrivalled interior space, superb comfort, improved driving dynamics and excellent refinement - making it one of the class favourites. There's also a great choice of engines offering everything from economy and low emissions to high performance options available. One of the few negative points that some may highlight is the rather somber looks that haven?t changed much over the different generations. Despite this, the A4 is one of Audi?s best sellers and a big favourite among private buyers and company car drivers alike.

Engine line-up

Whether you are a after a powerful petrol engine for performance or an economical and low-emitting diesel car to help save costs, the Audi A4 Saloon has a selection of engines that should cater for any time of buyer. The pick of the diesel range is the 2.0-litre TDIe engine, which emits just 115g/km of 02 ? which cuts the costs of road tax and company car tax ? as well as being capable of achieving 64mpg, according to Audi. It will still go from zero to 62mph in just 8.4 seconds though due to the 161bhp on offer.

Space and comfort

With a slightly longer wheelbase than the previous car, rear passengers get more knee and shoulder room and there?s even enough room for three to travel in the back in relative comfort. Also impressive is the 480 litres of bootspace on offer, matched only by the 2012 BMW 3 Series. Drop the rear seats and it only expands to a slightly disappointing, but useable, 962 litres. So the saloon is good, but does it have what it takes to outmuscle its German rivals like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class saloon? Read the full Audi A4 Saloon review to find out.

Performance

There's been no major revolution in the engine line-up, but the range benefits from subtle modifications and improvements so Audi A4 performance has been upgraded slightly. The entry level engine is the 1.8 TFSI with 120bhp, which is smooth and quiet, while offering good low down pulling power thanks to the fact it's turbocharged. This engine is also available with 160bhp which brings the 0-62mph down from 10.5 seconds to 8.6 seconds and is also available with an automatic gearbox. But for even quicker performance, there's the superb 2.0 TFSI - an engine shared with the 2005 Volkswagen Golf GTI. Thanks to 211bhp it accelerates from 0-62mph in just 6.9 seconds and is available with an eight-speed Multitronic gearbox which uses two clutches to deliver super-fast shifts. The popular 2.0 TDI has changed significantly thanks to the adoption of 'common rail' technology and this has resulted in a huge improvement in refinement and noise levels. It's available in several power outputs - 120bhp, 143bhp and 170bhp - and all offer strong in-gear performance along with impressive economy. In October 2009 a 2.0 TDIe model was introduced which uses a stop/start system, low rolling resistance tyres and aerodynamic tweaks to average 61mpg while emissions are just 120g/km of CO2, making it cheap to tax. It doesn't feel slow though and the 136bhp engine will accelerate from 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds - almost identical to the 143bhp 2.0 TDI. Audi's six-cylinder diesel engines - both the 2.7 TDI and 3.0 TDI are improved for 2008. The 2.7 TDI (available in front-wheel drive only) gets an extra 10bhp over the previous version (now 190bhp) and with its Multitronic automatic transmission it will sprint from 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds. The 3.0 TDI quattro has many new components and is quicker in the dash from 0-62mph than the 3.2-litre petrol engine plus thanks to huge pulling power it makes an excellent long distance cruiser. Impressively it accelerates from 0-62mph in a mere 6.1 seconds - quicker than most hot hatches. The 3.2-litre V6 uses Audi's FSI fuel-saving direct injection technology and with 265bhp (increased from 255bhp on the previous A4), it's a lively performer reaching 62mph in 6.2 seconds, with a top speed electronically limited to 155mph.

Handling

One of the criticisms of the previous A4 was that it wasn't particularly engaging to drive. Audi has certainly taken that on board and worked to make this version more enjoyable. It has superb body control, feels surefooted in corners and has sharp steering with a positive turn-in. Audi is also offering a selection of electronic aids to make the driving experience more engaging - one example is Audi Drive Select which can alter settings for the engine, steering, automatic gearbox and suspension. However even without these extra systems the A4 has a more intuitive feel than before and a composed ride, dealing with bumps on the road surface with ease.

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