Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Agile A4

Published:Sunday | February 28, 2016 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Five-spoke rims on the Audi A4.
The Audi A4's intricate display.
The shifter, sited in a number of other controls.
Steering-wheel controls put entertainment and communication literally at the fingertips.
The heads-up display.
Easily reached and operated controls are a feature of the A4.
The all-new Audi A4 from the back.
A front view of the new Audi A4

It took me about two hours to really drive the all-new Audi A4 somewhere on an oh so sweet ride between Guadalajara and Mexico City three weeks ago.

Sure, I was at the steering wheel all the way down the mountain from Camio D'Vinos (which is at an elevation slightly higher than Blue Mountain Peak) overlooking the urban area of Guadalajara until Mexico City about five hours and two breaks later, but almost half of the journey was spent getting settled in.

But when I was, oh what a joy it was! I should make an amendment - an extra joy, as the redesigned A4 is wonderful to drive even when you have not quite got the hang of it. Broader and lighter than the previous version, Audi's staple sedan sits on a highway or takes the numerous corners descending from Camino D'Vinos (think of an extended version of Mount Rosser or the road from Irish Town to Papine) with aplomb. I had it in Comfort driving mode riding over the cobblestone roads in the pre-highway sections of the drive, which made for a much improved driving experience.

Speaking of comfort, that the A4 is and more. Having driven the all-new Q7 on a similar Latin American and Caribbean regional market launch, I was familiar with the bells and whistles - pop-up display, extensive steering controls, driving modes and intricate display - that make the tech-laden Audi cockpit engaging without being intimidating or too finicky for day-to-day use. That does not mean that I was less impressed, just happy to be able to focus on the driving rather than exploring the driver/car interfaces.

Still, it took me a while to really get a grip on the A4 because I was a bit tired (the group had taken a flight from Mexico City to Guadalajara the day before, had the official launch that night and got up for the drive back into Mexico City). A stronger contributing factor, though, was a combination of the road and the car's spunk.

I was fortunate enough to be at the helm of a top-tier model with the attendant power and, on the highway, the Comfort mode was dispensed with and it was Dynamic all the way. My problem (certainly not the car's) was that in that highly responsive mode, pressing the gas pedal gives very quick, powerful results.

And this is on a highway where there are quite a few corners (including inclines and declines) with relatively few long stretches. So when I was in the corners, at first I babied the gas pedal for fear that if I pressed a bit too hard, I would get more power than I anticipated or could handle, with the expected disastrous results, despite the car's excellent handling characteristics.

Then I got the hang of it on an upward, curving section of the highway. I was taking a long left corner and held the accelerator at just the right position, listened to the engine warble and let her fly with a big grin on my face. From there on, it was literally sweet, smooth sailing.

So sweet and smooth that I hit about 190 kph (and maybe a bit more) at one point. This is with the windows up and air conditioning on, the fuel economy readout still returning respectable figures.

It helped that the suspension is superb, interior comfortable, seats adjustable at the touch of a couple buttons and the stereo system adequate. With all the get up and go, it was at one of the several toll-booth stops that I really appreciated two of the A4's other attributes. It stops as well as it goes, as a late braking episode heading to another car's brake lights proved (happily). And when it was time to go, there is no customary automatic transmission creep when you take your foot off the brake. The A4 stays still until you instruct it to go.

I was actually sorry to see the journey end in Mexico City (and the taxi drivers there would do very well in Jamaica), press the start/stop button for the final time and retrieve my luggage from another of the A4's attributes.

A decent sized trunk.