Audi is on the road towards sales of 2000 vehicles in New Zealand this year, its line-up boosted by the arrival this month of core models the A4 sedan and A4 station-wagon Avant.
In a regular sales year, Audi would sell 180-200 A4 variants. But not in 2016. “We are aiming towards 300 sales with the A4 this year,” says Audi NZ general manager Dean Sheed.
“We need a lift in performance to get us near the segment leaders, the BMW 320 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
“The new A4 will give us that and put us in a position where, rather than having the oldest model in the class, we have the youngest.”
The fifth-generation A4 range offers more of the same from Audi, highlighted by the quality and design of its deeply impressive cabin and slippery aerodynamic drag coefficent on some variants of just 0.23.
It’s the work of Stefan Sielaff, Audi head of design between 2006-2012 and now design chief at Bentley and interior design head for the Volkswagen Group.
Sielaff, 53, lifted Audi design during his tenure – especially its interiors – to the point where German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz were constantly forced to play catch-up.
He is responsible for much of Audi’s current range and is the man behind the carmaker’s signature LED light design and its single frame grille.
Sielaff began his automotive design career in 1990 with the VW Group, occupying various roles before shifting to DaimlerChrysler’s design division between 2003-2006.
It was in 2004 that former NZ Driver magazine publisher/editor Allan Dick and I had lunch with him in Majorca, at the launch on the island’s wonderful mountain roads of the Mercedes-Benz SLK.
If the next-generation Bentley offers a leather interior like no other, Sielaff will have achieved a goal he set out back then: to make new leather look and feel like old leather. “Like the leather in an old Jaguar, a worn, tobacco-stained look,” he said.
Sielaff would have had a hand in helping Audi’s engineers cut weight out of the new A4. It’s lighter on its feet than the outgoing car, some variants having shed as much as 120kg in kerb weight, thanks to architecture blending aluminium and steel, gram-by-gram cuts to components, and smaller displacement engines.
The new A4 line-up for New Zealand comprises eight variants – four sedans and four station-wagon Avants – six powered by either a 2.0-litre petrol or 2.0-litre diesel engine in two different states of tune, 140kW or 180kW. Gearbox for the 2.0-litre models is a seven-speed automatic.
The top-range sedan and Avant get a 200kW 3.0-litre diesel V6, said by Audi to be the world’s most efficient six-cylinder passenger car engine. Its claimed town-and-around fuel use is 4.2 litres/100km (67mpg). The 3.0-litre unit is mated to an eight-speed gearbox.
Audi NZ has priced the A4 range to go head-to-head with the BMW and Mercedes-Benz competition. The entry-level A4 sedan starts at $71,900, the top model sedan at $106,400. Add $3500 for the Avants.