WHILE fast Audis have always divided opinion in recent years - chiefly because of their clinical Quattro four-wheel-drive systems - their ‘normal’ models have excelled in all departments.
That’s because the recipe for creating a good day-to-day vehicle is very different from doing one for a select group of enthusiasts. An emphasis on comfort appears, replacing hard-riding suspension set-ups, while outright performance is dismissed for fuel economy and government-friendly emissions.
As boring as that may sound, Audi’s cracked the code and its new generation of more normal cars are utterly magnificent, from the little A1 to the Q-badged SUVs. No matter what model or spec you go for, they all benefit from one thing: supreme quality.
This car - the saloon variant of its A3 - is so good it kind of makes you question why anyone would plump for the A4. It looks the part, its boot is perfectly good enough for a family of three or four, it drives very well, there’s a host of engines to choose from and it has by far and away the best interior in its class.
I think everyone’s got their heads around Audi’s at-first-complicated numbered spec monikers now, so let’s discuss this test car’s attributes. It’s a 35 TFSI, so it’s petrol-powered, with a 1.5-litre packing 148bhp. It’s also an automatic, as every Audi should be, given just how good the marque’s gearboxes are. Direct rivals can be found in the form of BMW’s 218i Gran Coupe - which reduces children to tears given its hideous appearance - and Mercedes’ much more bearable A200 in saloon form.
Thanks to its S-Line trim, it has sportier styling cues and S-badged trinkets inside - notably the brilliant seats and the even better steering wheel. It comes with firmer suspension - pointless in my opinion - but you can dial down the ride if you find it a little harsh, which you will.
On the move it feels very good. Its driving position is perfect, its handling is tidy, it turns in well, it doesn’t roll and its brakes have just the right amount of travel through the pedal without ever feeling grabby. It’s a faultless thing, really.
The steering wheel is an utter peach and you marvel at both its feel and sheer beauty, you’re in awe of the phenomenal clarity of the sat nav’s 3D graphics in front and the tactility of every piece of switchgear your fingertips find. It oozes class.
The petrol motor, despite only having 148bhp, feels much quicker than that figure and can easily return more than 40mpg on a run.
Bright LED headlights come as standard, but on higher trims these are upgraded to even brighter versions which can adapt the main beams so they can remain on in traffic without dazzling other drivers.
Is there anything to dislike? Maybe a few out-of-place interior plastics on the door cards, but I’m nit-picking. The new A3 is a belter.