Pure EVs and combustion hybrids will be sold side by side, including hot flagships.
Audi’s finalised plans for the all-new A4 include an electric-only four-wheel-drive performance RS model and a hybrid RS4 to top a line-up underpinned by two different platforms, according to well-placed Ingolstadt insiders. One platform will be used for combustion-engined hybrid variants and the other for pure-electric models.
The sixth-generation A4 is due to go on sale in the UK in 2023. Volume-selling versions of Audi’s long-running BMW 3 Series rival will continue to be sold in sedan and wagon (Avant) bodystyles based on a modified version of the existing MLB platform, which underpins a wide variety of other Volkswagen Group models.
The new A4 will offer a range of upgraded petrol and diesel engines equipped with either mild- or plug-in hybrid assistance and offered in both front- and four-wheel-drive (quattro) layouts.
Markus Hoffmann, head of R&D at Audi, said: “We already have electrification modules today, from mild hybrids to plug-in hybrids – and we will be focusing even more intensively on electrification in the cars that follow.”
Electrification will extend throughout the range, all the way up to the successor to the RS4, which will retain today’s twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine but is in line to receive electric assistance that will lift its output beyond the 444bhp and 443lb ft of the existing model.
Also under development at the German car maker is the new pure-electric A4 E-tron. Set to challenge the Tesla Model 3 and newly unveiled BMW i4, it is based around the Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture that has been developed in a joint engineering programme between Audi and Volkswagen Group sibling company Porsche.
The PPE platform used by the A4 E-tron will be shared with the upcoming Audi Q6 E-tron, as well as an electric version of the secondgeneration Macan currently under development at Porsche. The architecture will also underpin the new A6 E-tron, recently revealed in concept form and which, like the A4 E-tron, will be sold alongside its combustion-engined namesake until petrol and diesel are discontinued.
The new electric A4 is set to adopt broadly similar exterior styling to its combustion-engined siblings but will be differentiated visually by a blanked-off grille and other unique design elements to further improve its aerodynamic efficiency. Although not yet confirmed, it is likely to feature a five-door layout with a liftback-style tailgate similar to today’s A5 Sportback, following the lead of the A6 E-tron.
The A4 E-tron will be sold with a choice of single-motor rear-drive and dual-motor four-wheel-drive (quattro) layouts when it arrives in 2024.
The line-up will be crowned by an electric RS performance model from the Audi Sport division, packing up to 350kW and 800Nm.
Audi is committed to introducing up to 20 new pure-electric models by 2025. But with the existing A4 accounting for roughly a fifth of annual global Audi sales in recent years, a move to electric power exclusively for its successor was considered too premature by Ingolstadt decision makers, who have said the company will produce petrol and diesel A4s through to 2030.
Dimensionally, the new A4 is said to be little changed over today’s model, which stretches to 4772mm in length, 1847mm in width and 1435mm in height. By comparison, the A6 E-tron concept is 4939mm long, 1960mm wide and 1457mm tall.
Among the changes made to the MLB platform used by petrol and diesel versions of the new A4 is a modified rear structure to package a 14.4kWh (usable) lithium ion battery. Set to feature on upcoming plug-in hybrid A4 models, it is the same battery used by plug-in versions of today’s Q5, A6 and A7. It is also found in the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid and Panamera E-Hybrid.
Details remain scarce, but the same battery currently fitted to today’s larger models gives a WLTP electric driving range of up to 45 miles, which Audi could seek to boost nearer to the 100km claimed EV range of the new MercedesBenz C-Class.
Further developments for the MLB platform include a new electric architecture with 48V capability. This enables the adoption of additional functions such as the Dynamic All-Wheel Steering system used by the A6, A7, A8, Q7 and Q8, as well as new level two autonomous driving functions currently being developed by Audi’s Car.Software division.
It also provides the base for a range of new digital and connectivity features. Among them is near-field communication functionality being developed by Audi and Huawei. This enables contactless payment for refuelling or charging, tolls, parking, drive-through dining and other services from within the car via the MyAudi app.
Autocar understands the new A4 will run an updated version of the current model’s aluminium-intensive multi-link front and rear suspension, with adaptive damping on selected models. Earlier speculation suggested the next A4 would receive rear air springs, although they may be reserved exclusively for the A4 E-tron.
The key combustion engine for the 2023 A4 is a fifthgeneration version of the Audi-developed turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder EA888 petrol unit. First introduced in 2008, it is being re-engineered to meet stiff new Euro 7 emission regulations with a number of innovations, including newly developed fuel injection and particulate filter systems.
The reworked combustion engines for the A4 are set to be mated exclusively to either a seven-speed dual-clutch or eight-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox to guarantee maximum efficiency and bring emissions down as far as possible. The six-speed manual gearbox available on today’s model will be made redundant as part of plans to reduce parts complexity.
The PPE platform underpinning the new A4 E-tron will be predominantly the same structure used by the A6 E-tron, but with a shorter wheelbase and narrower tracks.
A development of the J1 platform used by the Audi E-tron GT and Porsche Taycan, it can accommodate battery packs of various capacities. The largest version is set to provide the new Audi model with a range of up to 700km, together with an 800V system that offers charging at speeds of up to 270kW.