New Audi A4 to stick with petrol and diesel power

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Audi A4 exclusive imageThe next-generation Audi A4 will stick with combustion engines, although an all-electric version could arrive late in its lifecycle

has stated that it will become an all-electric manufacturer by the end of this decade – but in the meantime the company is planning a last hurrah for combustion engines on a new, potentially final version of its A4.

Expected to arrive in 2023, the next Audi A4 will stay on the same MLB platform as the current generation. But while it will feature increased electrification, including mild and plug-in hybrids, it will still be based on a new generation of petrol and diesel engines, described by Audi’s head of technical development, Oliver Hoffman, as “the best we have ever launched”.

Speaking exclusively to Aumototive Daily, Hoffman said the A4, which makes up around a fifth of Audi’s global sales, is a “super-important” model for the firm.

“The development of the next generation of A4 is under way,” he told us. “We’ll offer that car, and the A6, for a lot of years. Production of the last new combustion-engined model will begin in 2025 and end with a normal lifecycle in 2033. But we will launch some models a lot earlier.”

The A4 is expected to fit that timeline by arriving in 2023, and while a diesel version will be available, the bulk of the line-up will use a further development of the VW Group’s ubiquitous EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine.

VW is said to have been working on variable-section turbines within the turbocharger, designed to improve throttle response at low speeds while delivering higher overall power outputs. We should expect a higher pressure of fuel injection, too, not least because right now the 2.0-litre motor is beaten on that score by the more modest 1.5-litre TSI unit that features in many SEATs, Skodas and VWs.

Hoffman said that the new petrol engines will feature “more electrification, for sure, to meet the regs”, and this is likely to include beefed-up 48-volt tech for the mild-hybrid versions and a larger battery, mounted on the rear axle, for plug-in hybrid versions.

We can expect the A4 PHEVs to match other MLB models, notably the Q5, with a usable capacity of 14.4kWh; this should allow Audi’s engineers to take aim at the 62 miles of electric range offered by the latest Mercedes C 300 e.

The A4’s chassis set-up will remain largely unchanged, although the 48-volt electrics will offer greater scope for technology such as active anti-roll bars to be offered as options, or standard on higher-performance variants.

Our exclusive image shows how the A4 will evolve, taking cues from Audi’s electric production cars and concepts, while staying true to its existing proportions. It’s expected to be only a few millimetres longer, while the wheelbase will be largely the same.

Inside, the step up to 48v will bring greater connectivity, as part of a pared-back dashboard that will feature even fewer physical controls. Audi’s engineers will be able to shrink the centre console around toggle gear selectors, because the car is likely to be offered with only dual-clutch and torque-converter automatic gearboxes.

Despite the decision to retain petrol and diesel engines, Audi could also offer a pure-electric version, to give it a rival for the likes of BMW’s much-vaunted all-electric i4, as well as the Tesla Model 3. It would look similar to the conventional models but not identical.

When asked directly if an all-electric A4 (likely to be badged A4 e-tron) could be sold alongside the regular versions, Hoffman said: “We are really happy to have a strong partnership within the Group – with Porsche for PPE [platform], with VW for MEB [platform], and our own platform, the MLB. We have the power to develop and produce dedicated platforms for most technologies.

“We’ve looked at a platform where we can have both powertrains, but it’s a compromise. So I’m really happy that we are able and we have the power to do both.”

It seems likely that such a car would arrive later in the A4’s life, using either a modified version of the PPE platform that will sit under the forthcoming Q6 e-tron, or the VW Group’s unified SSP architecture, which is expected by 2025.

How the Audi A4 has evolved

Audi A4 generationsB5 (1994-01)

The B5 designation issued for the first-generation A4 saw the car continue the lineage started by the Audi 80, making it the fifth generation of Audi compact executive

B6 (2001-06)

Handsome B6 was penned by designers Peter Schreyer and Luc Donckerwolke. It introduced V8 power in the range-topping S4, while the faster RS4 was yet to come.

B7 (2004-07)

There was a short life span for the B7, which was essentially a heavily facelifted B6. Perhaps this is the A4 best remembered by enthusiasts thanks to the storming 309kW RS4.

B8 (2008-2016)

Audi moved to the MLB platform for the B8-generation A4. A significant increase in wheelbase was joined by the introduction of the first A4 Allroad off-road estate.

B9 (2016-present)

Current B9 introduced significant connectivity and infotainment advances over the B8. Estate-only RS 4 Avant goes without a V8 but turbo six-cylinder has a healthy 331kW.

John Mcllroy

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