Audi: 3 of the best for 2020

Motoring expert Mark Gallivan picks his three favourite Audi vehicles to drive in 2020. Vorsprung durch technik, indeed.

Welcome to 2020 and a brand-new year to consider changing to a new car. If you’re deciding to go for a premium German brand we can wholeheartedly recommend anything from Audi, Mercedes or BMW.

These brands have plugged every possible niche so the citycar/saloon/crossover/small-SUV/large-SUV/saloon, sportscar/supercar/limo driver is fully taken care of.

Mind you, keep your eyes peeled for the BMW X4 or X6. A BMW X5 is better than either and should be your first choice. The same goes for the Mercedes B-Class and the dreary blue rinse SLC roadster. A Mazda MX-5 hammers it for outright fun. If you must have a two-seater Mercedes’ roadster the SL is the only proper choice.

Audi is not immune either. Avoid where possible the boxy proportioned Q2 and go buy the top drawer A3. It’s a far better car.

Other than that the house of Audi has some peachy motors to peruse. We strongly recommend the Audi A6 and Audi Q5. Special mention goes to the recently introduced RS5 Sportback and Audi S6 – both are firecrackers to drive. Naturally, the R8 is on everyone’s list but the €238,140 asking price for the Coupe puts paid to that daydream. Take heart, there’s plenty of rich pickings for Audi fans. Here are three very good cars to whet your appetite.

2020 Audi A1 Sportback from €24,810

Blue Audi A1 Sportback

Audi A1 Sportback. Image: Paddy McGrath

For many of us €26,000 is a lot of money to save or to commit or finance over a period of years. For that you’ll get more than a fair slice of the Audi promise and the A1 places you ahead of the Mini 5 Door and VW’s Polo with four rings on your keyring and endless opportunities for look-at-me Instagram selfies.

The A1 Sportback comes in three trim levels – the entry-level Attraction, SE or S-Line. You may crave the S-Line’s 30 TFSI with a six-speed manual gearbox and 116hp and aggressive trim levels but by then your A1 Sportback is now knocking on the door of €31,000. We say it’s best to stick with the entry-level A1 Attraction at €26,385. The sharp handling and good refinement makes up for the missing sparkle you’ll get from a Mini. There’s no need to opt for the DSG gearbox either as the manual ‘box suits the A1 better.

There is the option of the SUV-esque A1 Citycarver – essentially it’s a raised A1 with an added 40kg and Kia XCeed rival – but keep your price entry point as canny as possible and the A1 Sportback will reward you with strong residuals – better than the Mini and VW Polo. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard with a 9-inch touchscreen that is class-leading for rendering and functionality. There are options to upgrade the standard infotainment but again think carefully and decide if you really need to pay extra. Expect to pay less in the real world for servicing your Audi A1 than the Mini. CO2 emissions are 126g/km amounting to €270 motor tax a year.

It’s a safe car too, scoring 5 Stars with 95 per cent adult occupant safety in the Euro NCAP tests. All told, the A1 Sportback is a great first Audi and as long you stick to your budget it makes a sensible purchase.

You’ll like: Premium badge. Excellent refinement. Smaller 1.0-litre engine is a great choice. Comfortable with a good driving position. Feels closer to an Audi A3 than the VW Polo rival.

You’ll grumble: Never as fun as the Mini to drive. Bleak House standard equipment. High price of options.

2020 Audi A4 €40,520

Blue Audi A4 saloon car.

Audi A4 saloon. Image: Paddy McGrath

Could this be the one that got away? In the Continental Car of the Year Awards the Kia E-Soul grabbed the overall prize. But deep in my 2019 notes lurked two cars that stood out – the brilliant BMW 3 Series and another car that wasn’t eligible because it was a facelift, the refreshed Audi A4.

For 2020 Audi’s biggest selling A4 Saloon gets refreshed equipment as standard like three zone climate control and reversing camera, heated front seats and front/rear parking sensors are fitted as standard. A 10-inch infotainment screen is touch sensitive and means, unfortunately, the sensible swivel wheel for managing controls is ditched. That is a retrograde step so, please Audi, bring it back.

The main Digital Display behind the steering wheel remains a decent system to use. Boot space is generous at 480-litres and benefits from a flat loading lip when manhandling heavy suitcases.

Externally, the refreshed A4 is recognisable by new front and rear LED headlights with reworked rear bumper/diffuser that keeps the car relevant until the next generation arrives in about two years time. There are many options when configuring the A4 – Diesel and Petrol engines, front wheel drive or Quattro permanent four wheel drive with a 6-speed manual or S-tronic variants.

The standard dampening is best in class and rides smoother than a BMW 3-Series and pips the Mercedes C-Class. Audi has done a fine job with engine refinement and in the 35TDI 163bhp S-Line (2.0-litre diesel) I tested it was exceptionally smooth. It’s a good engine choice and suits the A4’s laid back personality without reducing the fuel economy.

One thing, if you’re listening to all the noise about diesel engines being replaced very soon we’d recommend you don’t switch from Diesel to Petrol for a while yet if you travel over 10,000 kms a year. Though its market share is shrinking Diesel commanded up to 46.59 per cent of the Irish market for new car sales up to the end of November ahead of 40.63 per cent by petrol engines.

One ongoing personal gripe in the current generation A4 is the seating position that’s set too low even at the highest setting and feels slightly claustrophobic. Judge this for yourself to see it proves to be a problem.

The A4 scores best in looking after you on long trips offering high levels of traction even in the FWD version I tested and never puts a foot wrong just like a well-trained butler. Should you really just buy the BMW 3 Series instead? It’s an exceptional car and leads the segment for driving thrills. Yet the Audi A4 benefits from being one of the very best built cars on sale in any category with an over-engineered feel that will ultimately be prove the more satisfying car for the undemanding driver. The refreshed Audi A4 Saloon is one my favourite new cars launched during 2019.

You’ll like: The best build/construction in this category. Exceptionally relaxing to drive. Hushed at speed. Refreshed looks makes the Merc’s C-Class look old.

You’ll grumble: Front seating set too low. Perennial Audi hesitation when accelerating from standstill. The BMW 3 Series is better to drive.

2020 Audi Q8 €97,856

Grey Audi Q8 car.

Grey 2018 Audi Q8 50 TDI. Image: Paddy McGrath

In the blue corner, we have Greta berating us for killing the planet. We’ve no argument there. In the red corner there it is, the Audi Q8, with a gigantic grille grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

A 4,986 mm long, 1,995 mm wide and unapologetic 2,365 kg weight it’s a beacon for the-couldn’t-care-less buyer with a near as anything €100,000 in their pocket. Audi’s flagship luxury SUV is so against the current trend for downsizing that we should be embarrassed it exists. Let alone ever admitting to buying one.

But here’s the rub, the Q8 is a wonderful vehicle to drive and surprisingly likeable, being far better looking than the Audi e-tron or the slab-sided Q7. Now hunting in the Range Rover Sport, Mercedes GLE Coupe and BMW X6 market it’s the peachiest looking premium SUV of the lot. The Q8 shares the MLB evo platform with the Q7 it sits lower and proves a more able companion with better turn-in and bypasses the slightly swinging pendulum effect you get in the Q7 when tackling corners even though it weighs 100kg more.

The air suspension on my test car turned the worst ridges and potholes found in deepest Wicklow’s roads into muted thumps and successfully isolated me from the road.

In the 3.0-litre TDI 286bhp Tiptronic diesel Quattro I drove it came closer than I thought possible to rivalling the exceptional A8 Limo for outright refinement. Rear luggage is vast with 605-litres/1,755 litres although it’s smaller than a Q7 if fitted with five seats.

No, the Q8 biggest superiority lies in the exterior styling and Audi has successfully made a Premium SUV Coupe look desirable. Big and in your face it may be but the Q8’s delights with frameless doors, a sensational rear LED lighting display and fat wheel arches filled with wheels that can be optioned up to 22” inches that is more than a hint of the Lamborghini Urus SUV. The deal is helped to close once inside the Q8’s cabin.

The dashboard is again dominated by two central touchscreens as found in the Q7 and Audi’s perennial front Digital Cockpit displays. The leather and gloss black facings are the nicest in the business. At night the rich ambient coloured displays illuminated the cabin and the big Q8 SUV proves hard to resist even one with coupe pretensions. Other than the A8 it’s the other big Audi I’d gladly buy as a personal purchase. Sorry, Greta.

You’ll like: Looks like a Lamborghini Urus. Sumptuous interior. Marginally better to drive than the already excellent Q7. Good handling for a such big SUV. Desirable and imposing at the same time.

You’ll grumble: The price. That challenging luxury SUV image.

Published: 3 January, 2020