So how well does Audi quattro work in a country like Malaysia where we NEVER experience snow or blizzard? Well, the writer had a ‘revision’ with an A4 2.0 TFSI quattro recently.
Audi TFSI-powered A4s have always been great on the straights, highways and even mildly curved trunk roads. The power of turbocharging plus direct injection is always welcomed - with a smirk or grin - for those quick sprints and fast (and safer) overtaking manoeuvres. However, the substantial 280Nm worth of torque powering just the front wheels can be caught a little too busy especially when you hit tighter corners.
So, the A4 quattro’s driveline must be the cure that will address such ailments, yes? To a certain extent, I do admit that all-wheel drive provided a nicer balance to the A4’s chassis – and possibly weight distribution as well. However, the engine’s power is much sapped off, especially when driven in regular “D” mode. More often than not, you get that bogged-down feeling, attributed to the AWD hardware’s extra weight and permanent-four wheels propulsion.
On the highways, I would have preferred the alive-n-kicking feeling of its front-wheel driven brethren. But that’s only half the story since the quattro-specced A4 is undeniably the one to have when the sky starts to pour. Having driven on the N-S highway one dark and wet evening, I found the quattro confidently tracking on the third lane, overtaking cars as if the tarmac was dry. No wicked or rage-fuelled driving here, I was just unknowingly piling on momentum as if nothing mattered! Honest.
On winding roads, the permanent-four driveline felt busier as you exit corners. This makes the quattro quite a handful to handle. (Two Mercedes-Benz ASE 2007 trainers mentioned something about AWD vehicle having a little less ‘safety reserve’ in extreme handling situations even though they did admit it has better handling and of course, higher levels of grip. I wonder what the ‘safety reserve’ was all about.) The handling difficulty is compounded by the fact that the A4 has an unpleasantly - and undesirably - light and almost lifeless steering. Traction was aplenty – as is torque in 'S' drive mode - around the regular hilly bends that I tackle almost every weekend. Admittedly, I do appreciate the extra road holding forte but the A4’s suspension was acting like it had a mind of its own. With repeatedly tight left-right-left-right handers thrown in succession, the dampers were loosening up a bit too much to rein in the associated suspension rebounds incisively. As a result, there were even a little twitch and pitch to things. The much wanted taut and composed body control were sadly, missing.
Notwithstanding the fact that I may not have the required advanced driving skills to take the quattro to the maximum around those hilly B-roads, I still find myself more aligned towards RWD dynamics. While I admit the A4 quattro did handled better than the regular FWD A4 TFSI multitronic, I reckoned most of us with regular/standard driving skills would do better in the other two junior executives from the alternative Teutonic brands. Well, maybe the upcoming 2008 all-new Audi (B8) A4 has other technical trickery up its sleeves?