Audi’s premium sedan looks to be getting a much-needed facelift

The 2020 Audi A4 has arrived with a fresh look, new technologies, and enough engine options to make your head spin. While it’s technically a mid-cycle refresh of the same generation model that launched in 2016, the 2020 A4 looks and feels more than just a refresh. You can call it an all-new model because that’s what it actually is. The updates are significant across the board, so much that it’s hard to look at the 2020 A4 as a continuation of the current-generation A4 B9 model. Audi’s new compact luxury sedan looks every bit like the winner we all hoped it would be. Now it’s time for the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C-Class to stand up and take notice. The 2020 Audi A4 is coming, and it’s coming with a vengeance. U.S. availability and pricing of the 2020 A4 have yet to be announced, but those details should come soon, ahead of the sedan’s scheduled launch later this year.

Exterior

  • New headlamps with "eyebrow" LEDs
  • Flatter and wider Singleframe grille
  • Unique bumpers across the entire range
  • Quattro blisters on the sides are taken from Prologue Concept
  • New taillamps with a unique design of their own
  • Stouter bumper with integrated pentagonal dual pipes
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The 2020 Audi A4 is technically a mid-cycle refresh of the model that arrived fresh as a daisy in 2016. By definition, that would only necessitate a few minor updates, maybe a nip here and a tuck there. But even if it is, technically a “mid-cycle refresh,” the 2020 Audi A4 is more than that. The changes, particularly in the exterior, are more visible, if not more prominent.

Let’s start in the front where three major styling changes slam home the point that this isn’t last year’s A4 anymore. First, there are the headlamps. They look different because they are different. Parading that styling shift are the new LED strips. Gone are the wrap-around LEDs that run along the edges of the headlamps. In their place are new LEDs that look like angry eyebrows. This change came because of a renewed objective on Audi’s part to give the A4 a sportier and more aggressive. What evokes images of aggression more than furrowed eyebrows? Not a lot, it seems. In keeping with that theme, Audi also made significant changes to the sedan’s Singleframe grille. It’s not something that you’ll notice immediately, but the grille itself is lower and wider than it was in the 2019 A4. This goes back to the theme of sporty aggression. Whereas past versions of this current-generation A4 looked like a grown-up sedan, the 2020 A4 looks like a grown-up car with a mean streak. The last important change in the 2020 A4’s frontal makeup is the bumper. A pair of character-shaping sharp lines stretch out from above the two pentagonal intakes into the fenders of the sedan. There’s a thin lip spoiler just under the grille that connects the two areas of the bumper. This is an aerodynamic detail as much as it is an aesthetic one. The intakes themselves are mostly covered, though there are two openings that you can see: one for what looks like fog lamps and another for cold air to actually go into the engine. The look Audi is going for isn’t complete without another interesting design detail. The lines on the hood don’t hit the top part of the grille anymore. Don’t underestimate the extra sliver of space this creates. In some ways, it actually emphasizes the new shape of the grille even more.

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As significant as the changes are in the front section of the A4, the sedan’s side profile is a good example of the understated effect of body lines on a car. The long shoulder line that stretched from headlamp to taillamp in the previous A4 is now gone, replaced instead by what Audi calls “Quattro blisters,” a styling cue we first saw on the 2014 Prologue Concept. The blisters don’t meet in the center, though there is a separate body line that sits on a lower plane, covering the length of the two doors. This looks insignificant to some, and, for the most part, it probably is. But those who pay attention to these small details can see how the new adaptation gives the A4 a more nuanced look that plays well with the sporty-looking front section.

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Move to the rear and the changes are just as significant, at least more than what you’d expect from a so-called “mid-cycle refresh.” The shape of the taillamps are similar to its predecessors, but the addition of the row of black notches — they look a saw’s teeth — on the top half of the taillights immediately gives the entire section a different look. Cutting across the two taillamps is a thin chrome bar that you can barely see in the photos. As slivery thin as it is, that’s another important design cue that Audi added to further establish the sedan’s more nuanced look. Just below them is arguably the most significant change in this area of the 2020 A4. The bumper is more robust, that much looks obvious. But Audi also used sharp lines to create a layered look, as if one bumper sits on top of another. The “lower” bumper comes with a stretched housing that hosts the two brake lamps and the pair of rectangular exhaust tips. The latter is another significant departure from the previous A4, which came with quad tailpipes.

2020 Audi A4 exterior dimensions
Length 4,726 MM (186.1 Inches)
Width 1,842 MM (72.5 Inches)
Height 1,427 MM (56.2 Inches)
Wheelbase 2,820 MM (111 Inches)

Interior

  • New 10.1-inch digital display
  • No more rotary knob
  • Available Audi Virtual Cockpit
  • Premium materials come standard
  • Wide-ranging options are on the table
  • Decent cargo volume
2020 Audi A4
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Changes abound in the interior of the 2020 Audi A4. Arguably the biggest one is the infotainment system, specifically the 10.1-inch digital display that’s sitting on top of the dashboard.

Not only is it bigger than the 8.3-inch display of the previous system, but it’s also tricked out with up-to-date features and functions.

One new feature, in particular, is the ability to add functions on-demand. Every facet of the display is touchscreen, and with its acoustic feedback capability, you can go through all the infotainment’s functions without having to use the rotary gear knob. Speaking of which, that knob has become expendable in the 2020 model, and, as expected, Audi ditched it completely. The area it previously took up is now occupied by a storage compartment and a pair of cup holders. It is a little curious that Audi’s goal of integrating the 2020 A4 with some of its more premium labels didn’t include the positioning of the digital display. It still sits atop the dashboard, just above the air-conditioning vents and not integrated into the center console itself. It’s worth noting, too, that the A4 does not have the secondary touchscreen that replaces the conventional climate control buttons. You can actually see that the latter is still present in the A4, integrated into the carbon fiber-trimmed dashboard. To the left of the tablet-like digital display is the instrument cluster where Audi’s offering three different variants: two partially analog driver information systems and the one that you should really have: Audi’s completely digital and award-winning Virtual Cockpit system.

2020 Audi A4
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It’s hard to understate the significance of the Virtual Cockpit system, especially to first-time owners of an Audi model. The has rightfully earned a lot of praise for its convenience and functionality. It can be customized in a number of settings to show different aspects of the A4, whether it’s some elements as useful as performance gauges and a navigation map or something of the entertainment variety like music and mobile phone information. All of it can be accessed in the space of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, laid out in a beautiful way. There’s a case to be made that the Virtual Cockpit system is one of Audi’s main hooks with a model like the A4.

Rivals like the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C-Class can match wits with the A4 in other categories, but neither of those two luxury sedans boast the Virtual Cockpit system.

Outside of these updates, the 2020 Audi A4’s interior remains virtually unchanged. The layout and size of the seats remain the same. The eight-way, power-adjustable heated front seats come standard, though there is an option to avail front sports seats with more adjustments and supports. But it doesn’t come cheap. Other options you can buy include ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and, yes, even a heated steering wheel. Standard leather upholstery is another feature that’s key to the 2020 Audi A4. Given its status as a compact luxury sedan, anything less would be a crime. You can also avail a handful of premium trim for the cabin. Press photos of the A4 even show a model sporting carbon fiber trim throughout the interior. That’s a solid level-up from the chrome trim or the polished aluminum finish that’s also available on the sedan.

2020 Audi A4
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The 2020 Audi A4 also comes with a good amount of cargo storage area. Now, Audi didn’t drop the actual available volume, but we do know that the 2019 model has around 13 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk. That should stay the same in the 2020 model. It’s a typical amount of space for a luxury sedan, though it is a lot less than the 17 cubic feet of volume that the 2020 BMW 3 Series provides.

Like with most sedans of the luxury ilk, the 2020 A4 is loaded in the options front.

I already mentioned the premium options that are available, but tech upgrades are part of the A4 experience, too. Whether its HD radio, satellite radio, or 19-inch premium audio system, there’s a lot of well-placed value in the interior of the 2020 Audi A4.

Drivetrain

  • Six engine — gas and diesel — options available
  • Three transmission options available
  • 12-volt and 48-volt mild hybrid systems in place
  • 188 horsepower to 248 horsepower output for the A4
  • 341 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque for the S4
  • Improved fuel efficiency numbers compared to its predecessor
2020 Audi A4
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Six turbocharged engines. That’s how many engines are available in the Audi A4. There’s a mix of gas and diesel engines, too, including a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder TFSI engine that produces anywhere from 188 horsepower to 248 horsepower, depending on whether the sedan is front-wheel-drive or quattro all-wheel-drive. There’s no mention if the base 1.4-liter TFSI unit that produces 148 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque will be available in the A4.

The good news is that customers who prefer diesel engines on their A4s should still have a number of options to choose from.

One such option is the 3.0-liter V-6 TDI diesel unit. Output numbers vary here as well. For the A4, we’re looking at output ranging from 215 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque to 268 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. The performance S4, on the other hand, comes to the party with a more potent 341 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque on tap.

2020 Audi A4
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Most of Audi’s engines for the 2020 A4 will feature 12-volt mild-hybrid systems that have been put in place to help reduce fuel consumption. It’s a neat trick of a system that Audi has here, not only because of the fuel savings it provides but because of how much fuel it actually saves. According to the automaker’s own measurements — hardly a bellwether for facts, but we’ll take it — the 12-volt MHEV system reduces fuel consumption by 0.3 liters per 100 kilometers, which converts to about 0.08 gallons of fuel per 62 miles. It doesn’t look like much when you look at it from a vacuum, but the dividends in fuel savings pay off over time.

Higher-spec performance models like the S4 have it better, though.

The returning V-6 diesel engine has loads of power on tap — 342 ponies and 516 pound-feet of twist — but it also uses an electric-powered compressor that’s integrated into a new and more powerful 48-volt electrical hybrid system. The compressor provides important improvements in acceleration, thanks to the kind of instant responsiveness that effectively neuters any sort of turbo lag coming from the turbocharged diesel engine. This results in faster acceleration times — it can sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 4.8 seconds — and reduced fuel consumption to the tune of 0.4 liters per 100 kilometers or around 0.11 gallons per 62 miles. An electronically limited top speed of 155 mph has also been set for the S4.

2020 Audi S4 Avant drivetrain specifications
Engine 3.0 V-6 TDI
Horsepower 342 HP @ 3,850 RPM
Torque 516.3 LB-FT @ 2,500 RPM
Hybrid System 48-Volt Electrical Boost
0 to 60 mph 4.9 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph
Fuel ecnomy 37 mpg
2020 Audi A4
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Transmission options are also available across the A4 lineup. Whereas all A4 models that come out of production will boast a standard seven-speed S tronic transmission, Audi is also offering a manual transmission or an eight-speed tiptronic transmission depending on whether the A4 is front-wheel-drive or quattro all-wheel drive. It’s unlikely that customers here in the U.S. will get a choice, though. Audi’s already discontinued the manual transmission for the current A4 so any thought of bringing that back in this market for the sedan is nothing more than wishful thinking. At best, we might be able to score the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission in the A4 and the eight-speed tiptronic transmission in the performance S4.

Prices

2020 Audi A4
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Audi has yet to announce the new pricing structure for the 2020 A4 and all the other variants that come with it. That will have to wait for later in the year when that information becomes available. For now, we can look at the sedan’s current prices to get an idea of what we can expect once the 2020 model rolls out.

The current base model of the Audi A4 starts at $36,000 and can go all the way up to $50,000 depending on the variant. Given the changes that we’ve seen in the 2020 A4, it’s not unreasonable to imagine Audi adding a premium on the price points of the A4 and all its variants. So, how would you feel about the base 2020 A4 starting at $38,000? It seems like a reasonable price given all the updates the model has received. On the opposite end of that spectrum, we can also assume that the range-topping performance S4 models will fetch at least $54,000 depending on the model.

Competition

BMW 3 Series

2016 BMW 3 Series High Resolution Exterior
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No matter what people say, there really are just two models that compete directly against the Audi A4. One of those models is the BMW 3 Series, considered by many as the bar that Audi and Mercedes measure their models against. The 3 Series earned that distinction after years of quality offerings, and the current version that’s on the market is no exception. It draws its power from a number of engine options, including a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 180 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque, a turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 making a respectable 250 horses and 258 pound-feet, and a new turbocharged, 3.0-liter, inline-six that can uncork 320 horses and 330 pound-feet of twist. The 3 Series also has a diesel offering in the form of the 328d, a model that cranks out 180 horsepower and 280 pound-feet. All units mate to either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic.

Read our full review on the 2018 BMW 3 Series.

Mercedes C-Class

2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Exterior Interior
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The other model in this three-pronged rivalry is the Mercedes C-Class. Like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, the C Class is a titan in the segment. It was redesigned in 2015 and has carried a compelling and competitive package since. It has one of the best interiors in the market, and it complements that by having its own array of engine options, including a 2.0-liter turbo-four unit that produces 241 horsepower and a biturbo, 3.0-liter V-6 with 329 horses on tap.

Read our full review on the 2018 Mercedes C-Class.

Conclusion

2020 Audi A4
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It’s understandable for Audi to push for an updated version of the A4 in a short span of time. The 3 Series and C-Class are so strong in their packages that Audi needs to keep up or get left behind. It’s even more imperative to do it at a time when sales of the sedan are lagging, putting the German automaker in an unenviable position relative to where Bimmer and Merc are. Fortunately, Audi was up-to-the-task. The 2020 A4 hits a lot of the right notes that you’d want from a compact luxury sedan. It has a new look that’s undoubtedly fresher and more modern than its predecessor. The interior remains largely the same, but new — and very useful — technologies help make up for that. Powertrain options remain stout, too. Audi even threw in a little mild hybrid action into the mix, proving that just because it competes with two segment titans like the 3 Series and the C-Class, it doesn’t mean that the A4 is going to shrink in the face of that competition. On the contrary, the 2020 A4 is standing tall, ready to punch both the 3er and the C-Class in the face. Does anybody want to start taking bets on this battle royale?

  • Leave it
    • Pricing could spike significantly
    • The BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class are serious rivals
    • Not as sophisticated as its rivals

Further reading

2020 Audi A4 Avant
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Read our full review on the 2020 Audi A4 Avant.

2020 Audi S4 Avant
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Read our full review on the 2020 Audi S4 Avant.

2016 - 2018 Audi A4 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the current 2018 Audi A4.

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