Next-gen golf GTi engine debuts in Audi's semi-sporty A4.
Good things often come to those still in love with the manual gearbox. Used correctly, it brings kudos from women-folk and silent admiration from the male of the species, but it’s also often accompanied by a more generous serving of performance.
In the A4 2.0T’s case, the six-speed manual gets not only quattro all-wheel drive, but an uprated 2.0-litre TFSI four with 155kW/350Nm compared to the front-drive 2.0T Multitronic’s 132kW/320Nm.
You’ll pay an additional $11,651 for the privilege, but the 2.0T quattro is garnished with extra gear, too – namely xenon headlamps with LED strips, front parking sensors, electric front chairs with electric lumbar, a sports steering wheel, keyless entry and start, and 6-disc audio with a 6.5-inch colour screen.
But the cover story is the 2.0T’s engine – a fresh-for-’09 update of the 147kW/280Nm direct-injection turbo that has been doing sterling service since 2004. Power is up 8kW to 155kW (at 4300-6000rpm), but torque has jumped 70Nm to a V6-bashing 350Nm, available all the way from 1500-4200rpm.
The engine’s compression ratio has actually dropped from 10.5:1 to 9.6, enabling it to produce full thrust on 95 octane, but it remains exceptionally efficient. Audi claims the manual 2.0T will hit 100km/h in 6.6sec – just 0.2sec slower than the 3.2 FSI – yet averages a diesel-esque 7.4L/100km, which is outstanding for a big petrol sedan.
Alterations to the TFSI 2.0-litre are modest, but clearly effective. It scores variable lift on the exhaust camshaft, chain drive, new six-hole injectors, optimised turbocharger internals to improve response, a lighter and more efficient intercooler, and reduced friction for the conrod bearings and cylinder linings. It also meets strict Euro V emissions rules.
On the road, the engine’s muscle is immediately apparent. Pace gathers swiftly from 1600rpm, but becomes urgent at 2000rpm and never lets up until about 6500rpm. The redline reads 6800rpm, but there’s little point stretching that far – the 2.0 TFSI does its best work in its buxom mid-range, and sounds happier there, too, if never as rorty as it has in other applications. And it’s matched to a fantastic six-speed gearshift. If you can’t drive the A4 2.0T manual smoothly, maybe you shouldn’t be driving at all.
Then there’s the rest of the B8 A4 experience. On fairly unsporting 225/50R17 Dunlop SP Sport 01s, and without Audi’s flawed ‘Drive Select’ three-mode suspension, the A4’s ride is actually very good, but its steering is numb at straight ahead and, while quick off-centre, transmits little feel. The 2.0T quattro is capable enough when the going gets tough, but it never really encourages press-on driving. It would definitely feel sharper with ‘Drive Select’, but then its ride would be reduced to tatters.
The 2.0T quattro should’ve been the new A4’s sporting sweet spot. Instead, it’s simply a reminder that this is not what the A4 is about.