Stretched versions of compact and midsize sedans are largely a consequence of Chinaâs protectionist trade policy. Exorbitant import taxes on the real deals, like an A8, make owning a flagship sedan out of the question. A genuine Audi A8L costs $135,000 before any options, some 65 percent more than we pay in America. So, even though city traffic is horrific, the moderately affluent Chinese settle for a long-wheelbase A4L, or any number of smaller luxury cars given the same stretchÂ treatment. These higher volume models like the A4 and A6 are locally built through joint ventures with Chinese automakersâa requirement for any foreign automaker wishing to compete in Chinaâso itâs far cheaper to graft a couple inches to those smaller cars.
As before, the new-generation A4L that was unveiled at the Beijing auto show will be the only A4 available in China aside from the Allroad. Standard equipment largely mirrors that of the U.S. version, except that the base A4L comes with a low-output version of the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder (190 horsepower versus 252). The suspension tune is appropriately cushier, with âride comfort levels approaching those of the next higher vehicle class,â according to Audi.
The A4Lâs 114.6-inch wheelbase matches that of the standard A6, which, of course, is only offered in China as the longer A6L. Compared to the A4, the A4L has a 3.6-inch longer wheelbase (1.6 inches longer than the last-gen A4L) and 3.3 inches of added total length, to 189.4 inches. That still makes it 4.8 inches shorter than our A6. Aside from extra legroom in a car not known otherwise to be especially spacious in the aft compartment, thereâs nothing special for backseat riders lounging in the A4L. An S4L with the center rear seat deleted would be our kind of rideâa quasi-S6 with the posturing of an A8âbut Audi isnât about to go to that kind of length, not even in China. Especially since the buyer is rarely the driver, so performance pretensions donât deliver any perceived value.