NO ONE likes a smarty-pants, but chances are you’ll be willing to make an exception for the new Audi A4. It’s as brainy as a car can be, which is a good way to stand out if you have vicious rivals like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class.

Granted, you might be forgiven for thinking that the A4 is all about brawn, since a facelift has given it the appearance of a broader stance and more muscular flanks. In truth though, it’s more pussycat than tiger.

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It’s available with 150 or 190 horsepower for now, and The Business Times drove the latter. The acceleration might be strong enough to make the front tyres chirrup, but with suspension tuned more for comfort than roadholding, the A4 simply isn’t an engaging drive. Wait till the hotshot S4 and RS 4 Avant get here, and the story will be different.

Meanwhile, the engine has a mild hybrid electric system and a clever valve timing sequence that both boost fuel economy, so for a car with the ability to hit 100km/h in 7.3 seconds, the 190hp A4 is uncannily frugal.

Yet, that isn’t the kind of intelligence that sells cars here, so you’re likely to find its new infotainment system much more intriguing.

With a built-in 4G connection, the A4 can now get intimate with your smartphone through an app called myAudi, which in turn enables a number of things. Loan your Audi to your kid, and it will snitch if said offspring speeds or drives beyond a geofence that you can set.

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Need satellite guidance somewhere? Simply send the route from phone to car. The A4 continues to have the nicest cabin in the class, but a new Virtual Cockpit screen now has three different modes, while the main touchscreen is both bigger and, again, smarter.

It understands fingertip writing, and the navigation system returns clever hits: spell out “laksa”, and it suggests restaurants, shows you ratings, finds you parking and then plots a route that avoids traffic jams.

Very likely, features like that are the next weapons with which the luxury car wars will be fought. The new A4 shows how it is becoming less important to outrun a competitor these days than it is to outsmart it.

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Audi A4 advanced 40 TFSI S tronic

Engine 1,984cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 190hp at 4,200-6,000rpm
Torque 320Nm at 1,450-4,200rpm
Gearbox 7-speed twin-clutch automatic
0-100km/h 7.3 seconds
Top Speed 241km/h
Fuel efficiency 6.3L/100km
Agent Premium Automobiles
Price S$192,490 with COE
Available Now

This article was originally published in The Business Times