The Audi A4 has long been one of the most popular cars among compact luxury sedans, and a default choice for those who don’t want the oft-chosen BMW 3 Series. With the all-new 2017 model, Audi seeks to lure some BMW fans while doubling down on what the A4 has long symbolized: sophisticated technology wrapped in modern design.
The 2017 A4, the fifth new model since the badge first appeared in 1995, is a refinement of the same philosophy. You couldn’t call the new A4 especially eye-catching, but it isn’t ugly. Some creases and sharper wheels help freshen its appearance, as do standard xenon headlights or optional LED headlights. LED taillights are standard on all models, sporting a trademark sequential feature. The new A4 is still understated compared to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class or Lexus IS, but in this rather buttoned-down segment of the market, it cuts a rather dashing look.
Inside, Audi once again ups the technology stakes with its Virtual Cockpit. It’s available as part of the Technology package on mid-range Premium Plus models and standard on top-trim Prestige cars. It’s a wide screen that rests where physical gauges for speed and other information would normally reside, giving the driver the option to see conventional-looking readouts or push those aside for more information about driving directions, what’s playing on the radio or vehicle settings and diagnostics. Other automakers try for similar all-digital readouts, but the one in the A4 has the most realistic resolution. It’s basically the same as your laptop monitor and makes the most convincing case for getting rid of physical dials.
Opting for the Virtual Cockpit also gets you Audi’s excellent navigation system with Google Earth and a Wi-Fi hot spot. Even if you don’t use the data connection for your laptop or tablet, the system beautifully renders maps between the gauges and in the center display.
Technophiles will also note Audi is among the first of its rivals to integrate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into the 2017 A4, a welcome feature for those who are more familiar with the interface on their smartphone than Audi’s fairly straightforward MMI system for controlling phone, streaming audio and text message functions.
In fact, it’s inside where the A4 truly shines.
Power comes from a single engine selection: a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 252 horsepower. The transmission choice is also simple, as a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is the only option. Buyers are able to choose between standard front-wheel drive or optional Quattro all-wheel drive – roughly three-quarters A4s in the U.S. market are Quattros. A more powerful S4 version with a supercharged V6 is on the way, as is a new Allroad SUV-wagon. A diesel engine, however, will not be offered.
Audi is promoting a raft of safety features in this new A4, with systems such as a lane-keeping assist and an adaptive cruise control system that is tied to speed limit signs and can detect curves in the road. These features have worked fairly well on other Audi models and should be sought after in the new A4.
Those familiar with previous A4s or just about any other recent Audi product should feel right at home in the new car. Yet buyers craving a well-rounded luxury sedan should also give the A4 a long look. It starts with a subtle impression, for sure, but appreciation for it builds given the high levels of quality and refinement of the technology offered that gives the promise of fuss-free experience.
The 2017 A4 is on sale now and starts just below $38,000 for a front-drive Premium model. A fully optioned A4 Prestige goes up to about $55,000. We’ll have a full review soon when we get to spend more time with the redesigned A4.