By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
If we had to pick the best compact to midsize luxury sedan sold in the United States, at, or near the top of the list would be the 2017 Audi A4.
Consumers seem to concur making the Audi A4 the top selling Audi lineup for the last 20 years when it became the A4. Earlier in its 44-year history it had been called Audi 80, Audi 4000 and Audi Fox. All totaled there have been more than 12 million sold, that’s more than the total number of Toyota Camry’s sold.
At first glance, the 2017 Audi A4 looks like a refreshed design, but it’s an all-new version with the same design cues used on most of the Audi sedans. The new version, however, is a new lightweight aluminum-hybrid construction, with a new transmission, engine, suspension and the latest technologies.
The Audi A4 runs with a fast crowd of popular luxury compacts including sedans like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS, Cadillac ATS and the all-new Jaguar XE. The Audi A4 is usually picked by auto authorities as the leader of the group offering the best sport sedan attributes.
After spending a week driving the 2017 Audi A4, we think it should easily maintain its ‘leader of the pack’ status with more standard power, enhanced handling and even more impressive interior and technological features.
The new body structure is lighter (99 pounds on FWD models and 66 pounds on the quattro models). The design, which reflects the crisper lines of all the new Audi family models, has similar proportions to the last generation and maintains the Singleframe® grill and bold wheel arches. All variations have the standard LED daytime running lights, Xenon plus headlights and LED taillights with dynamic turn signals. LED headlights are a new option on this model for 2017.
We think the all-wheel drive (quattro®) helps make the Audi A4 great, with its outstanding all-weather traction and excellent dry-road handling characteristics. In fact, we don’t even know why they bother to build the front-drive model – sure it’s cheaper and it’s an impressive front-wheel drive car, but it’s the quattro that makes the A4 stand out from the crowd.
Previous A4 models have had V-6 and diesel engine options, but the 2017 Audi A4 is initially only available with a 2.0-liter TFSI® (turbocharged fuel stratified injection) four-cylinder. With the horsepower rating up to 252 and the torque at 273-ft.lbs. the engine is one of the most powerful four-cylinder engines on the market. With quattro, the engine accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in only 5.7 seconds (the FWD takes 6.1 seconds) and both have a top track speed limited to 130 mph. Although the four-cylinder engine has been extensively modified (from the 220-hp, 258-lf.ft. torque) it’s smooth and quiet with virtually no turbo lag under full power application.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. We averaged 26.1 mpg during our week of mixed driving.
The Audi S4 performance model will return later in the model year powered by a new turbocharged version of the V-6 engine replacing the previous supercharged V-6.
The new transmission is a seven-speed S tronic® dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters. The shifters give the driver better control and allow for brief down shifts while the transmission is in drive, or complete manual control allowing the driver to shift manually. The driver can also select from four driving modes: comfort, auto, dynamic and individual. These allow the driver to increase throttle response, steering boost and damper control to better tailor the A4 to individual driving preferences. The four settings also change the available adaptive cruise control setting to fit the driving style.
Audi is leading the technological parade with its new virtual cockpit. The 12.3-inch instrument panel display has outstanding color and the quad core NVIDA processor. The system is super-fast changing the display at 60 frames per second speed. There is also an available full-color head-up display that projects selected driving information onto the lower portion of the windshield, so the driver doesn’t have to take his/her eyes off the road. We also like the navigation screen which is mounted on the top of the center stack.
Controls for the virtual cockpit are the traditional MMI® scroll wheel system, or the optional all-in-touch system which comes with MMI navigation plus package. It works similar to an Internet search engine making input easier and quicker.
The Generation 2 Audi Connect system has Connect CARE which includes a suite of emergency services including an Automatic and Manual Emergency Call system, Online roadside assistance, stolen vehicle locator and even vehicle service reminder. An available option to the system, Connect PRIME, allows customers to subscribe to Google Earth mapping with Google Street View which can show the street view of the selected destination. It also includes services like Curfew, Speed and Valet alerts and remote lock/unlocking through the MMI Connect App. The system includes Wi-Fi connectivity through an AT&T link.
The 2017 Audi A4 is available in three trim levels: the Premium FWD with a base price of $38,250 including the destination charge; the Premium Plus at $42,050 and the Prestige at $46,850. Quattro is a $2,100 option. The A4 Prestige with all the available options tops out at $55,725.
This is one of the nicest driving sport sedans we’ve been in this year. The A4 has a precise feel with excellent road manners and a taunt, but comfortable ride. The steering is exact with good road feel, and the brakes stop quickly as they should.
The 2017 Audi A4 looks great, especially the well-designed interior with standard leather seats and user friendly controls. We didn’t have to get out the owner’s manual to figure out how anything works, it’s all very intuitive. We like everything about the A4 and it would be one of the top cars on our shopping list, if we were buying a new car today.