Redesigned inside and out, the 2017 Audi A4 gains a more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine teamed with a new 7-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission.
The redesigned exterior is led by a horizontally shaped contour grille, with wraparound shoulder lines that flow from the hood to the rear. The appearance of the A4 body hasn’t changed substantially, yet the redesign enhances its sports sedan pedigree a bit.
Inside is a roomier cabin and a new wraparound dashboard. Front occupants get greater head and shoulder clearance than what was available in pre-2017 A4 models. Rear-seat riders can finally enjoy more leg space. Notable options include a huge 12.3-inch color display for navigation and a full-color head-up display for speed and other driver data.
Developing 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, Audi’s latest turbo four-cylinder engine delivers excellent power, yet fuel economy has improved. Smooth and strong, the powertrain yields 0-60 mph acceleration in about 5.6 seconds.
A stiff new structure, coupled with new adaptive dampers, boosts ride and handing abilities appreciably. The car is slightly lighter than before. Brakes and electric power steering have been tuned to provide road manners that approach the previous high-performance S4.
Still, handling isn’t quite as sharp and sporty in the front-wheel-drive based A4 as that of some of its rear-wheel-drive rivals. In inclement conditions, however, its legendary all-wheel drive should give the Audi an advantage.
Audi Drive Select includes four modes: Auto, Comfort, Dynamic, and Individual. Standard xenon-plus headlights complement LED daytime running lights. LED headlights are optional.
Ambient LED lighting is standard inside, along with leather seat upholstery. Toggle switches actuate the tri-zone automatic climate control system. A spartan dashboard makes the sedan’s digital displays stand out emphatically.
Audi A4 compares most closely with BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Jaguar XE, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS.
Crash-testing has not yet been undertaken by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has made the A4 a Top Safety Pick Plus, when equipped with crash-mitigation technology. Audi’s compact earned Good ratings in every test.
A rearview camera and Bluetooth connectivity are standard. Safety options include blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-follow capability, and a warning if you open a door into oncoming traffic. Forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking also is available. Rear-seat side airbags are optional.
The 2017 Audi A4 comes in three trim levels, with front-wheel drive or quattro all-wheel drive. The A4 Premium ($37,300) comes with a sunroof, leather seating surfaces, power front seats, rearview camera, 17-inch wheels, 10-speaker audio with Bluetooth audio streaming, and smartphone interface. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Premium Plus ($41,100) adds 18-inch wheels, parking sensors, S line exterior trim, and a Bang & Olufsen 755-watt, 19-speaker 3-D audio system. Prestige ($45,900) gets the virtual cockpit instrument display, head-up display, surround-view cameras, blind-spot monitoring, and navigation with voice control. Prestige models can get the adaptive damping suspension, plus a Driver Assistance Package that includes adaptive cruise control and traffic-sign recognition.
The 2017 A4 redesign can’t be called adventurous or dramatic, but the front end does convey a more athletic stance, while the rear is taller and more emphatically wedge-shaped. The revised grille framing looks more appealing. Large glass areas taper smartly toward the roof.
Despite adopting a totally new platform, though, the basic proportions and silhouette have barely changed. Aerodynamically neat and clean, the basic body shape hasn’t changed all that much since the first A4 debuted for 1996. Rather than bedazzle onlookers, the A4 profile aims to endure. Because the new structure is a trifle longer and wider, the 2017 A4 qualifies as a midsize sedan more than a compact.
Back-seat space has been an issue in previous A4s, which suffered from a low cushion and little knee clearance. Not anymore. In 2017 form, it’s about as roomy as competitive, larger models, notably the BMW 3 Series. Audi claims that headroom has gained an inch, with 2.6 additional inches for front-occupant shoulders. Back-seat occupants now get a higher, supportive cushion.
Front seats have always provided space and support for comfortable, if snug, long-distance travel. Now, a 6-foot passenger can ride comfortably behind a 6-foot driver. In fact, five adults can fit inside, with improved comfort for each. Those up front get the most form-fitting, still rather snug, seats, with firm bolstering.
Functionality has improved. A low cowl gives the driver a greater field of vision. The steering wheel has shrunk a bit, with thumb controls easier to use.
With the available virtual cockpit, dazzling screens face the driver. Most models have done away with traditional-style gauges, in favor of changeable electronic displays that can switch from one view to another. Though displays are stunning, and they refresh quickly, the new system can be distracting initially. Base models have a 7-inch screen.
The latest version of Multi-Media Interface (MMI) accepts inputs from voice, steering-wheel controls, or handwritten letters on a scratchpad. All A4s now include smartphone-app features.
Making a single four-cylinder powertrain available was the sensible decision, since nothing is lacking in the 2017 A4. The turbo four has gained 29 horsepower for 2017. As a result, the A4 starts off with gratifying zeal, emitting smoothly balanced, natural engine sounds.
An evolution of earlier designs, the dual-clutch transmission has paddle shifters and complements the A4’s sporty intent. Unlike some dual-clutch units, this one exhibits little jerkiness.
Road manners are impressive, even if certain competitors pull ahead in precise handling. Most models can be fitted with adaptive dampers. Well worth the $1,000 cost, the adaptive system softens minor bumps and ensures firmer control. A new mode in the electric power steering increases boost and broadens steering angle at low speeds, easing urban maneuvering. Brake action is progressive, with excellent pedal feel.
In Sport steering/transmission modes, with automatic damping, the 2017 A4 feels most adept. Far more capable than the previous model, it responds promptly and takes corners predictably.
Gas mileage has improved. With front-drive, the 2017 Audi A4 is EPA-rated at 25/33 mpg City/Highway, or 28 mpg Combined. Adding all-wheel drive lowers those figures to 24/31 mpg City/Highway, or 27 mpg Combined.
For two decades, the A4 has exemplified Audi’s reputation for taut styling and satisfying road manners, augmented by abundant technology. Adding such features as the virtual cockpit helps send the redesigned 2017 A4 toward the future. Plenty of excellent automobiles occupy the sport-sedan category, long led by the BMW 3 Series, and the latest A4 clearly belongs in that proficient group.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.