Better than Good: 2017 Audi A4

Audi owners must be an excitable bunch. It would explain why each new model that rolls out of Ingolstadt looks strikingly similar to the generation before it; it keeps everyone’s heart rates down. Take the latest A4, for example. From afar, it looks remarkably similar to the previous one. But a closer looks reveals changes beyond sharper lines and more definition. Underneath this toned physique is a completely new platform and inside there’s a completely new interior. This, then, is Audi’s way of reassuring their faithful that all is well, but all is now better.

The A4 looks much better in person than it does in photos. It’s as if the designers wrapped the previous generation in a garbage bag and made it run laps. Visually leaner from all angles, designers have also added a new crease running from the edge of the headlight all the way down the flank to the LED taillight. Our Premium Plus tester featured LED headlights, sharp-looking 18” 5-spoke wheels, and the optional Sport Package. The later, a $750 option includes front sport seats and firmer suspension that lowers the car by nearly an inch.

Shutting the door of the new A4 is akin to shutting out the world. Its whisper quiet cabin is the perfect balance of form and function, clearly the best in the segment. The optional Technology Package adds Audi’s MMI navigation and radio with a refined and intuitive interface. It also includes the Audi virtual cockpit. If the excellent seats and superb three-spoke wheel didn’t have you sold, this driver instrument display will. The 12.3 inch display, in its normal setting, looks just like a standard set of gauges with a center information display. With the push of a button, the speedometer and tachometer shrink down to the outer corners, opening up the bulk of the display to show the full-size navigation map, radio or media information, or vehicle details. It’s a novel feature that quickly becomes a useful resource. It’s also the only fully-digital dash display we’ve experienced that doesn’t become uncomfortably bright at night.

Not only does the new A4 look lighter than the previous generation, it feels sprightlier too. The 2.0L turbocharged engine now makes 252 hp and 273 lb-ft torque. The torque comes on hard and strong, plateauing at 1,600 RPM. But this modest increase in power is magnified by the A4’sfirst dual-clutch transmission. A seven-speed DCT replaces the previous-generation’s 8-speed automatic. The outgoing unit wasn’t a slouch but the snappy new gearbox elevates the A4’s game. Smooth around town and instantly responsive to manual input, the A4’s drivetrain is impervious to critique. There will even be a manual option on some models. Losing a gear hasn’t hurt efficiency, either. Over the week of extra-spirited winter driving, we averaged just over 24mpg.

Audi has kept the driver in mind with its updates. The optional sport seats and phenomenal steering wheel provide a comfortable and secure driving position. Visibility is excellent, especially rearward through the A4’s wide rear window.  The ride on the Sport Package’s firmer suspension is a bit hard over broken roads, but the stiffer damper rates pay off when the roads get twisty. The Audi moves with a deftness it hasn’t had in a few generations. The steering is precise, body roll is well controlled, and the brakes are confident.

Once you spend a few days with the new Audi A4, this new generation becomes easy to spot on the road. Better than that, you’ll never confuse this A4 with the one that came before it from behind the wheel. The interior is first-rate with great materials, leading-edge tech, and an eye for design without compromising that trademark German efficiency. The cabin is quiet and spacious, but the car manages to feel smaller and nimbler from the driver’s perspective. The revised engine and new transmission have given the A4’s driving characteristics a new lease on life. All was well in Ingolstadt, but all is now better.

-Christopher Little

2017 Audi A4 quattro
Florett Silver metallic $578
Premium Plus package $3,800
Technology package $3.250
Sport package $750
Destination Charge $950
As Tested MSRP $48,725

Spicy: 2015 Audi S3
Advantage: 2015 Audi S8
The Right Stuff: 2015 Audi A3
Rings Redux: 2015 Audi S5

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