Once you get more than skin deep it's easy to see where improvements have been made.
- Montreal, Quebec
It's never a good idea to mess around with a winning formula, which explains why the 2017 Audi A4's extensive redesign kept things within spitting distance of the model it replaces. That being said, it's hard to go wrong by making a vehicle just a little bit bigger, adding more power, and expanding the options sheet to reflect the latest in automotive technologies. In that respect, while the new Audi A4 might bear a strong family resemblance to last year's version of the car, once you get more than skin deep it's easy to see where improvements have been made.
There's nothing to lament about the 2017 Audi A4 staying true to its design roots, as it remains a very handsome automobile from almost any angle. The large corporate grille is still present and accounted for, while headlights become marginally more slit-like and creases sharpen along the sides and at the rear of the car.
It remains a very handsome automobile from almost any angle.
Inside it's impossible to ignore the newly-available LCD gauge cluster, which borrows from both the Audi R8 and the Audi TT coupes in offering a panoply of configurations. The optional Virtual Cockpit, as it's called, can swap the navigation map over from the LCD screen perched at the centre of the dash and make almost full use of its 12.3-inches of display to fully immerse your path ahead, while still providing ample screen space for phone communications, media browsing, and adjusting vehicle settings. Unlike the TT, the presence of the centre screen means your passenger won't have to lean over your shoulder to help you with nav inputs or to change the radio station, either.
As with most of its German segment-mates, the Audi A4 eschews making either of its screens touch-sensitive and instead asks occupants to use the dial-and-buttons combo on the console when interacting with its MMI infotainment system. It's relatively simple to figure out, and we appreciate the inclusion of hard buttons just above it for accessing radio presets, but we were less enamoured of the Park button set into the shifter right where your thumb would expect the shift release button to be. Push-to-Park is the current fashion, but we'd rather just shift into P, please.
We'd rather just shift into P, please.
Control surfaces aside, the interior of the A4 is now a little roomier than it was in 2016, with rear seat riders benefiting from a slightly longer wheelbase. You also get a sizable number of advanced safety features in the form of the Advanced Driver Assistance package, including stop-and-go adaptive cruise control that can recognize speed limit signs as you blaze past them, lane keep assist, and automatic braking.
Audi has done a tighter job of segmenting its entry-level sedans, which means unlike the BMW 3 Series or the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the A4 is only offered with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood (with V6 models sold under the S4 appellation). There are two versions of the 2.0-litre unit available: a 190 horsepower tune sold exclusively with front-wheel drive editions of the 2017 Audi A4, and a mightier unit that delivers 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque when quattro all-wheel drive is ordered. Both are shifted via a seven-speed, dual-clutch automated manual transmission.
The new A4 is quicker, to be sure, but still not necessarily a driver's car.
If you found the older A4 a little slow for your tastes, then the extra 32 horses and 15 lb-ft provided by the more robust of these two engines will help blow out some of the cobwebs. It was this engine that was outfitted to our quattro tester, and it proved to be plenty lively with the throttle down. Perhaps even a little too willing - the gas pedal proved twitchy to live with and it was necessary to be gentle from a stop lest we overshoot our mark. The seven-speed transmission did its work quietly in the background for the most part, unless set to Sport mode using the Audi Drive Select controller, in which case it held gears longer, locked out taller ratios, and worked in tandem with even more rapid throttle response (with the idle strangely bumped up a few hundred RPM).
The new A4 is quicker, to be sure, but still not necessarily a driver's car. A redesigned front suspension system is in place to enhance steering feel, and you can choose from sport or even adaptive suspension dampers (which also feature a lower ride height), which means that the Audi A4 more than holds its own in the corners. That being said, even with a lighter chassis for 2017 the quattro-equipped car didn't really egg us on when it came to pushing its limits, with the light steering lacking the feedback we'd prefer from a true sport sedan.
Where is it written that all luxury cars must also be equal parts sporty, comfortable, and classy?
Where is it written that all luxury cars must also be equal parts sporty, comfortable, and classy? If you answered 'nowhere,' then you would be correct. It's nice to see the premium segment turning away from the business of cloning the BMW 3 Series after so many years of me-too designs. The existence of the next-step-up Audi S4 obviates the need for the A4 to reach above its station and deliver thrills on top of its confident and composed ride, and the infusion of interior upgrades and the more powerful mill under its hood make the improved 2017 model well worth choosing over the outgoing sedan - particularly if you feel the need to park a top-notch all-wheel drive system in your garage to deal with the winter weather.