Somewhere in the last 20 years, the Audi A4 went from BMW alternative to the default compact luxury/performance sedan. Redesigned from the ground up for 2017, even though it doesn't necessarily look like it, the A4 has advanced its cause considerably.
It's one of the most high-tech vehicles you can buy at any price—but when you figure that what Bob Barker would have called a "popularly equipped" A4 is under $45,000, this Autobahn stormer is something of a deal these days. Stick with front-wheel drive and a detuned engine rated at 37 mpg highway, and you'll spend less than $36,000 yet still get leather seats, a sunroof, and the brand's Drive Select controller.
DON'T MISS: Our 2017 Audi A4 expert review
The A4 is offered in four basic flavors, each with myriad options and packages: A choice of 190 or 252 horsepower engine tunes, and either front- or all-wheel drive. And there's even a configuration BMW doesn't offer any more: Enthusiast-oriented buyers can pick up an A4 with all-wheel drive and a stick shift.
Although its front-wheel drive configuration ultimately gives up some curvy road tenacity to rear-drive rivals like the Jaguar XE, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Cadillac ATS, the all-wheel drive model is grippy and polished. Most models offer desirable adaptive dampers that really liven up the suspension, or smother rutted terrain depending on the driver's wishes. It may not be as sharp as the ATS or as plush as the C-Class, but the A4 strikes a balance between the two that has so far eluded anyone else.
But it's not just the way it drives that makes the A4 so sweet. Audi's "Virtual Cockpit," a replacement for the conventional gauge cluster that is feels infinitely customizable. Want a basic look with round analog-esque dials? It's there. Want to see a Google-generated satellite map of where you are and where you're headed? You can do that, too.
2017 Audi A4
That display's limited by the form factor of the screen—navigation wants a portrait-style layout, and the screen's of the landscape variety—but it's attractive, and quick to refresh. It may be a little distracting through the learning curve, but the displays are a stunning calling card Audi has all to itself.