- Excellent turbo-4 power
- Up to 37 mpg
- Good rear-seat space, at last
- Handling's near S4 levels
- Dazzling display screens for all the things
- Styling barely advances
- RWD-based rivals still sharper
- Turbodiesel is DOA
The 2017 Audi A4 advances its sport-sedan credentials in lots of incremental ways, but the virtual cockpit drops the digital mic.
The sport-sedan niche is full of great cars. It’s not just a 3-Series game anymore, not with the ATS, the C-Class, and the Q50 grabbing plenty of laurels of their own. The entire class oozes credibility, even before the Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Giulia have had time to make an impact.
Count the Audi A4, available in a dizzying array of Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim levels, in with this talented crew. In the past two decades, the A4 has taken Audi's reputation for taut styling and good road manners, and elevated it with lots and lots of technology. It's an easy 7.8 out of 10 overall for us. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
How can the completely new 2017 A4 keep the kudos coming? With progress on all fronts, particularly the digital ones.
2017 Audi A4 styling and performance
The Audi A4 isn't adventurous outside, but inside, the virtual cockpit vaults it into the future. It wears an aero-smooth body that doesn't venture too far from the outline that Audi's applied since the A4 was new in 1996, but the details have been progressively crisped up and refactored. The new grille has a more geometrically pleasing look, the front end a more athletic stance, the rear a more pronounced wedge.
Inside, the A4 wraps tomorrow's technology into a cabin that's spartan in the most pleasant way. The strong horizontal theme of the dash harks back to the Audi 4000s of the '80s, from the trim strip of vents that bisects the cabin to the toggle-switch controls that govern the climate control. The subdued cockpit makes the A4's digital displays stand out in even higher contrast: on most models, a wide, high-resolution display switches dynamically from navigation to instrumentation while a center panel follows duplicates and augments that information. It's Boeing-grade interfaces, drilled down to the mainstream sport sedan realm.
Audi's clarified the A4 lineup over time, to the point where the new car only offers one engine available in two states of tune. With its turbo inline-4 and choice between manual and dual-clutch transmissions, the A4's powertrain makes perfect sense for the road ahead.
The late introduction A4 Ultra serves as the entry level, efficiency-oriented model, offering only one configuration and two trim levels: 190 horsepower, the dual-clutch automatic, and front-wheel drive.
The more mainstream, and pricier, A4 boasts 252 hp, but it offers either the 7-speed dual-clutch or a 6-speed manual and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. It's smooth and strong, with 0-60 mph times well below 6 seconds, and a nice, raspy 4-cylinder engine note to its credit. Shifts are mostly neat and clean, and the occasional low-speed hitch is a good reminder that Audi's slushy CVTs of the past are thankfully history.
Excellent straight-line performance by the A4 still nets fuel economy of up to 37 mpg highway—and the A4 makes big strides in ride and handling, thanks to a stiff new body structure and its first-ever adaptive dampers. Its five-link suspension has been redesigned, its electric power steering re-geared, and its brakes re-sorted to give the A4 road manners that come close as can be to the outgoing S4.
We have yet to drive the A4 Ultra or the manual transmission A4.
We've put hundreds of miles on cars with the available sport-suspension tune, with the adaptive suspension, and with summer tires; the A4's capable road manners shine through, even if the steering doesn't deliver copious amounts of road information. It's blessed with composed and responsive handling that doesn't quite have the precision of an ATS or Q50S, but does outpoint those rivals in ride quality. It also has driver-selectable modes for the transmission, steering, throttle, and dampers that can be tweaked individually—a control freak's delight.
2017 Audi A4 comfort, safety, and features
Audi has solved its rear-seat issues in the 2017 A4. It's always offered snug, comfortable front seats with long-distance space and support. In the past the A4 slacked off on back-seat accommodations, with a low cushion and not much knee room. The new car's extra inch of wheelbase and additional head room make it perfectly capable of carrying a 6-foot passenger behind a 6-foot driver with some knee room to spare. The trunk is large and regularly shaped, and small-item storage is good; there's even a semi-secret chamber to the left of the steering wheel, big enough for a couple of water bottles.
The IIHS has named the A4 a Top Safety Pick+ with good scores and advanced safety tech, but the 2017 Audi A4 pushes the autonomous-driving envelope with a suite of safety add-ons. All A4 sedans come with a rearview camera and Bluetooth; options include lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-follow capability up to 40 mph, and a warning system that pings if you open a door into oncoming traffic. Surprisingly, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking remain an option on most versions.
The new A4 is priced from just below $36,000, and for that, Audi makes a statement with technology and features. All cars get Drive Select, a sunroof, leather, power front seats, 17-inch wheels, and premium audio with Bluetooth audio streaming. All-wheel drive is available on all versions. Premium Plus models add 18-inch wheels, parking sensors, and a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo, while Prestige editions have a head-up display, surround-view cameras, and navigation. LED headlights, ventilated seats, and adaptive dampers are among the major recommended options.
Undoubtedly, it's the A4's splash of technology that will drive home its reputation for advancing the sport-sedan niche. Virtual cockpit aside, the A4 also links effortlessly to smartphones, and offers a high-speed, in-car data feed by subscription. Its new infotainment system accepts input from voice, steering-wheel controls, even from letters traced on its console-mounted rotary dial.
The new A4 will even talk to your smart watch and will let you lock and unlock it via a mobile app. We're a long, long way from where we've come—and the new A4 does its part to move smartly toward new horizons.
2017 Audi A4
The Audi A4 isn't adventurous outside, but inside, the virtual cockpit vaults it into the future.
The 2017 Audi A4 ventures only a few millimeters outside its safe zone. The proportions and profile of the sedan are almost unchanged, though it's built on an entirely new platform.
It scores an 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The aero-clean shape still is quite attractive. It's essentially a crisped-up take on the shape the A4 has worn since it became the A4, back in the 1990s. Knowledgeable eyes will be able to spot this generation instantly: The front end hulks at the fenders, the rear end rises higher, the grille is framed more geometrically. There's ample front-end overhang and a bullet-smooth front end. Down the body sides the A4's big glass areas taper neatly toward the roof.
It's a design intended to endure, rather than dazzle. Still, it might be the final time Audi can reinterpret this sedan without reinventing it, now that the C-Class has altered the design dynamic among the German brands.
The A4 is part future-think, part throwback inside. The spare look fondly recalls some of Audi's classic shapes of the '80s, like that of the 4000 sedan. There's a spartan appeal to the strongly horizontal dash and toggle-switch controls. A strip of vents divides the dash horizontally, but the wide middle swath is there for continuity—it's not a functioning air vent. Audi's even nodded subtly at its past with the seat stitching.
Functionally it's a better design, too. The low cowl opens up the field of vision for the driver. The steering-wheel hub is smaller, but the Audi ringed logo is larger, leaving more room for thumb controls on the dished spokes.
It's all yanked into the near future by the dazzling display screens embedded ahead of the driver, and affixed to the dash. Audi calls its system of screens its "Virtual Cockpit," in which it's replaced the conventional gauges on most A4 sedans with a changeable display that can emphasize elements like a tach and speedo, then shrink them in favor of a full-width navigation display rendered with Google Earth maps.
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.
On the center stack of controls, a new climate-control interface has its own toggles and screens and fluid graphics. Flick the switch for the fan speed and its icon grows in size on the LCD panel through the modern magic of capacitive switches. They're no better or worse for legibility that other digital readouts, and the toggles do a fine job of replacing the tactile rightness of a big, round knob.
2017 Audi A4
The 4-cylinder in the A4 makes perfect sense for the road ahead, and so do its adaptive dampers.
The engine in all A4 sedans is a turbo 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, but it's available in two different states of tune.
We've only driven the more powerful A4, but it's polished and terrific to drive, scoring an 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The A4 Ultra was announced as a surprising add-on in order to compete with the BMW 320i for entry-level consumers. With 190 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, it gives up some grunt to the 252-hp, 272 lb-ft model, and the Ultra offers only Audi's 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The 252-hp version is available in a wider array of trim levels and can be coupled to the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission or a late-introduction 6-speed manual, and a choice of front- or all-wheel-drive. In other markets there are different versions of the same new engine family, but the 252-hp American-spec engine is the strongest. It's also more powerful than last year's A4, with 29 more horsepower and 14 more pound-feet of torque.
We have not yet driven the A4 Ultra, but expect it to behave much like the 252-hp variant, albeit with around 60 fewer hp under its hood.
The 252-hp engine makes a good complement to the Audi's weight and size. The sounds emanating from under the hood are smooth and balanced. With no active-noise cancellation, the turbo inline-4 sounds natural and fairly muted, filtered as it is through sound deadening applied in the wheel housings and at the firewall.
The dual-clutch transmission is an evolution of previous VW Group designs, and replaces a string of torque-converter automatics and CVTs peddled by Audi in the A4 over the years. The paddle-shifted gearbox fits better with the A4's sporty intentions, and doesn't have much of the jerky feel at low speeds that dual-clutches can suffer.
The powertrain combination launches the A4 with gusto, rifling through shifts and pushing through the engine's quick torque onset. Audi estimates this combination will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Numbers like that are the equal of the uprated S4 from just a few years ago—and there's a turbocharged V-6 S4 with an 8-speed automatic if you're in the mood.
Audi A4 ride and handling
A stiff new body structure and a redesigned suspension make the most of the A4's turbo power. For the first time, the A4 can be fitted with adaptive shocks, and in concert with its variable electric power steering and selection of driving modes, the A4 has the hardware and programming to please a huge range of drivers.
The suspension is composed of lighter-weight five-link assemblies, front and rear, similar to the setup on the previous A4. Adaptive dampers are an option on most models, giving A4 buyers a more capable choice versus the base and a mid-line sport-suspension tune. The electric power steering has a new mode that raises steering boost at low speeds and bigger steering angles, which aids city driving and parking. It isn't blessed with loads of feedback, but it's quick to tighten a line, credit going to better suspension geometry.
Four-piston, fixed-caliper front brakes and two-piston rear brakes are standard, and blessed with a pedal with great feel and progression.
Audi Drive Select coordinates all the responses from most of the A4's drive system. As before, Drive Select lets drivers alter steering, throttle, transmission, and adaptive-damper tuning through economy to Sport+ modes. There's an Individual mode that will accept settings outside those programmed modes—comfort-oriented steering with quick shifts and sport shocks, for example.
We've spent time in A4s with 19-inch summer tires on European roads, and in the A4 with all-season treads in stock and adaptive-damper form. It's responsive and composed in all versions, but for our money, the adaptive dampers are worth the $1,000 upcharge where they're available.
We spent an afternoon hustling the A4 in Individual mode through some favorite winding roads outside San Diego. The premium suspension setup fits the A4's upgraded mission and pricetag. It softens small bumps and keeps firm control of the ride, turning the mid-line A4 into a rough equal of where the last-generation S4 left off.
This A4 feels best set into sport steering and transmission modes, and set to automatic damping. In that mode, it's a magnitude more capable than the last A4, a far reach beyond the old base car and its unathletic suspension tune and slushy CVT. There's not much in the way of steering feel, but the new A4 is quick to respond and corners predictably, without hammering road flaws into the body structure or pumping powertrain noise gratuitously into the cabin.
We're still smitten with Cadillac's amazingly accurate steering and Mercedes' absorbent air-spring ride, but the A4 cuts its own path here through the sport-luxury woods. There's a smart, engaging driving feel at work that leans more in the ATS/3-Series direction than it does in the way of the base C-Class, and it makes the S4 all the more promising.
2017 Audi A4
Comfort & Quality
Audi has solved its rear-seat issues in the 2017 A4.
The revamped 2017 Audi A4 is a little lighter on its feet, thanks to a wider, longer body structure that makes moderate gains in passenger and trunk space.
The A4’s now a true mid-sizer, and it’s about as spacious as the bigger cars in its niche—the BMW 3-Series in particular. We like the way it has improved for 2017 and give it an 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Compared to the outgoing A4, the new sedan rides on a wheelbase that's 0.7 inches longer, for more rear-seat leg room. It's about an inch longer overall, and a half-inch wider. Audi also claims an inch more head room and 2.6 inches more front shoulder room.
At the same time, it can weigh up to 100 pounds less than last year's A4, even with more equipment and more space.
Five adults will fit well inside the new A4. It delivers better space and comfort for all those passengers, but those in front get the most form-fitting chairs. Audi's sport seats have always tended toward the snug side with firm bolstering, and the new A4 chairs hit that sweet spot perfectly. Over hours of driving, the power front seats never cause fatigue.
Between the front buckets and around the cabin, Audi factors in plenty of small-item storage. The A4 has two big cupholders placed ahead of the shift lever, and has a deep, useful console bin. To the left of the steering wheel, there's a chamber that's big enough to hide a couple of water bottles.
The back seat is where the A4 makes its most noticeable gains. In the past, the A4 suffered from a short, low, flat seat bottom. Tall passengers had head room, but few passengers had good leg support. In the 2017 car, the rear seat has a high, supportive cushion. Six-foot passengers are comfortable, even seated behind 6-foot passengers.
The A4's big trunk holds two roll-aboards and two backpacks easily, without stacking anything. The space is regularly shaped and squared off, and the trunklid hinges are covered to protect from scuffs.
As usual, Audi's precisely designed interiors reflect a lot of attention to seams and panel fits. Though the A4's cockpit doesn't land the visual knockout of the new Mercedes C-Class, the refined and restrained trim combinations are uniformly handsome and tasteful.
The dazzling high-resolution display ahead of the driver glosses over some low-level foibles. Dash-mounted display screens can look low-budget, but the A4's TFT looks more firmly affixed, if not completely high-rent.
2017 Audi A4
The 2017 Audi A4 improves dramatically its crash safety scores with a new structure.
The 2017 Audi A4 is a brand-new design and structure for the automaker and safety data so far is promising.
The IIHS gave the sedan top scores in every category, including a "Good" rating in the small-overlap crash test and a "Superior" rating for optional crash-mitigation technology. The insurance-industry funded agency gave the A4 a Top Safety Pick+ award for the first time in the sedan's history. The improvement is significant—the 2016 scored a worrisome "Poor" in the crash test—and could bode well for future cars based on that platform.
Federal safety officials gave the 2017 Audi A4 a five-star overall rating, which helps it earn an 8 out of 10 on our safety scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The A4 also comes with a long list of safety equipment, from standard airbags and stability control to available all-wheel drive. Rear-seat side airbags are also offered as an option.
Some features on the A4's options list can't be had on rival sedans. It can be fitted with forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking; adaptive cruise control; a stop-and-go feature that lets the A4 follow the car ahead safely at speeds of up to 40 mph; blind-spot monitors; parking and attention assist; and lane-keeping assist.
The A4 can even warn drivers when they attempt to turn into oncoming traffic. It can scan the lanes behind the front doors and sound a warning if the doors open into busy traffic.
With all these systems engaged, it's possible to drive the A4 over long distances in a proto-autonomous mode. Fully autonomous driving may be a few years, or a decade, away, but the pieces are starting to fall into place.
2017 Audi A4
With screens galore and sporty trim lines, the latest Audi A4 makes its mark in technology and features.
Prices start at $35,850 for the front-drive A4 Ultra, but can climb rapidly from there. As tested, our 252-hp A4—with adaptive suspension, a head-up display, and adaptive cruise control—checked in at $54,500.
There's a lot of technology even at the standard level, but the A4 truly impresses the more it is equipped, which helps us rate it a 9 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The U.S. lineup includes Audi's usual Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim levels; Ultras offer only Premium and Premium Plus but essentially mirror their more powerful siblings.
All 2017 A4 sedans come with power features; leather; and USB, Bluetooth, and smartphone connectivity.
Other Premium features include a sunroof; power front seats; aluminum trim; a rearview camera; Audi Drive Select; 17-inch wheels; and an AM/FM sound system.
Premium Plus cars get 18-inch wheels; parking sensors; S-line exterior trim; satellite radio; and a stunning Bang & Olufsen 3-D audio system with 19 speakers and 755 watts of output.
Prestige cars get a standard head-up display; blind-spot monitors; surround-view cameras; and navigation.
Major options will include all-wheel drive; the S-line appearance package; the adaptive air suspension; full LED headlights; ventilated front seats; heated rear seats and steering wheel; summer tires; wood trim; rear side airbags.
Infotainment and connectivity
Audi's putting a big emphasis on the A4's next-generation infotainment and connectivity features, and that begins with the wide digital display that displaces the gauges. With the ability to toggle between views—from a pair of gauges and a small navigation screen, to a full-width nav view, for example—the so-called "Virtual Cockpit" is identical to the one in the TT coupe and roadster, equally distracting at first, equally arresting as a unique feature.
Base cars have a 7.0-inch display screen at the center of the dash, while versions with optional navigation have a larger 8.3-inch display with breathtaking high-resolution output.
Next-generation connectivity is baked into the A4, too. Virtual cockpit aside, the A4 now links effortlessly to smartphones, and can be fitted with an on-board, high-speed data connection.
It sports the latest version of Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI). This infotainment setup uses a combination of inputs, from voice to steering-wheel controls to a rotary dial with a scratchpad surface that accepts handwritten input.
Lastly, Audi's connected services have new functions baked into them. A smart-watch app interface is new, and all A4s now have a limited set of smartphone-app features including car status checks and remote lock/unlock.
2017 Audi A4
Gas mileage has made gains in the 2017 Audi A4, but the high-mileage option is off the table.
Audi has boosted the fuel-economy ratings for the 2017 Audi A4, but a notable option on prior versions is missing in this new edition.
We give it a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Opt for the A4 Ultra and you'll have the best fuel economy story. Front-drive models, the only configuration offered in the A4 Ultra, come in at 27 mpg city, 37 highway, 31 combined.
The EPA rates the dual-clutch front-drive, 252-hp A4 at 25/33/28 mpg. Adding all-wheel drive lowers those figures to 24/31/27 mpg.
Audi hasn't yet detailed fuel economy for the manual transmission model.
If you're looking for the long-promised turbodiesel A4, it's been scuttled from the powertrain plan, at least for the time being. Audi had planned to bring a turbodiesel to market in this generation of the A4 sedan. The discovery and admission that Volkswagen has tried to defeat emissions controls on its smaller-displacement turbodiesels in the U.S. has put those plans into turnaround—at least until Volkswagen AG determines how to handle the legal and technical consequences.