2017 Audi A4: Rational Transformation

Strong points
  • Efficient aerodynamics
  • TFSI engine’s generous torque
  • Improved dynamics
  • Advanced technology
  • Quality of assembly and finish
Weak points
  • Conservative look
  • Delayed availability of the turbo-diesel engine
  • Delayed availability of the manual transmission
  • Price scale
  • Cost of options
Full report

The fifth-generation A4, due to arrive in Canada in the spring of 2016 as the 2017 model, has been completely transformed. But its body looks so much like the previous version, it’s almost as though the designers were trying to hide the new sedan’s technical advancements. The A4 is far and away the brand’s best-selling vehicle and that’s probably why the designers maintained a certain tasteful classicism and showed restraint. Just the same, this new version earns the distinction of being the most aerodynamic car in its class with a drag coefficient of 0.23.

Improved dynamics

The innovative architecture under the body includes aluminum and magnesium parts designed to reduce the car’s weight. Right from the get-go, the A4’s handling feels more direct, more incisive and even more athletic than before, which can be explained by its lower centre of gravity, reduced weight and more rigid chassis. I’ve been known to criticize Audi models for having steering that was too light, but the new A4’s steering isn’t light at all. On the contrary, it’s just firm enough to provide excellent feedback without being too heavy.

In turns, the suspension adopts softer calibrations to ensure better cushioning, but the handling remains very good, thanks to thicker roll bars. In short, the new A4 represents the best of both worlds: it’s more comfortable and turns better than before.

Since the all-wheel drive delivers 60% of the torque to the rear wheels, the handling is very good and sporty driving is easier with this car than with the previous version. That’s a nice surprise. The other nice surprise is how quiet the ride is, even at high speeds. In this regard, the A4 holds its own against bigger, more expensive sedans.

TFSI or TDI…

It’s not just the architecture that’s new, the engines are too. In Europe, there seven available engines for the A4 – three gas-powered and four diesels. For the North American market, there are just two. There’s a new version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged TFSI gasoline engine and the familiar 2.0-litre four-cylinder TDI turbodiesel. Due to the recent emissions controversy, its arrival on this side of the pond will be delayed.

On the road, the TFSI gasoline engine, with 252 horsepower and 273 foot-pounds of torque, is perfect for the sedan and delivers improved sportiness compared to before. With so much torque, this engine offers very fast pick up and won’t get winded in high gear. Basically, it’s rock solid. The seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox is there, as is quattro all-wheel drive. The A4 will possibly be available with the six-speed manual transmission in a few months.

A futuristic passenger compartment

As is always the case for Audi vehicles, the quality of the interior finish is flawless. This time, the interior presentation is distinctly better than the previous version, especially when Audi’s programmable virtual cockpit replaces the basic version’s analog gauges. The fixed central screen on the dashboard measures 8.3 inches and now serves as the interface with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems to optimize smart phone integration. The designers also integrated a sensor that recognizes hand movements that activate various systems. For example, it will start up the A/C when your hand reaches for the control.

There’s 0.9 inches (23 mm) more legroom in the backseat and more head and shoulder room for those in front. Luxury is ensured not only by the quality of assembly but also by the open-pore wood accents that give the interior presentation guaranteed richness.

A fleet of electronic driving aides

As expected, the new A4 is chock full of new electronic driving aides, including adaptive cruise control with a Stop and Go function that facilitates driving in heavy traffic, a parking assist system and another system that warns the driver if he or she starts nodding off at the wheel. Lest we forget, there’s the camera that scans the road ahead of you and alerts you of any obstacles. If you’re too slow to react, it will automatically brake the vehicle.

The new A4 offers cutting-edge technology, its quality of assembly is exemplary and it now offers more room for passengers. The only regret is that its appearance is so conservative and that it resembles the recent A3 so closely. Basically, it’s an infinitely rational choice that doesn’t leave a lot of room for emotion.

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