The popular Audi A4 is renewed for 2017, and the result is a thoroughly modernized sports sedan boasting a bigger, broader, more sharply angled hexagonal grille, new scalloped headlamp clusters with standard HID projectors or as-tested rectangular LEDs surrounded by squared-off LED daytime running lamps, a crisp lower front fascia with new corner vents, reshaped LED turn signals in the mirror caps, a familiarly arcing rooftop, a nice upswept rear deck lid that no doubt aids the new model’s category-best 0.23 drag coefficient, similarly scalloped LED taillights, and other small changes all around. My top-line Technik tester also featured a gorgeous set of new 18” twinned 5-spoke alloy wheels.
A graphically stimulating update
The 2017 Audi A4’s cabin gets the brand’s new horizontal interior design theme composed of high-quality synthetics, aluminum inlays, and other visual and tactile niceties. Where the newest Audi really wows, however, is in graphic interfaces, starting with one of the nicest, driver-configurable full-TFT primary gauge clusters in the business ― an option that’s well worth the upgrade. The graphics are clear and colourful, while a favourite feature includes a steering wheel-mounted “VIEW” button that shrinks the size of both the tachometer and speedometer while simultaneously enlarging the multi-information display at centre.
A new, permanently fixed infotainment display pokes up from the centre stack, accessed by a lower and much flatter MultiMedia Interface (MMI) rotating dial, while the surrounding buttons are mostly touch-sensitive for ease of operation and a very slick feel. The 8.3” display isn’t a touchscreen like your tablet, so it doesn’t respond to pinches, swipes, and other finger gestures, but the top of that rotating controller does, while the various go-to buttons recognize hand movements before actually being pressed — very cool.
Audi has also increased system speed and simplified all MMI processes for a much quicker, more intuitive, and streamlined operating system. Voice recognition now works more often than not, too, this probably due to the integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, one or the other automatically coming into play when connecting your smartphone. While the system’s digitized voice sounds better than ever, it’s clearly not the best reason to spend more for the fabulous-sounding Bang & Olufsen premium audio unit.
The 2017 Audi A4 I tested also included navigation, with clearer and brighter graphics and colours than ever and much better overall functionality. The backup camera, mine complete with a 360-degree overhead view, provides better than average visibility all around.
Touch-sensitive controls abound
The tri-zone automatic HVAC interface (there’s another panel in the back) is also mostly touch-sensitive, while a set of toggles line up just below, featuring Audi Drive Select, an auto stop/start switch, and more. While these are elegantly designed and ultra-easy to use, the controls suffer from cheap, hollow plastic construction, but at least they don’t wiggle like the aforementioned row of HVAC buttons. Such questionable tactility might put some premium buyers off, but take note this is perceived quality, not actual quality.
By the way, Audi achieved first place in Consumer Reports’ latest Report Card on Reliability and scored above average in J.D. Power’s most recent Vehicle Dependability Study, so long-term durability shouldn’t be a problem.
The 2017 Audi A4 will keep you plenty comfortable, too, with more head and shoulder room up front than its predecessor and 23 mm of extra rear legroom. The former can be experienced from some of the best leather-clad sport seats in the business, the driver’s power-adjustable with true 4-way lumbar support and optional memory settings, while the rear seats offer good lower back support. A leather-covered centre front armrest lifts up to expose Audi’s Phone Box (where you’re supposed to leave your smartphone). A coiled connector cable joins a wireless charger, while those in the back can enjoy the comfort of a fold-down leather armrest incorporating two of the slickest, transformer-like cup holders in the business.
The centre position also folds down for a pass-through to the extremely accommodating 480L trunk, allowing two rear outboard passengers to remain heated via optional seat warmers while everyone’s skis lay down the middle. If more than two’s a crowd the 40/20/40-split second row can be fully lowered, providing even greater expansion of the cargo compartment, while your luggage will feel ultimately pampered thanks to soft carpeting on the floor and sidewalls, little mesh pockets at each corner, and chromed metal tie-down hooks.
Quicker-shifting and more fuel-efficient
Back up front, the 2017 Audi A4’s flat and low gear selector is so slick you’ll want to use it for all shifting duties, although the paddles on the steering wheel are even more engaging. Unlike its predecessor that used an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, the new model incorporates Audi’s even quicker-shifting, yet more fuel-efficient 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch automated gearbox (the 6-speed manual has also been pulled from our market).
Swapping gears is almost instantaneous and much smoother than I remember this transmission being previously. Oddly, I find Dynamic to be the smoothest of the three available drive modes as its shift increments occur faster, but even when left in default Auto mode or the thriftiest Comfort setting the S tronic went about its business quietly behind the scenes, never letting on that it wasn’t simply a regular automatic.
The engine shuts off at stoplights to temporarily eliminate emissions and make the Audi A4 EV-silent. This feature joins a kinetic energy recovery system to help reduce its 5-cycle fuel consumption rating to 9.8L/100km city and 7.7L/100km highway, which is considerably better than last year’s 10.9L/100km city figure. On top of that, there’s absolutely no compromise when it comes to driving dynamics.
An even better driving experience
It wouldn’t seem like a complete redesign without more power from the base engine, and fortunately the direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder now puts out 32 more horsepower and 15 additional lb-ft of torque for a total of 252 and 273, respectively. All of this motivates a slightly longer, yet marginally lighter car: The new 2017 Audi A4 sheds 30 kilograms (66 lbs) for an as-tested curb weight of 1,645 kilograms (3,626 lbs). Audi claims 120 kg (260 lbs) less mass, but that number probably reflects different trims available in other markets.
Audi’s quattro AWD system now comes standard in Canada, along with a wonderfully sorted, fully independent suspension, although the 5-link front and rear design feels more agile than I remember its already capable predecessor to be. Maybe it’s just the chassis tuning or the way the speed-sensitive, electromechanical steering has been set up, but I love the way this new A4 handles sharp, 2-lane switchbacks even when the pavement underneath is less than prime. It also remains the best highway cruiser in its class, with ride quality sitting a noticeable notch above all challengers and high-speed stability at the very least on par with its main rivals.
Meanwhile, that class-leading drag coefficient mentioned earlier makes for an ultra-quiet cabin. Braking is strong, as well, while all the expected electronic aids come standard including traction and stability control for keeping the car pointed in the chosen direction even when inclement conditions tempt it off track.
Well-equipped in all trims
The 2017 Audi A4 is nicely outfitted in base Komfort trim ($43,200), but not anywhere as fancy as this top-line Technik version ($50,600) or for that matter the mid-grade Progressiv model ($47,000). Standard Komfort features include auto on/off HID headlamps, LED daytime running lights and taillights, push-button ignition, aluminum door-sill plates, an electromechanical parking brake, Audi Drive Select, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a leather-wrapped, multi-function sport steering wheel, cruise control, tri-zone automatic climate control, 3-level heated seats, the MMI infotainment system with Bluetooth and satellite radio, a powered glass sunroof, and more. That’s not to mention all the usual active and passive safety equipment including a knee blocker airbag for each front occupant.
Progressiv trim replaces the base 17” alloys with unique 18” rims, adds proximity access with a foot-activated trunk release, increases the entry-level 7.0” MMI display to 8.3”, and incorporates MMI touch while upgrading it with navigation and a rear-view camera. It also goes further by adding front and rear parking sensors, a heated steering wheel, memory for the driver’s seat and side mirrors, a colour multi-information display, a HomeLink garage door opener, and those textured aluminum inlays I noted before.
Lastly, Technik trim upgrades the headlights to full LEDs with automatic high beams and makes the side mirrors power-folding, while the interior gets the driver-configurable TFT instrument cluster, 360-degree camera, and superb Bang & Olufsen audio system. You’ll also find ambient lighting with custom colour selection, rear cross-traffic alert, Audi Side Assist monitoring that detects approaching vehicles from both sides and behind, and the brand’s Pre Sense Rear pre-collision system.
Stylish, speedy, and safe
Safety in mind? You can upgrade your 2017 Audi A4 with the Advanced Driver Assistance package ($2,000) that adds adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, active lane assist, Audi’s Pre Sense Front and Pre Sense City automated braking systems, traffic congestion assist, and traffic sign recognition. All of this extra technology has qualified the new A4 for an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating. You should also know that the outgoing A4 received five stars from the NHTSA in all categories, so expect its successor to achieve a perfect score, as well.
I personally won’t give the quicker, yet more efficient, ultra-stylish, and tech-infused 2017 Audi A4 a perfect score, but it certainly ranks among the best in its segment and is worthy of your consideration.
For a second opinion, read Matt St-Pierre’s 2017 Audi A4 First Drive review.