2017 Audi A4 2.0 TFSI Quattro Road Test Review

This review is for the Canadian dealer market only

An edgier, quicker, thriftier, techier and richer sport sedan

Audi's slick looking A4 hardly needed any improvements when it comes to design. Most critics still consider the outgoing model one of, if not the most stylish in its compact luxury D-segment, and for good reason sales remained strong. Still, what they've accomplished should cause even the most ardent fans of the current model to sit up and take notice.


The 2017 A4 is thoroughly modernized with 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 DRLs, a crisp lower front fascia with new corner vents, reshaped LED turn signal-infused 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-round, while my top-line Technik tester added a gorgeous set of new 18-inch twinned five-spoke alloys.

The A4's cabin gets Audi's new "horizontal interior design" theme composed of high-quality synthetics, aluminum inlays and other visual and tactile enhancements. 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 tachometer and speedometer while simultaneously enlarging the multi-information display at centre.

A new permanently fixed tablet-style infotainment display pokes up from dash central, accessed by a lower and much flatter MultiMedia Interface (MMI) rotating dial-style controller, while surrounding buttons are mostly touch sensitive for ease of operation and a very slick feel. The 8.3-inch 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, and 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 audio upgrade. My tester also included navigation, the graphics and colours clearer and brighter than ever and overall functionality much better than before, while the backup camera, mine complete with a 360-degree overhead view, provides better than average visibility all-round.

 


The tri-zone auto HVAC interface (there's another panel in back) is also mostly touch-sensitive, while a set of touch toggles line up just below, featuring Audi's drive select, an auto stop/start on/off 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 real quality. To the latter more important end Audi achieved first place in Consumer Reports latest Report Card on Reliability and scores above average in J.D. Power's most recent Vehicle Dependability Study, so therefore long-term durability shouldn't be a problem.

The A4 will keep you plenty comfortable too, with more head and shoulder room up front than its predecessor and 23 mm (0.9 inches) 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 four-way lumbar support and optional memory settings, while the rears 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 back can enjoy the comfort of a fold-down leather armrest incorporating two of the slickest transformer-like cupholders in the business.

That centre position also folds down for a pass-through to the extremely accommodating 480-litre (16.9 cubic-foot) trunk, allowing two rear outboard passengers to keep 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 rear 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.

Back up front, the A4's flat and low gear selector is so slick you'll want to use it for all shifting duties, although the steering wheel paddles are even more engaging. Unlike its predecessor that used an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic, the new model incorporates Audi's even quicker shifting yet more efficient seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automated gearbox, so swapping gears is almost instantaneous and much smoother than I remember this transmission being previously. Oddly, I find Dynamic sport mode the smoothest of its three drive select settings being that its shift increments occur faster, but even when left in default Auto mode or the car's thriftiest Comfort setting it 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 car EV-silent, this feature joining a kinetic energy recovery system to help reduce its five-cycle rating to 9.8 L/100km city, 7.7 highway and 8.8 combined, which is considerably better than last year's 10.9 city, 7.2 highway and 9.2 combined mileage, at least in the city, while there's absolutely no compromise when it comes to driving dynamics.

It wouldn't seem like a complete redesign without more power from the base engine, and fortunately the direct-injection and turbocharged 2.0-litre four now puts out 32 more horsepower and 15 additional pound-feet of torque, the new model producing 252 of the former and 273 of the latter, and all of this from a slightly longer albeit marginally lighter car, the new one shedding 30 kilos (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, Quattro AWD now standard in Canada.

The A4's wonderfully sorted fully independent suspension feels even more agile than I remember its already capable predecessor being. Maybe it's just the chassis tuning or the way the speed-sensitive electromechanical steering's been set up, but I love the way this new A4 handles sharp two-lane switchbacks even when the pavement underneath is less than prime, while it remains the best highway cruiser in its class, the A4's ride quality a noticeable notch above all challengers and all-round high-speed stability at the very least on par with its main rivals, while that class-leading drag coefficient mentioned earlier makes for an ultra quiet cabin. Braking is strong too, 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.

As you may have guessed some of my tester's features aren't standard, the 2017 A4 nicely outfitted in $43,200 base Komfort trim yet not anywhere as fancy as this top-line $50,600 Technik version, or for that matter the mid-grade $47,000 Progressiv model. Standard Komfort features include auto on/off HID headlamps, LED DRLs and taillights, pushbutton ignition, aluminum doorsill plates, an electromechanical parking brake, Audi drive select, rain-sensing wipers, an automatic anti-glare rearview mirror, a leather-wrapped multi-function sport steering wheel, cruise control, the tri-zone auto HVAC system mentioned earlier, three-way heatable seats, the MMI infotainment system with Bluetooth and satellite radio, a powered glass sunroof and more, 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-inch alloys with unique 18-inch rims, adds proximity access with a foot-activated trunk release, increases the entry-level 7.0-inch MMI display to 8.3 inches and adds MMI touch while upgrading it with navigation and a rearview camera, goes further by adding front and rear parking sensors, makes the rim of the steering wheel heatable, and finally includes memory for the driver's seat and side mirrors, a colour multi-information display, auto-dimming interior and side mirrors, a HomeLink garage door opener, and those textured aluminum inlays noted before.

Lastly, Technik trim upgrades the headlights to full LEDs with auto high beams and makes the side mirrors power-folding, while the interior gets the driver configurable TFT instrument display, 360-degree Top-View camera and superb Bang & Olufsen 3D audio system noted before, plus 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.

Safety in mind you can upgrade your A4 with the $2,000 Advanced Driver Assistance package 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 which help it earn the highest possible IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating. As for the NHTSA this 2017 model has yet to be crash tested, although the outgoing A4 received five stars in all categories so this new one will most likely achieve a perfect score as well.

I won't give the quicker yet more efficient, ultra stylish, tech-infused 2017 A4 a perfect score, but it certainly is amongst the best in its segment and worthy of your consideration.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

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