Sedans may have fallen out of fashion during the crossover craze, but the 2017 Audi A4, base price $39,400, is one of the most fashionable four-door sedans out there.

Audi design has been exhibiting sharp lines in recent years, yet differences in Audi’s redesigned best-seller are quite subtle, amounting to a slightly reshaped grille and air intakes with new bright trim, more angular head and taillights, and some lightly resculpted body lines.

The tester’s premium plus package adds some visual enhancements like LED headlights and larger wheels with five asymmetrical twin spokes accented with a contrasting gray color.

Inside, the cabin is done in an easy-on-the eyes monochromatic black, with a light headliner. Some thin aluminum strips and textured metal panels add a sporty look. Hard controls are clean and simple.

Audi was a pioneer in the display screen infotainment systems we now see in luxury – and some nonluxury – cars. The latest iteration of the MMI system is the best-looking and most intuitive to use.

Unlike some systems that require very precise steps, MMI offers a large knob, a few buttons or redundant steering controls. The use of Google Earth imagery with the navigation system shows actual images of where you are with street names superimposed, instead of a graphic map. Very cool.


Audi’s optional “virtual cockpit” dynamic instrument cluster is exceptional. The white-on-black virtual gauges look crisp with lifelike motion of the needles. The space of the driver information display between the gauges can increase for a larger map view; what advantage this has over using the main center-mounted infotainment screen mere inches away I don’t know, but it sure looks neat.

Europe has been throwing some abominable automatic transmission gear shifters at us lately, and this is one of them. It dispenses with the PRNDL arrangement. You have to push a button on it to engage park, which magically appears between neutral and drive.

The lever always returns to the center position after you make a selection, so you don’t have a tactile or visual sense of what gear it is in. The letter of your choice does light up on the console, but it’s hard to see in daylight. It requires deliberate attention, so when parking quickly to get out of traffic, it’s easy to make the wrong selection.

There isn’t any sense in the thinking behind it; you have to push another button to get it out of park or drive, but you can shift from reverse without pushing it. If you shut the engine off in gear, it automatically will engage park, but shut it off in neutral and it does not. You can solve the problem by opting for the recently announced six-speed manual option.

Another less important annoyance was the mirror control. When you engage reverse, the mirrors tilt down, but also out, which at certain angles made the curb harder to see.

Doing a lot of parallel parking in my week with the A4 and living in mortal fear of curbing the pretty wheels, I tried quickly adjusting the right mirror a few times and ended up folding the mirrors in.


Revisions to Audi’s 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder resulted in an impressive increase of 32 horsepower over last year’s model. Fuel mileage estimates ticked up slightly, too; I flirted near the 31 mpg highway figure though around town fell 2 mpg short of EPA city. It vibrates just a bit at idle, as four-cylinders are apt to do, but power delivery is smooth and quiet.

Even when enjoying its brisk acceleration under full load it isn’t very loud. The seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission shifts quickly without being harsh.

The suspension is particularly impressive, providing a balance of firm, flat cornering, yet still able to deftly soak up bumps. A nice hard brake pedal and quick-responding steering accentuated the A4’s confident handling.

While I found the front seats adequately roomy and comfortable, it is a compact car, so it does have limited interior storage and cozy rear seat accommodations. Rear passengers are treated to full control of a third HVAC zone and heated seats.

The latter is part of the cold weather package, which also includes a heated steering wheel. A fold down center armrest in back has a curious shallow storage compartment and two stealth cup holders that ratchet out from the front edge. The rear seat backs fold down in 40/20/40 split configuration for extra cargo capacity.

The handles to unlatch them are easy to see and use and are key-lockable. Even the trunk is nicely trimmed with some cargo-netted cubbies and four chrome tie-down rings.

The tester was well-optioned but not as high as you can go in an A4. For one thing it forgoes the driver assistance package with its meddling semiautonomous driving features. Though a couple of nuisance items detracted slightly, the extras it did have complemented a true driver’s car with some of the tech that Audi does best.

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