In the 1980s, the Audi Quattro revolutionised rally racing. In the 1990s, the TT became an instant style icon. In the 2000s, the striking R8 supercar became Iron Man’s ride of choice. More recently, the German brand has turned out one industry-leading model after another in the form of stalwarts such as the Q5, the Q7, and RS7, all of which are brilliant vehicles.
Last fall, Audi dropped off a brand-new 2017 A4 2.0T quattro S tronic sedan clad in Manhattan Gray Metallic paint for Business Insider to check out. It was our first encounter with the company’s new fifth-generation A4 sedan. To call the car impressive would be an understatement.
One thing became crystal clear to Business Insider’s transportation team after just a few days with the new A4: The 2017 A4 is the best car Audi has ever made. Yes, it’s that good!
No, the new A4 isn’t as evocative as the R8. Nor does it have the mind-bending performance of the RS7. The compact luxury sedan certainly doesn’t have the vaunted racing pedigree of the Quattro. (The A4 has been known to hold its own as a touring car racer in Europe and the UK.) But what the A4 does have going for it is the ability to do everything Audi and its consumers need it to do with spectacular effectiveness and efficiency.
As my colleague Matt DeBord put it, “The A4 ticks all of the boxes you can tick, but it doesn’t create any new ones.”
The brand new A4 sedan starts at a competitive US$34,900, while our option-laden test car came with an as-tested price tag of US$54,275.
Here’s a closer look at the 2017 Audi A4.
For two decades, the A4 has been Audi’s answer to BMW’s all-conquering 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Even though the fourth-generation A4 served Audi well, it was feeling a bit dated after eight years on the market.
That is why Audi introduced the new fifth-generation A4 for the 2017 model year.
The new A4 is built on VW Group’s highly touted MLB Evo platform, which also underpins ...
... the Audi Q7 and Bentley Bentayga SUVs.
Styling-wise, the new A4 is elegantly understated. It’s the latest evolution of the modern design language that has come to define the brand in recent years.
Up front, Audi’s trademark hexagonal Singleframe grille grows in magnitude to become even more prominent. It’s flanked by a pair of Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lamps.
The rear end of the car is highlighted by a tastefully executed, integrated deck-lid spoiler along with LED taillights and dual exhausts.
While the exterior of the A4 may best be described as handsomely restrained in its execution, the cabin on the other hand is a no-holds-barred high-tech masterpiece.
This starts with the Audi virtual cockpit digital-instrument display that comes as part of our test car’s US$8,600 Prestige package.
The 12.3-inch high-definition LCD is controlled via steering-wheel-mounted buttons located to the left of the Audi logo.
The Virtual Cockpit is fully configurable and presents the driver with all of the requisite telemetries along with a massive navigation map and multimedia menus.
Powered by an Nvidia quad-core processor, the system’s presentation is crisp, and the operation is seamless. First found on the new TT sports car and R8 supercars, it’s a system we have thoroughly enjoyed in every one of our encounters with it.
Also in front of the driver is an optional heads-up display.
The centre stack of our test car features an optional 8.3-inch touchscreen running Audi’s MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system. The A4 comes standard with a 7-inch screen.
The centre screen can also be operated using Audi’s trusty rotary controller with an integrated script pad along with a voice-command system designed to mimic the control logic of a smartphone.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay allow the occupants to control the infotainment system from their phone.
Our test car came equipped with an upgraded 19-speaker, 755-watt Bang & Olufsen surround-sound system.
Below the infotainment screen are the controls for the ventilated seats and multizone climate control. There are also two obligatory cupholders along with the car’s push-button starter.
In addition, the A4 is available with built-in 4G LTE connectivity, a top-view camera system, adaptive cruise control, active lane-keep assist, and traffic-sign recognition. There’s also Audi’s smart key.
Over all, the A4’s cabin is as quiet, refined, and plush as one has come to expect from a top-line Audi product. The black leather seats in our test car felt soft to the touch and offered more-than-adequate bolstering for both leisurely jaunts down the highway and dynamic drives on twisty country roads.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter, 252-horsepower, turbocharged, inline-four-cylinder engine that’s shared with the A6, the Q5, and the Porsche Macan. The gutsy motor is truly impressive.
It’s paired with Audi’s 7-speed S-tronic twin-clutch transmission and Audi’s legendary Quattro all-wheel-drive system.
For the fifth-generation A4, Audi engineers managed to shave as much as 99 pounds off the car using lightweight aluminum-hybrid construction. The result is a car that’s more nimble to drive and a little easier on the fuel budget.
On the road, our A4 felt powerful and confident. The 2.0-liter motor delivers its 273 foot-pounds of twisting power at an easily accessible 1,600 rpm. As a result, the Audi accelerates off the line with great urgency, taking advantage of the little engine’s broad power band.
According to Audi, the Quattro-equipped A4 is capable of sprinting to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds and reach an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph.
Through the corners, our A4’s all-wheel-drive grip allowed it to remain remarkably neutral. Only when pushed really hard does the understeering tendencies of its front-wheel-drive-biased chassis appear.
Drivers can also select from a series of driving modes that can vary the car’s throttle response and steering assistance. In addition, the system can configure the A4’s optional adjustable dampers based on the driving conditions.
At the end of the day, does the A4 offer the exhilaration and over-the-top style of its iconic Audi forefathers? No. But what the A4 does offer is world-class tech functionality, a dynamic driving experience, handsome styling, and an impressively luxurious cabin executed to the level of success unseen in any other Audi product.
All in all, the 2017 Audi A4 is everything you could want in a modern compact luxury sedan. And it’s the best car Audi has ever made.