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12 September 2016


It’s the new version of an always desirable German luxury sports sedan.

Shocker: it’s good.

Though the 2017 Audi A4 looks like a carbon copy of the 2016 model, it’s a new car with a new platform, new dimensions, new interior, and a revamped powertrain.

The A4’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is more powerful than before. Horsepower is up from 220 to 252. Torque jumps by 15 pounds-feet to 273, and it all comes on strong at 1,600 rpm. The new car is about an inch longer than before and nearly an inch wider. U.S. pricing for Quattro models begins at $40,350. Equipped similarly to our Audi Canada-supplied model ($60,285 in heavily optioned Technik trim north of the border), the 2017 Audi A4 Quattro Prestige would be $54,025, a 33-percent leap beyond the basic A4 Quattro’s price.

Yup, it’s good. At $54,025 it oughta be. Audi will tell you it how good it is. So too will your Audi dealer’s sales consultant. In fact, potential Audi A4 buyer that you are, you are able to tell yourself how good the 2017 A4 is.

A car review needs to tell you more than what you already know, it needs to do more than tell you what the automaker wants you to know.

Therefore, I’ve decided to tell you everything that’s wrong with the 2017 Audi A4.

But there’s a problem with that strategy, because there isn’t much wrong with the 2017 Audi A4, a car that I believe has shot to the top of its segment.2017 Audi A4 Quattro rearThe 2.0T is supremely quick for a base engine A4. Audi hasn’t made the A4 the dynamic class of the field, it’s simply not sufficiently communicative or athletic for such an honour. But the ride and handling balance is charming, a pleasant blend of comfort and sportiness that Audi has so often struggled to nail, having hampered comfort in the search for cornering prowess too many times. The cabin is a festival of high-grade materials and minimalist design and maximized build quality. On our test car’s sport suspension and 19-inch wheels, the A4 looks like it means business, too, albeit in the same fashion as the old A4.

Thus, I nitpick. I pick five nits. The 2017 Audi A4 is too good for me to find grievous blemishes.2017 Audi A4 Unimog RVSHIFTER
There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with the traditional shift mechanism employed for decades in the center tunnel of most new cars, yet numerous automakers have chosen to go another way. The 2017 Audi A4’s automatic shifter possesses no proper detents but rather engages drive, neutral, or reverse with a prod. Park is engaged by a thumbed button on the backside of the shifter.

Nothing about this is good, but we can’t really call the shifter a major chink in the A4’s armor. It’s not a manual transmission; these actions aren’t part of the driving experience. It’s annoying when you park, or are in the process of parking, and owners surely adapt.2017 Audi A4 Technik interiorVOLUME
MMI, Audi’s infotainment unit (which I chose over plugging in for Apple CarPlay), is a straightforward system. There are quick access buttons surrounding the controller — placed ahead of the shifter — and yet more shortcuts ahead of those. The processing power is impressive. The virtual cockpit in the gauge cluster both wows and works.

And then Audi took the volume knob, wisely placed on the horizontal center tunnel and not the vertical center stack, and located it almost aft of the shifter on the passenger side. It’s not that far from the MMI control knob, but it was an awkward arm bend in my chosen seating position. Oh, the horror.2017 Audi A4 interior detailREAR SEAT
There’s a silly lack of space in the back of the 2017 Audi A4. The center tunnel stands tall, almost as high as the seat itself, and severely limits five-passenger comfort as a result. But for a car that’s sized between the Honda Civic and Accord — the Audi is four inches longer than the Civic; seven inches shorter than an Accord — the A4 offers little rear legroom.

The Civic has a couple of extra inches of rear legroom and 3 percent more passenger volume overall.

Our car’s optional front seating was terrific: bolstered, but not too thickly. But this is not the rear seat of a family car. Then again, neither is the rear seat in virtually any direct A4 rival.2017 Audi A4 Technik interior detailDIESEL?
The 2017 Audi A4 is a quiet and refined machine, much more so than the old A4 that hung around for eight years. With so little road and wind noise, however, there’s an opening for other sounds to fill in the gaps.

Unfortunately, the sound that fills that gap is produced by a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, gas-fired engine that sounds an awful lot like a diesel at almost every point in the rev range.

The diesely clatter is muted, to be sure. And diesels sometimes sound cool, especially when there’s a diesel under the hood of a pickup truck towing an RV. But the ticking and clattering stands out in the Audi, not because it’s so loud, but rather because the A4 is otherwise a serene device.

DSG
Volkswagen Group brands have been installing dual-clutch automatic transmissions since before it was cool. You’ll find no complaining from me regarding the actual shifting of this direct-shift gearbox, but there is a measure of unmistakable lag off the line.

Here’s where you’ll notice it. Audi Drive Select is in Comfort and the transmission is in Drive, as opposed to Sport. You’re exiting a driveway onto a rural road; the driveway is on an incline and between corners. You know you can’t see what’s coming, and it could be coming quickly, so you anxiously leave the driveway. Or you try to. A quarter-inch of throttle gets you nothing as the DSG stops to ponder what it’s having for lunch.

Sport cures all this, by the way. As does learning the car’s tendency to pay no mind to initial inputs when you’re locked into the Audi’s most comfort-oriented modes.

Although those modes are also pretty stinkin’ good.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

This story first appeared on thetruthaboutcars.com.


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