2017 Audi A4 | CarGurus Test Drive Review

Hi, I’m Chris Wardlaw for CarGurus, and this is the redesigned 2017 Audi A4. No, no, I’m serious, look a little closer. Now can you tell that it’s been redesigned? The reality is that this new A4 is longer and wider than the car it replaces, and it’s equipped with a more angular face, sharper creases, different wheels, and the roofline’s been pulled back a little bit to improve interior room. Plus, the coefficient of drag drops to 0.27, which proves that aerodynamic cars don’t necessarily need to be ugly cars. Now granted, this is a conservative design, but don’t let the familiar look fool you. Under that aluminum bodywork lives what could be the best car in the entry-level luxury segment. Let’s take a closer look. If you’re curious about what car company makes the best turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, I’ve got the answer for you—it’s Audi. This smooth, rev-happy, 2-liter motor makes 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. And while that doesn’t make it the most powerful turbo four in the segment, it is my favorite one in the class.

That’s because aside from uncanny levels of refinement, this engine is almost continuously making either its peak torque or its peak horsepower, from 1,600 rpm to 6,000 rpm. You want to know what that feels like? Let’s go for a drive and find out. Imagine putting yourself into a 4-wheeled slingshot, and you’ll have a really good idea of what it’s like to drive the new A4 when it’s equipped with its optional torque-sensing, Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Now Audi says that 85% of the engine’s power will flow to the A4’s rear wheels, depending on driving conditions, when you accelerate. And that occurs especially when you’re whipping around a corner. And you can feel how planted the rear end of the car is. Now if you’re thinking you need more power than the 2-liter turbo supplies, consider this: My test car accelerates to 60 miles an hour in as little as seconds, and that’s according to Audi. Now to me, it feels that fast, and I think that’s plenty quick for most people, most of the time.

Audi also says that the new A4 Quattro is going to get 27 miles per gallon in combined driving. I only got miles per gallon, but to be fair to the car, I drove it much harder and faster than the EPA ever would. And that’s because the A4’s acceleration characteristics are utterly thrilling. This car feels like it’s never going to give up. It freely revs toward the redline, and the 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox crisply chooses the next cog. And before you know it you’re going far faster than you ever intended. Better yet, there are paddle shifters right here on the steering wheel, and they provide manual control over the gearbox. Plus, the transmission has a Sport driving mode that is very effective. The A4 also comes with something called a Drive Select system, which allows the driver to tailor the engine’s response, the transmission shifting, and the steering to three different settings—Comfort, Auto, and Dynamic.

There’s also an Individual setting that allows the driver to go ahead and calibrate those systems to their own personal recipe. Now as a result of all this programmatic goodness, the A4 can drive like a docile grocery getter one minute and a spectacular sports sedan the next. No matter the driving situation, you’re going to need to be very careful about monitoring your speed. Seriously, you look down at the speedometer and you’ll think: “Oh my God, I had no idea I was going that fast!” Now, the car also is collaborating to put points on your license, because the steering, the braking, and the suspension tuning are absolutely perfect.

And when you’re really driving this car hard, the A4 is behaving like a guided missile, and that allows the driver to be able to concentrate solely on the road ahead and maximizing the car’s velocity. And the reason for that is because the transmission does such a fantastic job of choosing gears on its own, and an even better job when the driver’s using the shift paddles.

It’s because it’s unnecessary to feed the car little minor steering corrections when you’re really ripping down a back road. It’s because bumps and dips in the pavement don’t throw this optional adaptive damping suspension off its game. It’s because the A4 takes a set in a corner and delivers a level of grip and control that you can count on every single time. And it’s because the brakes, even on a hot testing day with summer temperatures near 90 degrees, never give up. I mean, this is an utterly brilliant automobile. It’s soft, compliant, and soothing when you need it to be, hard-charging and surgically skilled at straightening a twisty road when you want it to be, it’s ready for rain or snow when it’s rolling on its standard all-season tires, and it’s absolutely effortless to drive, with a single, glaring exception. Somebody at Audi emitted a major brain fart with this stupid electronic transmission shifter. Twice in five days, I’ve put this car in Reverse thinking I was selecting Park. Hell, I did it just this morning pulling into the gas station.

Now one of those times, I was about to open the door and noticed that the car was starting to idle backwards down my driveway. Another time, I was hurriedly coming to a halt in a shopping-center parking lot to get out and help my kid buckle her rear seat belt. And when I returned to the driver’s seat, my wife said: “You put the car in Reverse again, not Park.” I can only assume that the A4 sensed that I had exited the car and then automatically set the parking brake.

Now, I’ve had this trouble with an Audi before when driving the redesigned Q7. And I assume that if I owned an A4, I would eventually get used to this. But it’s still dumb, and I certainly hope that nobody gets hurt because of this design. Now my A4 test car’s got almost every option, and it’s got a lofty price just north of $54,000 to match. But in most respects, the design of the interior, the quality of the materials, and the long list of technological upgrades totally justifies the price. Now by the looks of the dashboard, you might never guess at the depth and breadth of the technology that’s available for the A4. And that’s because much of what the car has to offer is accessed through the infotainment screen, the instrumentation display, and various controls on the steering wheel and the steering column. Now for a full explanation of everything, I really suggest that you watch Audi’s video on its website that covers all of the technological advancements in detail.

Here, I’m just going to critique a few of the car’s features. Now let’s start with this infotainment display. My test car has the larger 8.3- inch screen, complete with Google Earth imagery. It’s pretty slick, but it’s not touch sensing, which forces the driver to use the controls here in the center console or the voice-recognition system. Now, you get used to the center console controls. It takes a while, but eventually you can navigate by touch, and the pad on the top of this knob is designed to recognize handwriting inputs. Now during my testing, I found that Siri was actually better at understanding me than was the Audi’s voice-recognition technology.

If you get Premium Plus or Prestige trim with your A4, you’ll enjoy a thundering 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen Surround Sound audio system, which is to recorded music what the Hollywood Bowl is to live performances. Now my test car also has Audi Virtual Cockpit, which is an industry-leading integration of various information displays here in the instrumentation cluster. I mean, check out how Google Earth images are portrayed here.

It’s absolutely gorgeous! I mean, this is the future available today, and it’s spectacular. Now as far as the new interior is concerned, Audi says the A4 is bigger inside, especially for rear-seat occupants, but this still feels like a small car. Seat comfort is excellent up front, although I’m not crazy about how the steering wheel has this sharply-radiused leading edge. Around back, the trunk holds 13 cubic feet of cargo, and that’s on par with other small cars. Now the space here is shaped to carry a couple of full-size suitcases, along with several duffel bags or a small folding stroller. Just roomy enough to be used as a family car, the A4 makes a great kid hauler thanks to its Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Now unfortunately, I do find some of Audi’s driver-assistance and safety systems to be irritatingly intrusive. On the one hand, they operate in subtle and refined fashion, which is great.

The problem is that the adaptive cruise control slows the car too much for turns ahead. Apparently, it’s taking into account speed limits and expected curve severity. Now on northbound Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, California, the car regulated speed like a tourist would, no doubt aggravating locals. Additionally, the Pre-Sense City technology, which includes automatic emergency braking front and rear, slammed the A4 to a halt while I reversed from slanted parking two spaces down from another car that was also reversing from its slanted parking space. There was absolutely no reason for it, and it freaked everybody in the car out. Finally, while I was driving the A4 at a blistering pace on Malibu’s Mulholland Highway, the forward-collision warning system twice engaged as I approached tight corners, perhaps identifying the metal guardrails on the opposite side of the pavement as an obstacle.

While the new Audi A4 isn’t perfect, and some might even call the design boring, I eagerly recommend this car. Its beauty lies beneath its conservative skin, and it is an absolute delight to drive, with a single exception: I detest the transmission shifter. In fact, if I were in the market for an entry-level luxury car and I was having trouble deciding between this Audi and one of its competitors, that unconventional design could be the deciding factor against the A4.

Now I realize that most of you haven’t driven an Audi with this new shifter, but based on my review, would you decide to buy a different vehicle because of a confusing transmission shifter design? Let us know in the Comments below, and be sure to check out my full review of the A4 on CarGurus.com. Also, if you found this review helpful, please share this video and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

For all of us at CarGurus, thank you for watching. Oh ****, yellow light. Sorry..

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