The Audi A4 never shouts—it quietly works its magic until you start questioning choices other automakers make with their compact luxury sport sedans. After a year with our long-term 2017 Audi A4, living with the car solidified our feeling from last year’s Big Test comparison that it’s one of the best cars in its class.
Of course, when you spend that much time with a car, you also notice what doesn’t work well. The A4’s seatbelt chime is too loud, the rear defroster quits too early, I don’t like the upward-tilting exterior door handles, and the twin-clutch automatic transmission could be smoother in low-speed driving. Those are relatively minor issues when you realize that every car you’re considering has something you won’t like.
With the A4, you must decide how much soul you’re willing to give up for all-around everyday excellence. The Audi isn’t as fun to drive as the Alfa Romeo Giulia, our 2018 Car of the Year and the car that won the comparison in which the A4 placed second. Some feel the Alfa is more fun to look at, too, but I disagree. The Alfa is attractive, but the Audi’s sharp, understated looks will age well.
So the impressively capable Audi isn’t as entertaining as the Giulia, but you’re in for a great commute. Because let’s face it: That’s where you’ll drive this car most of the time. A number of smart details occasionally made me nod my head in appreciation. The A4’s 8.3-inch infotainment screen is ideally placed at the very top of the dash and is canted toward the driver. Then there’s the superb 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, which is distinguished from other similar systems not by its use of Google Earth—which is cool, but pricey after the trial period ends. Instead, I like the interface and how easily you can switch views using steering wheel controls. Whether you want a full-screen map view or a more traditional display of a tachometer and speedometer with music or drive info in the middle, the Audi gets most details right. Three suggestions: I wish the car could show album covers when I’m using Apple CarPlay; I want a tire pressure monitoring system that displays PSI at each tire; and it’d be cool if I could change the color of the “A4” that appears in one of the full-screen display modes.
Other interior pluses include an ambient lighting system that offers multiple colors and allows you to color part of the interior in one color and the rest of the car’s interior lighting in another complementing hue. Unfortunately, though, the illuminated white line at the bottom of the front doors doesn’t play along. Also, the A4 has one of the best turn-up-the-volume controls in the industry, with a roller-type control on the steering wheel and an easy-to-find volume knob at the base of the center console between the driver and front passenger. Over time, I even came to appreciate the engine auto start/stop system, but not for its smoothness. In fact, the engine awakens with a noticeable and unfortunate shake. I kept the feature on because under the right conditions, the car can turn the engine off for over a minute—perfect for making the most of our long-termer’s 19-speaker 755-watt sound system at long red lights in the silence to which EV owners have become accustomed.
Were I ordering an A4, I wouldn’t pick the Atlas Beige interior color of our long-termer, and not just because our Big Test comparison tester’s Nougat Brown looked great. The beige seats on our A4 don’t hide dirt well, and the standard seats on our car don’t provide as much side bolstering as I’d like. I would get the available sport seats, after making sure that the sport suspension with which they’re bundled isn’t too uncomfortable.
During our 19,419 miles with the A4, we had a few issues. The biggest one was when the car couldn’t reliably recognize phones that were compatible with Apple CarPlay. A total of $2,839.99 of warranty cost later, the control module that connects with the phone through the USB outlets was replaced to fix the system. The back of the center console armrest—which has a lid that adjusts up and down, and front to back—started to warp, and that was replaced with a warranty cost of $103. We also replaced all four tires before we would have liked. Right before a trip up the coast of California, we noticed one tire had a bubble on the sidewall, so two tires were replaced. Just a couple weeks later, a nail in another tire caused enough damage that we had to replace that one (and we again decided to replace a second tire to keep wear levels even).
Audi throws in the first scheduled maintenance, but the second regularly scheduled service visit cost $561.36. For comparison, our $46,140 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 cost $181.18 over 18,525 miles. Our $36,420 2015 Acura TLX 2.4 required $235.40 of services over 18,915 miles. As you compare prices of various cars you’re considering, keep in mind that some automakers (BMW, Jaguar, Genesis, Volvo) include additional complimentary service visits. As for the car’s retained value, IntelliChoice estimates our A4 would be worth an impressive 67 percent of its original $52,325 MSRP after three years and 42,000 miles, holding its value better than the less expensive Acura and Mercedes, and also slightly above our 2017 BMW 530i long-termer.
My own A4 would be a top Prestige-trimmed all-wheel-drive model. I didn’t find the less powerful, front-drive A4 Ultra’s responses at low speeds to be smooth, and our all-wheel-drive A4 is already so quick I would have trouble justifying the more powerful S4. As for the Prestige trim—like the mid-level Premium Plus trim, it includes chrome exterior trim that accentuates the arched side-window shape that has defined Audi sedans for over two decades. The top trim also includes Audi’s great adaptive cruise control. After turning off the lane keeping assist system that doesn’t center the car in its lane at low speeds, I sometimes let the adaptive cruise ease my evening commute. Some systems are too rough as they come to a stop or take off, but Audi’s system has settings for distance and aggressiveness. I’m more prone to motion sickness than the average driver, and for me, this is the difference between usability and permanently turning off the tech.
Really, though, I wouldn’t get an A4 at all. My choice would be a beautiful A5 Sportback, the four-door hatchback that slips all of the A4’s many advantages into a sexier shape. If I’m making the emotionally charged decision of paying $50,000 to $60,000 for a car that’s more cramped inside than a Civic, I’m treating myself to the more exclusive shape. For those who aren’t interested in that hatchback variant, a year in the Audi reaffirmed our belief that, despite the car’s drawbacks, the 252-hp all-wheel-drive A4 is one of the most well-rounded and recommendable cars in its class.
Read more about our 2017 Audi A4 2.0T:
- Long-Term Arrival: A Year With a Sharp 3 Series Competitor
- Long-Term Update 1: Feeling Quick
- Long-Term Update 2: Seeing Stars and Apple CarPlay
- Long-Term Update 3: Capable vs. Fun
- Long-Term Update 4: Comments From an Actual 2017 A4 Owner
- Long-Term Update 5: Interior Space
- Long-Term Update 6: Let Me Do That for You
- Long-Term Update 7: Design – Not Far Enough or Just Right?
- Long-Term Update 8: How the Interior Could Be Improved
- Long-Term Update 9: The Road Trip
- Long-Term Update 10: Going Ultra
|SERVICE LIFE||12 mo / 19,419 mi|
|OPTIONS||Prestige package ($8,600: 18-inch wheels, Bang & Olufsen sound system, Audi advance key, LED headlights, top view camera, head-up display, Audi virtual cockpit); Driver Assistance package ($1,800: Adaptive cruise control, active lane keep assist, high-beam assist, traffic sign recognition); Adaptive damping suspension ($1,000); metallic paint ($575)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$52,325|
|AVG ECON/CO2||25.1 mpg / 0.77 lb/mi|
|MAINTENANCE COST||$561.36 (2-oil change, inspection)|
|3-YEAR RESIDUAL VALUE*||$34,900|
|*IntelliChoice data; assumes 42,000 miles at the end of 3-years|
|2017 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||Turbocharged I-4, iron block/alum head|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||121.1 cu in/1,984 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||252 hp @ 5,000 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||273 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||14.5 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed twin-clutch auto|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Multilink, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar|
|BRAKES, F; R||13.3-in vented disc; 13.0-in vented disc, ABS|
|WHEELS||8.0 x 18 in cast aluminum|
|TIRES||245/40R18 97H (M+S) Pirelli Cinturato P7|
|TRACK, F/R||61.9/61.2 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||186.1 x 72.5 x 56.2 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||38.1 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,645 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||56/44%|
|HEADROOM, F/R||38.9/37.4 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||41.3/35.7 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||55.9/54.5 in|
|CARGO VOLUME||13.0 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||2.8|
|QUARTER MILE||14.0 sec @ 98.2 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||126 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.84 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.3 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1,300 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$52,325|
|AIRBAGS||10: Dual front, f/r side, f/r curtain, front knee|
|BASIC WARRANTY||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||4 yrs/Unlimited miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||15.3 gal|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||22.1/35.2/26.5 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||24/31/27 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||140/109 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.73 lb/mile|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded premium|
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