Unless you’re designing a house around a classic car, don’t downplay the importance of a car’s interior design. You’ll spend far more time engaging with a car’s cabin than you will admiring a car’s curves as you approach it. Luckily for me, Audi has developed a reputation for crafting rich interiors, and the A4 doesn’t disappoint. In fact, in an eight-car comparison in which a 2017 A4 placed second, we admired the virtual cockpit digital instrument cluster and noted the car’s “impeccable build quality and excellent materials.” I agree, but after months behind the wheel of our $52,325 A4 long-termer, I have more thoughts on the Google Earth subscription and have found a few rough edges inside the car.
Should You Subscribe to Audi Connect PRIME?
Overall, the interior still impresses, and I would still recommend the A4 despite the minor issues I’ve uncovered. As for the virtual cockpit display that’s standard on the Prestige trim, I think it’s great, even now that our subscription to Google Earth has lapsed. I’m a little on the cheap side, and I probably wouldn’t renew it if this were my car at the current rates of $199 for six more months or $499 for 18 months (learn about additional Audi Connect PRIME package features here), but I do miss scrolling out until I can see the crisply rendered imagery of our planet. The standard Audi navigation maps can do this, too, but the fully zoomed-out view of Earth isn’t as satisfying. Because of the system’s ease of use and different info screens, I regularly switch between the full maps display screen and the extended trip computer screen that shows a picture of the A4, though I wish the pic were color-customizable as a similar detail was on my 2013 Nissan Altima long-termer. Also, although the full song title/artist/album screen is cool, I’d use it more if the album covers would display from CarPlay and if the song and album titles didn’t get cut off.
Without a subscription to Google Earth data, I don’t have access to traffic info that can help guide what routes the navigation system suggests. Luckily, I usually use Apple CarPlay for navigation anyway, so it’s not a big loss. Like the car’s integrated navigation system, CarPlay now includes speed limit info, too. So unless the extra features of the Audi Connect PRIME package make you want to spend $499 for 18 months on a $50,000 car, consider budgeting that money for car maintenance instead.
Get the Sport Seats
I really wish our long-termer had the Sport package’s front sport seats. As associate online editor Stefan Ogbac said after driving our A4: “I’d pay extra for the Sport package just so I can get better side support and thigh support.” I would, too, especially considering the Sport package is only $750 on the 2018 A4. While we’re rebuilding our A4, I’d also consider the brown seats and, if the budget allowed, add the $800 ventilated front seats. Considering that Audi no longer offers the $1,000 Comfort Adaptive Damping suspension on our long-termer (a feature I like), the total price increase would be about $550. If you don’t mind sticking to the two nonmetallic paint options, you’re basically breaking even. For what it’s worth, the Alfa Romeo Giulia—the 2018 Motor Trend Car of the Year—offers three colors (white, black, and red) as no-cost colors.
The Adjustable Armrest Lid and the Seatbelt Chime
The A4’s central armrest has a cushy cover that’s far more comfortable than the harder-feeling armrests on the doors, and it can be pulled forward to cover more of the partially exposed central storage area where two USB outlets are located. I appreciate this because I prefer to leave charging cords out of sight when I leave a car, but having some solution at the base of the center stack would be even better. Aside from not having to twist your back a little every time you want to plug in or remove your phone, I sometimes have to ask a front passenger to lift up their elbow from the lid for a few seconds so I can attach my phone to the charging cord, or I occasionally forget to ask and up goes the lid with their arm on top (sorry!). I could plug in my phone first so that Apple CarPlay will pop up on the 8.3-inch screen sooner, but I find the car’s “put your seat belt on!” chimes too loud, so I make sure to buckle up first. By that time, my front passenger is usually settled in.
As I mentioned in a previous update, the A4’s interior space is about average for the class. It feels better than a Cadillac ATS and Jaguar XE but not as good as the Infiniti Q50. One feature I look for in smaller four-doors (that our A4 lacks) is soft front seat backs. I’m tall, and if someone sitting in the back seat behind me is going to shoehorn him or herself into a compact luxury sport sedan, I’d at least like their knees to bump a soft seat back and not hard plastic.
To end on a mostly positive note, I absolutely love the ambient lighting on our Prestige-trimmed A4. You can select one light for the front and rear footwells as well as part of the doors, cupholders, and on the sides of the center console, with another color for another line on the edge of the doors. My preferred combination is a shade of turquoise mixed with an almost-purple hue of blue, and you can always make both sets of lighting the same color. The trick is figuring out how to get to the ambient lighting settings menu. Like some other settings on the A4, it isn’t immediately obvious, but after you’ve play with the car once or twice, it’s intuitive. Now if Audi could make the line on the bottom of the front doors light up in one of the user-selected colors instead of just white, this would be a perfect system at this price range.
The reality is that you’re not going to find a perfect interior in this segment or, really, any other one. Overall, the Audi’s interior is rewarding, especially with the virtual cockpit on this trim, the automaker’s placement of the screen at the top of the dash, and the roller-type volume control on the steering wheel that’s easier to use than other systems that require pushing a button multiple times to increase the volume. If Audi could fix a few of my complaints for a midcycle refresh, the automaker would be well on its way to impressing customers not only in a 20-minute test drive but also after thousands of miles of ownership.
Read more about our 2017 Audi A4 2.0T: