We hadn’t planned on a bubble. Our bags were mostly packed, and we were looking forward to our upcoming trip, but then we noticed a bubble on the sidewall of a tire on our long-term 2017 Audi A4. So a day before our 400-mile journey north from Los Angeles to San Francisco, we took the 13,500-mile A4 for a quick visit to a trusted tire service center to replace two tires. Just over $450 later, the car was ready to go. I’ve written extensively on our long-termer, from how well the active safety tech works to the car’s performance and interior space, but sometimes you need a road trip to reflect on certain details of a car’s overall package.
Here’s what I learned.
Mile 0: On the third or fourth trip putting stuff in the car, I’m starting to appreciate the fact that even the rear doors can be opened with the keyless-access feature as long as the key is in my pocket. Also, the Audi’s system, which is available on the base trim and standard on the two higher trims, doesn’t require pushing a button to open the door—just put your hand on the door handle for a moment and it unlocks.
Still Mile 0: As I wait for my co-pilot to get in the car (come oooon), I’m appreciating the fact that the door storage area holds two sets of CDs side by side. That’s helpful. I’m bringing CDs in case we lose reception somewhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco because I rely almost exclusively on Apple CarPlay for in-car music.
Mile 0.2: When you’re preparing to drive 400 miles, it’s cool to see an estimated range of 440 miles—that’s one benefit of going with the 252-hp turbo-four model instead of the enticing 354-hp turbo-six variant.
Mile 9.6: We’re resetting the tire pressure monitoring system in a parking lot, and I’m once again frustrated that this car’s TPMS does not display the psi at each tire, as some other systems do. I prefer systems with individual tire readouts so I can monitor just how bad a problem may be. Or, if I run over road debris on the freeway, having individual readouts allows me to watch the pressure to see if anything changes. In this case, I had simply forgotten to reset the system after the new tires were installed—once you find that setting in the infotainment system, the car asks you to confirm the pressures are correct and then it stores those values.
Mile 25.3: It’s been a while since I used the car’s integrated navigation system instead of Apple CarPlay, and I did not realize the adaptive cruise control can be tied to the navigation system. We prefer the slightly more scenic and less smelly route up the 101 instead of the quicker 5, and every time I ignore the car’s directions to turn around (to find the 5), the car slows down, thinking I’m headed down a freeway off-ramp. Interesting. This could be useful if I was on an unfamiliar, winding road in the dark somewhere, but I’m turning this feature off for now.
Mile 157: Even before I got two new tires, I wished this car were a tad quieter. If Audi has any money left for an upcoming mid-model change, maybe include more sound deadening? It’s not terrible, but it could be a little better. (After I returned from the road trip, I learned the top Prestige trim on 2018 A4s get dual-pane acoustic glass for the front side windows.)
Mile 171: I wish the lane keeping assist system applied its correction in a subtler way. I still find it useful, and I’m glad this car has it, but I’ve found this the case with the system in its early- and late-intervention settings.
Mile 239: These seats feel OK. Both in terms of the quality of the leather on this $50,000-plus tester and of how little they hug you, the seats could be improved. Maybe the A4’s sport seat option would help with this?
Mile 243: After pulling the back of my shirt away from my back, I’m thinking about the blank buttons in our A4 where fully loaded cars have ventilated seat controls. This small car is $52,325, and it doesn’t have all the features I want, but that’s really what consumers should—and do—expect with compact luxury sport sedans. If you’re considering a car built by a respected luxury automaker for the first time, be prepared to pay significantly more for the features you want. This is, of course, a comment on luxury cars as a whole—not just this Audi.
Mile 260: While listening to music on Apple CarPlay, I was notified by a text message read out loud that someone sent me a video. Of course, the car couldn’t show me the hilarious baby video my sister sent—there remain sensible limitations of what a phone can and should communicate while a car is in motion.
Mile 265: R.I.P. to the latest bug that splattered in my line of sight. Sorry!
Mile 284: For a non-audiophile, this Bang & Olufsen surround-sound system is great. I love the adjustable 3-D effect despite the road noise in the background.
Mile 319: After taking off my sunglasses, I’m remembering how nice it is to see a head-up display with speed, speed limit, and basic nav directions (from the car, not from CarPlay). I look forward to more head-up displays showing more brightly with polarized sunglasses.
Mile 394: We have arrived. Including parking-lot driving, the system indicates 32.9 mpg after around six-and-a-half hours of driving. (Our 2017 A4 is EPA-rated at 24/31 mpg city/highway.) I still really like our A4—it’s attractive, quick, and responsive—but there are better cars for road trips.
Even so, there are advantages. Other cars are more comfortable on a long road trip, but when you get out at your hotel, do you look back and think of how cool your car looks? And are you proud to drive a car with a badge that elevates how you perceive your status? That emotional attachment works better for some buyers better than others. If I were buying a compact luxury sport sedan, I would absolutely consider sacrificing a little comfort on once- or twice-a-year road trips to better accommodate a cooler-looking and performing daily driver. Every car has negatives, but after this road trip, I still find the A4 to be a well-rounded four-door.
Read more about our 2017 Audi A4 2.0T: