ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Audi, Volkswagen’s upscale premium brand, has been on a tear, breaking its own sales records for more than 60 consecutive months.
For 2017, the compact A4 sedan has been redesigned, although at first (and possibly second) glance it might not look it. Subtle massaging of each body component maintains the car’s elegant-but-familiar design, making the new fifth generation barely distinguishable from its gen 4 predecessor.
Much of the car’s improvements are under and within that svelte body. It’s hard to see the half-inch increase in wheelbase or the 1-inch stretch in overall length. The increased use of lightweight materials have trimmed up to 100 pounds from the curb weight, which along with a smoothened underbody and various other tweaks to ease air resistance help fuel economy.
Technological progress has long been a mantra at Audi, even providing its motto, “Vorsprung durch Technik” (advancement through technology). The A4’s cabin puts on display – literally – the automaker’s latest advancement with its Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster.
At the touch of a menu button, the driver can select full-size, normal-looking gauges, or the gauges can shrink allowing the display of a highly detailed, full-color Google map and trip data.
The rest of the interior is up to Audi’s usual classy standards, with lovely leather upholstery on comfortable seats, handsome aluminum trim, and switchgear that operates with a substantial, tactile feel.
The four-cylinder, turbocharged powerplant and seven-speed automatic transmission deliver plenty of pep for spirited touring. Our tester featured Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system, adding exceptional grip to further bolster the excellent handling characteristics.
Brakes deserve an honorable mention for their superb feel and solid bite. Only the steering is a bit of a letdown, largely absent of road feel and feedback, but nonetheless direct and accurate.
For German auto aficionados, the solid A4 ranks among the best in the compact class.