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2017 Audi A4 Review: Nerd is the New Black

By Jake Lingeman/ Autoweek | 3/17/2016, 4:21 p.m.
Power and style traditionally trickle down from a manufacturer’s top models to their more cost-effective ones. Since technology is the ...

New Audi sport sedan has more tech than the AV club, more power than the competition

Detroit, MI--Power and style traditionally trickle down from a manufacturer’s top models to their more cost-effective ones. Since technology is the new power (and safety is the new style), Audi upgraded the 2017 A4 with all of the near-autonomous protection introduced on the Q7 SUV and added enough technology to run a home office, all without taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road. Of course, the traditional power and style are there too; they just take a back seat to what most buyers really care about.

Let’s be clear: We’re not saying the new, ninth-generation A4 is uncrashable. But with 21 driver-assistance systems including lane assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go traffic assist, rear cross traffic alert, turn assist that’ll stop you from accidentally turning into traffic and exit assist, which alerts you if you’re about to open your door into traffic, it’s everything but.

On the technology side, the A4 gets the company’s new Virtual Cockpit with a 12.3-inch gauge screen, which uses Google Earth to provide the maps, terrain and upcoming traffic and navigation info. The A4 also comes with Audi connect, which packages together all the applications that connect the A4 to the Internet like weather info, Siri Eyes Free, and automatic crash notification, as well as Android Auto and Apple Car Play.

We’re not going to call it nerd heaven, but if intelligence is the new cool, the A4 is Steve McQueen.

Power is up significantly from 2016. The old A4 made do with 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque from its turbocharged 2.0-liter four. The new model lands with 252 hp at 5,600 rpm and 273 lb-ft at 1,600-4,500 rpm from an upgraded version of the same powerplant. Those specs eclipse the base power in both the new C-Class and BMW 3-Series, though the Audi doesn't offer an uplevel six-cylinder engine. A seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission sends power to the front or all four wheels in quattro versions, which comprise the lion’s share of A4s sold.

A new five-link front suspension allows for greater steering precision, Audi says, as does moving the steering rack placement to the wheel centers. Audi also reduced unsprung weight by making more suspension parts out of aluminum. Overall the company saved 66 pounds on quattro models and 99 pounds on FWD models. There are three options for suspension including the standard setup, the adaptive continuously damping option that lowers the car about half an inch, and fixed sport suspension that drops the car almost an inch.

Stomping the mid-weighted gas pedal from a stop blasts the A4 away from a green light for about 3 seconds before the first near-seamless shift -- either from the paddles or the computer -- followed by a whoosh from the turbo. We’re glad Audi didn’t tune that out or cover it up. Same with the growl -- when you’re really in the throttle, the higher revs sound good. Maybe not as good as a straight-six, but this isn’t a little sewing machine engine either. The company says the A4 can hit 60 mph in 5.7 seconds from a stop, and we have no reason to doubt it. The torque split usually runs at 40/60 front to rear, throwing up to 85 percent of the power to the back if necessary. We never see the traction control light, even when we overpush it into corners in the California grades. It runs out of breath at 130 mph, Audi says, which seems easily reachable even in the thin mountain air.