All For 4 2017 Audi sedan commands action visuals, safety extras, power bump

This 2017 Audi A4 sedan from McDaniels Audi of Charleston is parked on a downtown street.

Audi is making waves in auto guides this year with a redesign of a popular entry level four-door.

The 2017 Audi A4 — released in the U.S., including the Charleston area, late last month — posts 31 mpg-highway fuel numbers. Its 2.0-liter turbo engine, an inline four-cylinder tied to a seven-speed transmission, generates 252 hp and squeezes out 273 pounds-feet of torque. The car touts formidable, 18-inch wheels standard. This Audi scoots from 0-to-60 mph in a sprightly 5.7 seconds.

All this, and the luxury sedan’s cost works out to $39,400 for a base model. Even with extras such as a Google Earth-friendly “virtual cockpit,” dynamic Bang & Olufsen sound system, flip-up rear seats to access trunk space and protections such as “active lane assist,” the A4 remains priced below $50,000.

The vehicle’s sturdy, yet an almost-all-aluminum frame leaves the A4 “40-50 pounds lighter than the predecessor,” said Michael Harrison, Audi brand specialist for McDaniels Audi of Charleston. People like a performance vehicle that’s also focused on safety, he said.

The first A4s arrived at the Savannah Highway dealership the week of March 21. A Premium Plus model, which Harrison characterized as “middle of the pack” in terms of options, had a $48,830 sticker price.

The last time Audi completely overhauled the A4 was in 2009, although the carmaker tweaked the styling and features in succeeding years, Harrison said. Despite periodic alterations, the price “hasn’t changed dramatically,” he said.

Audi introduced novel technological features, such as the virtual cockpit with a 12-inch interactive screen in front of the driver, in its 2016 TT roadster and spirited the equipment to the new Q7 full-sized SUV. The A4 marks the first sedan to earn the upgrades.

Reams of navigation, audio and settings information from Apple Play to retrieving text messages to overhead looks at roads and buildings via Google mapping can be called up on the driver display or on an alternate 8.3-inch center-console screen which also acts as the back-up camera monitor. The “game-changer,” Harrison said, is how digital gauges can switch displays back and forth between the central screen and driver’s side viewing zone.

A heated steering wheel is an A4 feature, while leather seats are optional. Other touches include Audi’s new one-piece grille and scores of LEDs including daytime running lights. Tail lamps strobe when the turn signal’s used.

Another innovation involves the A4’s second row. Heated seats and climate control are available. The chairs double as the trunk’s back wall, so when they’re folded, people can reach or pass items between the second row and the sizable, larger-than-previous cargo area.

Audi slightly lengthened and widened the A4 so that dimensions are more in line with the once-larger A6. The extra two inches in length broadened trunk space and increased room in the second row.

Meanwhile, the revamped transmission showcases a broad torque range of 1,500 to 6,000 revolutions per minute. That’s important, Harrison said, because the auto whether coasting on the highway or moving away from a traffic light, accelerates smartly “when you ask for power.”

Customer guides this year seemed to have discovered Audi’s ride and safety perks, with Consumer Reports naming the brand first in its annual issue on auto brand reliability and driving performance, and J.D. Power and Associates listing Audi as best for customer service.

The variety of features in the A4 amplifies the sporty car’s mass appeal. Interested shoppers are from across the car-buying spectrum, “young, middle age, older,” Harrison said.

Based on an afternoon drive in the Charleston area, the new A4 sedan embodied Audi’s grasp of space-age, yet easy to use technology for pleasure and safety. Google Earth displays can be almost — but not quite — hypnotic and tend to fade into the background after the initial rush of real-life navigation images. The carmaker’s high-end Bang & Olufsen sound system produced an absorbing tone from scores of speakers.

The A4 proved a fine-handling sedan and braked firmly. On the open highway, the 252 hp engine kicked in to boost speeds without stress. Visibility was very good front, back and sides. Tech wise, the navigation and communications system was user friendly and provided plenty of choices from satellite radio to performance settings. Handy safety features included lights appearing on the side view mirrors when cars pass in neighboring lanes. The model’s roomy driver and passenger seats were duplicated in the back row, even with front seats pushed back. The back seat-trunk access serves as a clever and helpful perk. Another innovation: A flipable latch that makes it simple instead of an ordeal to open the hood by hand.

What the A4 lacked was a sportier aura. The imposing grille gives the model teeth, but the car felt more appropriate for a small family or carpooling employees than a solo driver or young couple out on a date.

Yet the luxury model, an entry level for Audi, offers many enticing tech and layout features. Besides, the experts have spoken. Just ask Consumer Reports and J.D. Power.

To learn more, visit your local Audi dealer.

Reach Jim Parker at 843-937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.