In 1982, Audi stumbled upon a gold mine when it invited Sir John Hegarty over from Britain for a brainstorming session. While visiting the German automaker, the advertising guru — who would later go on to mastermind iconic ad campaigns for Axe body spray, Samsung, KFC, and Google — read a sign in a factory, and liked what he saw.
Audi had been struggling to find ways to appeal to British car buyers, and after spotting the German words “Vorsprung durch Technik” in one of its plants, Hegarty turned the slogan into a globally recognized catchphrase. Literally translated to “Advancement through Technology,” it seemed to embody the tech-forward thinking that set Audi apart from its German rivals.
The slogan stuck, and over 30 years later it continues to be recognized as one of the most famous and long-running in advertising. The Guardian reports that Audi is so fond of it that the company spent seven years in European courts trying to register it as an official trademark, before eventually winning the battle in January 2010.
You know what else has proven to be a huge hit for the German automaker? The athletic A4 sedan. Now in its fifth generation, the entry-level luxury staple is a cut above the rest of the segment for 2017, especially in fully-loaded Prestige trim.
What began life as a spin-off of the iconic 80 line has become one of the most important models in the brand’s stable. Back in 1994, the first Audi A4 Quattro was an all-wheel drive sedan with five cylinders and a Tiptronic automatic transmission that permitted full manual operation. Needless to say, it quickly became a luxury benchmark. Since then, it’s only become increasingly advanced over the years in terms of safety, efficiency, reliability, connectivity, and driver engagement. Today, especially in Quattro form, it’s damn near impossible to beat.
Today’s Audi A4 is a contender that’s designed to battle German adversaries like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the BMW 3 Series, as well as cars like the twin-turbo Infiniti Q50 and the supercharged Jaguar XE. In recent years, Audi has made big moves with its engine design. But while the powertrain on the new A4 remains one of its strongest selling points, there’s much more to this sedan than just performance.
Since it’s impossible for the 2.0-liter A4 to compete with a supercharged V6, or a pair of dueling turbos, in terms of raw power, it has to look for other ways of gaining the upper hand. So while it may not rely on brute force, the A4 remains a sporty sedan that prioritizes agility, quality, and class.
Flip either the lock or unlock button on the Audi A4’s key fob, and you’ll get an animated LED light show that sets it apart from the crowd. And that’s just the beginning. The Prestige package means you get a more menacing looking aero package, and with the larger 18-inch alloy wheels and a lower ride height, sophistication and sportiness go hand in hand.
Exterior pros and cons
+ The Prestige package includes S-Line upgrades, which focus on subtly drawn side sills, deeply sculpted side ducts, and jutting air dams. Those 18-inch 5-spoke dynamic wheels compliment this look quite nicely, too.
+ The LED headlights on the A4 adapt to their surroundings. Its side mirrors are heated, auto-dimming, and power-folding. And to top it all off, the rear lamps put on one hell of a dynamic light show when signaling or unlocking.
+ Small touches win big points with the Audi A4. Note the aluminum trim around the windows, as well as its perfectly sized and fitted dual exhaust. Additionally, both the grille and the intake inserts have aluminum-optic accents.
– One thing you’ll notice with the A4 is that the side mirrors do not automatically fold when ignition is engaged or turned off. Nor are they proximity sensitive for added approach security.
– Keyless entry requires two tugs on the handle instead of one fluid movement, and you’ll have to pull upward instead of outward. This can be ergonomically challenging for children, and it may require learning an underhanded approach.
Sewn from the same thread that stitched the outstanding Volkswagen Golf R and Golf GTI, the sharp little turbocharged 2.0-liter TFSI engine in the A4 is truly a work of art. It may not be the most sinewy sedan in the lineup, but it’s nothing to turn your nose up at. This holds especially true regarding its freshly developed head, 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and the outstanding Quattro AWD system. Standard drive selections are a huge selling point on this automobile, allowing drivers to jump between four different modes on the fly.
Powertrain pros and cons
+ Sporting Volkswagen’s latest advancements in integrated turbo design, the A4 gets 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of twist, which is delivered without lag to all four wheels in Quattro models.
+ The new 7-speed S-tronic automatic is refined and MPG focused (24/31 EPA averages), and can quickly become sporty when needed. The self-locking center differential and wheel-selective torque controls on Quattro models deliver even more results.
+ Audi’s drive select comes standard on all models, allowing drivers to benefit from comfort, normal, dynamic, and individual modes at no extra charge.
– No Golf R-style powertrain for additional zip … yet.
Distinctively drawn and sturdily made, the cabin of the Audi A4 is a perfect example of how good mass-produced interiors should be. Heated and ventilated leather touch-points, automatic power controls, switches that click with confidence, and materials that are extremely well-made and expertly fitted; it’s hard to find major faults with this interior.
Interior pros and cons
+ The materials look and feel top grade in the Audi A4. With zero loose ends or fitment issues to be seen, and a minimalist approach to interior layout, it makes for a clean cabin feel that doesn’t leave you searching for switches.
+ The heated steering wheel and seats, ventilated front cushions, attractive LED mood lighting, two-tone leather surfaces, and aluminum switches and knobs win big luxury points.
+ Driving performance is still important when it comes to the A4, with a leather-bound split steering wheel, paddles shifters, and sporty seat bolstering being key points.
– Unfortunately, there’s no power steering column adjustability. What’s more, the child seat LATCH system uses removable clips that are unsightly, and there are no aluminum S-Line sport pedals.
Tech and safety
Toting more technology than a NASA space station, our Audi A4 came with some of the best automotive tech on the market today. With its larger center screen, customizable digital gauge cluster, heads-up display, and safety features that double as temporary autonomous driving modes, Audi proves once more that its slogan is alive and well.
Tech and safety pros and cons
+ The Audi A4 has an upgraded 12.3-inch screen with crisp and beautiful graphics, and the virtual cockpit delivers 60 frames per second of quad core processing power. It also has some of the best camera views in the industry.
+ Customizable and completely digital, the driver display shows everything from navigation prompts and Google Maps, to vehicle diagnostics and music album information in gorgeous detail.
+ Name the autonomous safety system of your dreams, and this car has it. The A4 even has the ability to use Google Maps, and its on-board sensors can make turns and drive for you in brief increments.
– Not having touchscreen support means drivers remain dependent upon a mouse/control wheel. Without pinch-to-zoom support and full directional controls, exploring maps can prove tiresome.
Driving a A4 Quattro with all the fixings is an experience that rewards drivers with a near-perfect blend of technological sophistication and turbocharged tenacity. In comfort mode, it cruises with purpose; its dampers and steering softly guiding the way. There is also an optional $1,800 driver assistance upgrade that allows the vehicle to autonomously take turns and follow maps.
Switch over to normal mode and a balance is struck that can quickly adapt to either performance or languid driving needs. But click things into dynamic mode and the chassis suddenly becomes a spry sport sedan, complete with adaptive dampers and a drivetrain to match. Turbo lag is undetectable, 273 pound-feet of torque feels perfectly tuned to the platform, and both steering and handling are very precise. Audi also utilizes a set of 4-pot calipers on the front of the car that can bring you to a stop in short fashion without feeling overly sensitive.
Wrap up and review
Audi has built the A4 into a formidable luxury car, and it balances all of the basics that buyers require with a brilliant batch of fresh updates for 2017. It performs exactly the way a sport sedan should, with composure and agility. From its orderly S-Line exterior and wheel options, to the way in which its cabin is manufactured, quality and design top the list of priorities in this sedan.
We also love that the A4 will offer a sporty 6-speed manual transmission at no extra charge this year. So if grabbing your own gears is your thing, this sedan has you covered. Add in the variety of suspension options that buyers can choose from, as well as the sensational results dynamic mode provides, and fans of winding roads will be left plenty satisfied.
With the addition of Prestige and driver assistance packages, adaptive dampers, Monsoon Gray metallic paint, and destination charges, our A4 came in at $52,325, which is appropriate considering the segment. While the Quattro S tronic model may have started life at an affordable $39,400, it’s hard to imagine the vehicle without some add-ons. But some people don’t need or want autonomous driving options, adjustable suspension, or a heads-up display, giving Audi one more reason to remain confident that it’s on the right track with its entry-level sedan.