Friday, November 4, 2016


A couple of years ago — well, it might have been three, but I don’t think it was four — I attended the launch of the new Audi A3 sedan, and as I listened to the product managers, designers, and other speakers tell us of the its new features and updates, I got to wondering if the company wasn’t competing against itself here.

After all, the A3, which formerly had been produced as a hatchback, seemed to have more good stuff and came at a cheaper price by several thousand dollars than its A4 sedan.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought that because about a year ago sales numbers for the A3 were second only to the Q5 crossover SUV. Sales of the A4, meanwhile, where down about 16 percent for the year.

Automakers, however, rarely sit still. (Those that do aren’t around for long.) Audi has addressed the situation with a major redesign for the 2017 Audi A4 sedan and guess what. Sales numbers for the A4 were more than double those for the A3 last month with 3,864 A4s sold to 1,708 A3s. For the year through October, the difference was slightly less with 27,535 in sales for the A4 to 26,578 for the A3, but the figure for the A4 is a 17.6 percent increase over a year ago and the number for the A3 shows a a 10.5 percent decrease.

Yes, part of that can be attributed to a natural progression in declining numbers as one generation of a model begins to age, but in this case I think it is also because that Audi did a lot right with the new A4. In fact, in its analysis of auto reviews for the small luxury cars U.S. News & World Report rated the A4 No. 1 of a field of 18 entries. (The A3 was No. 4.)

I would be hard-pressed to argue with them.

The A4 is truly a joy to drive, it looks great both inside and out, and it features a bunch of gee-whiz technology that even the less techno-savvy among us find easy to operate.

Audi gave the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine a power boost for 2017 with horsepower up to 252 from 220 and torque to 273 pound-feet kicking in at 1600 rpm from 258 for 2016.

Mated with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that functions like an automatic (you can select gears via steering wheel-mounted shifters), it scoots from zero-to-60 mph in 6.1 seconds in front-wheel-drive configuration or 5.7 for models with Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system. Fuel mileage is a respectable 25 miles-per-gallon city, 33 highway, 28 combined for FWD models and 24/31/27 for AWD.

Set in dynamic mode, the A4 delivers an ever sportier driving experience while still delivering a ride that is smooth, quiet, and comfortable. Again, that is from driving on South Florida roads and streets, which are notoriously straight-line affairs with the only elevation change the usual on-ramps (save for one particular overpass in the north of Miami-Dade County), so it’s not like I was able to see its reaction on twisty mountain roads. I suspect it would handle them just as well if not better than the A3 did at that press event in California I mentioned earlier.

The A4’s cabin is impeccable with lots of leather and soft surfaces throughout the spacious cabin. Those leather seats, by the way, are among standard features. Others include a rear-view camera, 8-way power adjustable front seats with 4-way lumbar support (driver memory seats are included in an optional package), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and LED ambient lighting.

There’s also lots of room for both passengers up front (up to 41.3 inches of legroom) and in the rear (35.7 inches), and the trunk offers 13 cubic feet of luggage space.

My test vehicle came with Audi’s MMI (Multi Media Interface) system for operating infotainment features such as the navigation system via a knob on the console. You simply flick a toggle switch to whatever system you want — audio, navigation, etc. — and adjust the knob to the desired setting as indicated on a screen that sticks up from the dash. The MMI system also includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Pricing for the A4 starts at under $35,000. The 2017 A4 Sedan 2.0T quattro S tronic that served as my test vehicle had a base MSRP of $39,400. With a couple of optional packages added on along with stand-alone options like 18-inch wheels over the standard 17-inchers, plus the $950 destination and delivery charge, the total came to $45,450, but a credit for the Parking System Plus knocked the final figure down to $44,950.

What I liked about the 2017 Audi A4: One of the choices for the driver’s information display between the speedometer and tachometer in the instrumental panel is a duplicate map for navigation. You can adjust the scale via a dial on the steering wheel. This allows you to check out the map with a simple glance down instead of having to look to your right to the monitor on the dash.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Audi A4: Nothing really to enter here. Guess the trunk could be a bit bigger. It’s slightly smaller than some competitors, slightly bigger than others.

Would I buy the 2017 Audi A4: Yep.

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