We really liked the Audi A4 and here's why: It's a car that satisfies our appreciation of an everyday sedan that packs luxury (but not too much), performance (but not too much) and a premium price tag (but not too much). Simply put, the redesigned-for-2017 A4 is what we think a small luxury sedan should be.
Appearance: The A4 is handsome and well-proportioned for a small-to-midsize sedan. It's a well-designed car — all the creases are in the right place — that doesn't scream "look at me." (Think evolution from the previous model, not revolution.) The only showy features are the distinctive design of the xenon/LED headlights and the optional 10-spoke Dynamic-design 18-inch wheels ($800).
Performance: The A4's turbocharged base 2.0-liter four-cylinder puts out a spirited 252 horsepower and 273 pound-foot of torque that make it fun to drive. It's not quite performance-sedan territory — that would be the Audi S4 — but it the acceleration is strong (Audi also shaved weight for '17) and the 7-speed S tronic is a smooth transmission of the dual-clutch variety. Audi says a manual transmission is planned, which is a welcome development that should pair well with this engine and getting the most out of the car's engine and all-wheel-drive handling. The suspension is on the firm side, but not uncomfortable, and the available Quattro all-wheel-drive system helps the car's precision handling. Some may find the steering too light, but as Lyra says of the A4: "It's one of the best handling compact sedans I've driven, and even a long drive across the state was enjoyable." Peter agrees.
Interior: It's good to see some of the features from Audi's higher-end cars such as its R8 trickle down into the brand's more modest offerings. In this case, we're happy to have the optional "virtual cockpit" — a 12.3-inch digital display that can switch from instrument cluster to a panoramic navigation map and puts everything in the driver's sight line. Elsewhere, the quiet cabin gives off a handsome, high tech-but-accessible vibe with quality materials and a mix of aluminum trim and leather surfaces. Our A4 2.OT Quattro S Stronic had the available convenience package ($900) and Audi MMI Plus Navigation package ($2,400). That MMI interface can be bit a confusing and step-heavy at first, but it seems to make better sense now that it can be used with the virtual cockpit. Still, all the controls are within easy reach. Elsewhere, the cabin is fairly roomy — Peter had enough headroom, for instance — the rear seats can be a bit cramped for the long-legged passengers. Lyra had three rear passengers — two teens and an adult — for a cross-state road trip. There wasn't much elbow room, and one had to straddle a bump on the floor. At least the trunk was big — 13 cubic feet — and accommodated all of our weekend bags, a cooler and soccer gear.
Our 3 favorites
Gadgets: The tech-laden cabin would do cars in a any class proud. There is a suite of excellent driver-assistance features as well as entertainment options (Apple CarPlay, Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio). The MMI system now offers handwriting recognition.
Handling: It's not a sports sedan, but it comes close to behaving like one. Peter calls it a "precise tool for navigating traffic."
Livability: We appreciated the A4's comfort and performance in all situations: daily city driving, interstate commuting and even long road trips with a full car.
The bottom line: Our new standard in daily luxury, technology and drivability. And all for $45,000.