Some drivers consider sport sedans the epitome of automotive excellence. Though generally more expensive than midsize and some entry-level cars, sport sedans such as the 2017 Audi A4, deliver outstanding performance, handling, and braking with a comfortable-enough ride.
Most of all, sport sedans provide a high level of driver satisfaction of the sort that prompts owners to go for a drive for the pure pleasure of it. Besides the Audi A4, they include the Jaguar XE, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS, Acura TLX, and Cadillac ATS. In such company, it's not enough simply to be competitive. It takes a lot more to stand out and, when that happens, it's usually by a narrow margin.
Such is the case with the tested Audi A4 2.0T Quattro S tronic. That's a nomenclature mouthful, but it aptly describes the compact A4 with the turbocharged 252-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Quattro is Audi's name for its renowned all-wheel-drive system. The S tronic is the company's seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
For traditionalists, especially those who enjoy shifting for themselves, Audi also will offer a six-speed manual gearbox. That's unusual in an era when stickshifts are vanishing from the scene even in ultra-high-performance sports cars.
The vast majority of customers, however, will order and enjoy the S tronic automatic, which has a manual shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel. It's entertaining on twisting mountain roads, where you want to hold the transmission in a gear to keep the engine revs up.
But as with most of these setups, the onboard computer uncannily computes when shifts up or down should be triggered, and can nearly always shift faster and more accurately than any human.
The A4's S tronic does that, though occasionally there is an almost imperceptible slip when accelerating off the line -- a characteristic of some twin-clutch automatics. Mostly, you don't notice anything and the A4 rockets to 60 mph in slightly more than 5 seconds, according to Audi and independent tests.
The A4 has selectable drive modes -- automatic, comfort, dynamic, and individual -- but even in the softest setting it exhibits athletic moves. It also delivers enviable fuel economy. The EPA rates the city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 24/31/27 mpg.
The base A4 Quattro, designated as Premium in Audi-speak, starts at $40,350, including the destination charge. If you don't want or need the all-wheel drive, you can knock $2,100 off the sticker by ordering the front-wheel-drive version.
Standard equipment includes three-zone automatic climate control, motorized glass sunroof, rearview camera, leather upholstery, xenon headlights, eight-way power front seats, pushbutton starting with engine stop-start, 17-inch wheels, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The heavily optioned test car, with a $54,275 sticker, added 18-inch wheels, Bang & Olufsen audio system, memory power seats, head-up display, digital gauge cluster, cooled and heated front seats, heated rear seats, adjustable suspension system, and an option package that included navigation, blind-spot warning, and rear-end collision warning.
Also on the tester was a $1,800 driver assistance package that included adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and traffic sign recognition. The combination enables the A4 to drive itself for short distances but should not be mistaken for a fully autonomous vehicle. Those are still way down the road.
Confusing was the automatic transmission shifter, which requires the driver to press a separate button on the back side to engage "park." You can get used to it over time but, following longstanding habit, most drivers push the shifter forward, think they're in "park," and wind up in "reverse" instead. Overall though the Audi A4 stands out in a group of standout sports sedans.
Copyright © 2017 Motor Matters
|Base price||$40,350 (as tested: $54,275)|
|Curb weight||3,670 lbs.|
|Engine type||DOHC turbocharged 4-cyl. w/TSFI|
|Epa mileage rating||24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway|
|Fuel capacity||15.3 gal.|
|Horsepower (net)||252 at 5600 rpm|
|Overall length||186.1 in.|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||273 at 1600 rpm|
|Vehicle type||5-passenger AWD compact sedan|
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