First Drive review 2017 Audi A4: Last of a dying breed?



No one is buying cars anymore, sedans, coupes, convertibles that is. No, everyone it seems is buying things to transport themselves around other than a car. SUVs, crossovers, even pickup trucks, those once exclusive bastions of Rednecks, are now the vehicles of choice.

The automakers are starting to come off a high that would make Cheech and Chong jealous.  The halls in the Detroit headquarters of the auto manufacturers are littered with Frito bags and Twinkie wrappers.  Vehicle sales are coming off record levels in 2016, but for the first half of 2017 auto sales are down. Not much mind you, they’re off 3 percent in June, but still enough to get the automotive analysts talking.

Among this madness there is one fact that stands out; the biggest drop in all came in the sales of cars which fell 13 percent.  Trucks and SUVs on the other hand rose 4 percent, and accounted for 63 percent of all sales.

Despite the overall decline, the Detroit execs aren’t worried. They claim they are still making money. Thanks mainly to us buyers who buy those trucks and SUVs loaded with lots of options; bling that shines, technology that keeps us in our lane and from hitting the vehicle in front of us, and premium entertainment systems with screens in the back seats that keeps the kiddies happy on the way to soccer practice.  I find these entertainment systems a bit annoying by the way, I mean I have enough trouble keeping up with the TV remote at home, now try and find it while tooling the highway at 70 miles per hour because the kids are mad they can’t watch Minion reruns.

There may come a day when the sedan, coupe or convertible is a rarity on the road, “Look there son, see back in my day we didn’t have to grab a handrail and step up,” and that’s a shame, because there are still plenty of fine cars for sale. Audi has one of them, the A4. It’s not flashy, nor overbearing. Yes, it can be had with all the nanny features to keep you safe, but you can’t take it off-road (at least not on purpose) and the kids will actually have to look out the windows on a road trip.

I’ve always liked the A4, it’s an introverted well designed four door sedan that could get lost in a parking lot, but will deliver you there in style.  It’s new for 2017, a bit wider and longer (there’s 0.5 inch more in wheelbase, 1.0 inch in length, and 0.6 inch in width), and lighter (70-100 pounds) with a redesigned style inside and out, along with a more power, better fuel economy, and new technology and safety features.

The A4 is a small luxury sedan available in three levels; Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige.  Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive (Quattro) available. There is also something called the “Ultra” which is a fuel-efficient addition to the Premium and Premium Plus levels that seems more an attempt to pacify the lovers of Mother Earth.

The Premium has Audi’s drive select (comfort, auto, dynamic and individual), forward collision mitigation system, power front seats, leather upholstery, a rearview camera that can be viewed through a 7-inch screen, which also controls the MMI system and tri-zone climate control.



Options include the Convenience package with keyless ignition, auto-dimming and power-folding side mirrors, driver memory settings and satellite radio.

The Premium Plus has that Convenience package, plus heated front seats, a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system and the S-Line styling that gives a bit more of a sporty look.  The wheels also grow to 18-inches from the 17-inch on the Premium.

With the Plus you can add the Technology package which has blind-spot monitoring, rear collision mitigation, the 12.3 inch Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster (which is one of the best dash enhancements on the market), navigation, an enhanced 8.3 inch screen, which is an option on the Premium, and Audi online connected services.

The top of the line Prestige has the Technology package and adds a heads-up display, HD radio, and a surround view camera parking system.

There are option packages like the Cold Weather, Warm Weather, Driver Assistance, and Sport or Sport Plus.

Up front the A4 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 252 horses, and 273 pound-feet of torque. The Ultra engine gets 190 hp and 236 lb-ft torque and is front wheel drive only.

This power is delivered to the road via a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission; you can get a six-speed manual with the all-wheel (Quattro) drive.

My recent week with the A4 was the Prestige. It has everything I could want in a small luxury sedan, and more. It drives well, has a well laid out interior, and looks good going from point A to point B. The cabin noise is minimal, the Virtual Cockpit amazing, and the engine more than powerful enough for everyday use.

Sadly, people it seems would rather have an SUV or pickup. The A4 like many sedans, may soon fall by the wayside. It could be the last of a dying breed. This wasn’t my first week with a 2017 A4, and I hope it won’t be my last, because something as good as the A4 is needs to be driven every day of the week.

The 2017 Audi A4
MSRP: $39,400
MSRP (as tested): $51,750
Engine: 2.0 liter turbocharged, 252 hp @ 5,600-6,000 rpm, 273 lb-ft torque @ 1,600-4,500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed shiftable automatic
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 24 city, 31 highway, 27 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions):  30 mpg
Base Curb Weight: 3626

Exterior Dimensions (In)
Wheelbase: 111
Length, Overall: 186.1
Width, Max w/o mirrors: 72.5
Height, Overall: 56.2
Track Width, Front: 61.9
Track Width, Rear: 61.2

Interior Dimensions (In)
Passenger Capacity: 5
Front Head Room: 38.9
Front Leg Room: 41.3
Front Shoulder Room: 55.9
Second Head Room: 37.4
Second Leg Room: 35.7
Second Shoulder Room: 54.5
Cargo Area Dimensions
Trunk Volume: 13

Basic: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Corrosion: 12 Years/Unlimited Miles
Roadside Assistance: 4 Years/Unlimited Miles
Maintenance: 1 Year/10,000 Miles

Greg Engle