New Car Previews

Preview: 2017 Audi A4

If we were to tell you this ninth-generation Audi A4 sedan is bigger, lighter, more powerful, more efficient and further tech-laden, would you believe us? Of course you would. This is an important model for the automaker, as one in four Audis sold is an A4.

While hardly exciting, the 2017 A4 is a handsomely chiseled four-door, and the new snout forsakes any soft curves for hard edges and sharp angles.

And no one can stand still in this segment that is dominated by the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Further complicating matters are the upcoming Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Giulia.

The 2017 A4 breaks no stylistic ground, sticking very close to the corporate template to which all Audi sedans of late adhere. While hardly exciting, it is a handsomely chiseled four-door, and the new snout forsakes any soft curves for hard edges and sharp angles. Also shown at Frankfurt was a mighty fine looking wagon version that will not make its way to North America. However, you can bet on seeing a jacked-up and plastic-clad Allroad version here in the future.

We will get the 2017 Audi A4 sedan in the spring of 2016. No pricing has been announced.

Audi is claiming this car as having a class-leading drag co-efficient of 0.23 thanks to a mostly flat underbelly and special air vents up front that strategically guide air over the body. And this A4 is up to 120 kg lighter than its predecessor thanks to a serious regimen of light alloy bits, some of which include magnesium steering parts, transmission parts and rear seat structure.

This sedan is marginally larger than the outgoing model, seeing a 2.5-mm increase in both wheelbase and length. Audi has carved out more interior space, offering rear seat passengers 23 mm more legroom. Front headroom increases by the same amount. A brief spell in the back seat confirms the claim of increased space – it does not feel cramped back there, though the A4 was not the worst offender in that area. Compact sport sedans are no longer allowed to feel compact (which is a bummer for Cadillac and its fine-driving ATS).

Below decks we’ll find a five-point multi-link rear suspension, available adaptive damping and new electric steering. With a stiffer structure and more aluminum up front, Audi says the new A4 will be a sharper handler. But also top of list for the chassis engineers was an improvement in ride quality – an area where Audi had fallen behind both Mercedes and BMW in this small luxury sedan segment.

Two-litre turbocharged four-cylinder power will be the order of the day for most North American–spec cars, and the 2017 A4 gets an all-new unit that makes its debut in this car. A new combustion method (similar to the Miller Cycle) allows for higher compression ratios. Audi claims better fuel economy and increased tractability – peak torque now comes online at only 1,450 rpm. Other improvements include shorter coolant flow for quicker warm-up time and an exhaust manifold integrated into the cylinder head.

Initially there will be two spec levels of this engine: a 190 hp/236 lb-ft version and another putting out 252 hp/273 lb-ft. The 2.0L turbo in the current A4 makes 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. A TDI-four worth 190 hp and 295 lb-ft will also be on the menu. Transmission duties fall to Audi’s seven-speed dual clutch.

Inside, we’re treated to a clean interior design showing the expected Audi obsessive attention to detail. It’s fresh, modern and just a bit daring with a horizontal theme enhanced by thin air vents that sweep across the dash panel.

As with Mercedes’ products of late, the central screen in the new A4 is a free-standing unit perched atop the dash. Base cars get a standard analogue instrument cluster, while the fully configurable 12.3-inch digital screen (as seen in the new TT) is optional. It can display just about anything from tradition analogue gauges to a full navigation display. The A4 can be outfitted with every latest safety system and tech gadget that debuted on the Q7 crossover.

Not wasting any time on the enthusiast front, Audi also trotted out the S4 variant at this world premiere in Frankfurt. The car won’t be available until April 2016 (in Europe) but it will sport an all new 3.0L turbocharged TSFI V6 that makes 354 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, available from 1300 to 4500 rpm. Yes, you read that right. Supercharging is out, and turbocharging is in for the new S4. Audi says the S4 will scoot to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds and easily reach its electronic speed limit of 250 km/h.

The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and the quattro all-wheel-drive runs a 60 percent rear bias under normal conditions, although up to 70 percent can be sent to the front and 85 percent directed rearward. Audi’s sport differential is also available. The car’s dynamic parameters can be altered via the Drive Select controller.

The previous Audi S4 was one of the all-time greats. With more power, less weight and an all new platform, we can expect great things from this new-gen sports sedan.