My first car was hot. At least once or twice, in fact, worryingly hot, but maybe that’s not surprising when your first car is an older, high-mileage sport sedan. Beyond my incredible fortune at getting a car at all, my 1996 Audi A4 was attractive, fun to drive over the canyons to school, and well equipped—a previous owner installed an excessive eight-disc CD player in the trunk to complement the single-disc unit in the dash. Since my long-gone 1996 Audi left the dealership as a new car, the A4 has come to define the brand. As Audi’s resurgence in the U.S. continues, I’m spending a year with a 2017 Audi A4 2.0T to see how the car has matured over the years and whether it holds up to previous positive experiences we’ve had with this latest generation. What’s it like to own the second-place finisher of our recent luxury sport sedan comparison? We’ll have to find out.
In that comparison, we lauded the 2017 A4 2.0T for a number of reasons including impressive straight-line acceleration and its tech features but criticized the car for its lack of passion. The A4 isolates you from the road more than competitors such as the Cadillac ATS and the comparison-winning Alfa Romeo Giulia, and I’m eager to see what I’ll think about the well-rounded A4 after 12 months. Offered with front- and all-wheel drive, the compact luxury sedan competes in a huge class with at least 10 automakers vying for attention (and your money). At the bottom of the A4 lineup is the A4 Ultra, with a 190-hp turbo-four good for 236 lb-ft of torque.
Most buyers will skip that entry-level model and get the volume-oriented 2.0T model like we did. Like the A4 Ultra, our A4 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-four, but this variant sacrifices a few mpgs for more power. Our car makes 252 hp from 5,000 to 6,000 rpm and 273 lb-ft from 1,600 to 4,500 rpm. Mated to a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission, the package feels more powerful on the road than it might seem. For our all-wheel-drive 2017 A4, EPA-rated fuel economy is a respectable 24/31 mpg city/highway, compared to 25/33 mpg with the same 252-hp engine and front-wheel drive, and 27/37 mpg in the front-drive-only A4 Ultra.
The 252-hp 2017 Audi A4 2.0T starts at $38,250. We added Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system for $2,100 and selected the Prestige trim for another $8,600. Notable features on our $52,325 tester include LED headlights, a superb 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, a fully digital instrument cluster on a 12.3-inch screen, navigation with Google Maps satellite images on an 8.3-inch screen, a head-up display, an active safety tech package, a multi-camera system with distance sensors, 18-inch wheels with contrasting gray inserts, and an adaptive damping suspension that lowers the car about 0.4 inch (10 millimeters) and can be adjusted as part of three drive-mode settings. Throw in $575 Moonlight Blue metallic paint that’s just about black in some lighting conditions, and you’ve got a very well-equipped but not completely loaded A4.
In the two decades since my 1996 A4 rolled off the assembly line, the luxury compact sport sedan segment has transformed. Buyers who want to skip from brand to brand have more choices than ever before but, so far, Motor Trend has found the new 2017 Audi A4 to be a very capable ride. Whether our A4 2.0T is still recommendable after 12 months is something we’re looking forward to figuring out.
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