There are reasons to believe the redesigned 2017 Audi A4 sedan will continue its reign as the German automaker's best seller.
You could argue that this luxury compact is certainly fast enough and athletic enough to warrant sport-sedan credentials. But I suspect styling is going to weigh even more heavily than performance in many buying decisions.
What's interesting about this new body is its extraordinary minimalism and the sheer civility that engenders. The design is clean and classy, with none of the faddish over-sculpting so in vogue at the moment.
Audi designers were able to blend the margins between the hood and fenders into a crease that runs down the sides of the car from the headlights to the taillights, in effect eliminating the aesthetically worthless hood/fender divisions.
In addition to that crease, there are really only three carving exercises in this body: the mild extrusions on the rocker panels; the discreet concavities at the base of the doors; and the spoiler-like lip on the trunk lid.
The car's curb appeal is abetted by nifty sequential rear turn signals and a photogenic, chrome-trimmed, horizontal grille.
Opening the door of the gray metallic tester revealed more delightful design: an interior that was all-black except for the silvery trim evoking carbon fiber. All the usual luxury suspects were present and accounted for on the standard-equipment list, from heated power front seats to heated power mirrors. And, of course, the obligatory leather and sunroof.
On the options list, as part of a $3,250 Technology Package that included a 19-speaker, 775-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system, was one of the most sophisticated instrument arrays and infotainment systems out there.
Seventeen-inch alloy wheels shod with all-season tires were standard on the tester. Eighteen-inch wheels with all-season radials were listed as part of the test car's $3,800 Premium Plus Package. But if you want the car fitted with 19-inch wheels and serious, high-performance tires, as the test car was, you have to tack an additional $800 onto the tab.
As you might have gathered, there is nothing compact about the price of this compact car. Buoyed by the cost of the assorted packages, the base price of $39,400 porked up to $50,025.
But it sure is a pleasure to drive. The new car's significantly revised architecture and suspension produce a somewhat lighter automobile with a solid feel, a quiet, comfortable ride, and first-rate handling.
Even without the $1,000 adaptive damping suspension, the tester cornered exceptionally well. It stayed flat and composed in the corners, and exhibited a comforting amount of tire adhesion. And although the car reportedly exhibits some understeer when pushed to its limits, I didn't experience any during my bad behavior on back roads. The A4 stayed perfectly neutral for me.
Its steering is responsive, and the improved braking system shuts it down from 60 mph to zero in just 105 feet.
Motivation for the A4 is courtesy of a direct-injected, turbocharged, 2-liter four that develops 252 horsepower and a muscular 273 pounds of torque. This engine replaces one that corralled only 220 horses and 258 pounds of torque.
When buttoned to Audi's dual-clutch, seven-speed automatic and Quattro all-wheel-drive system, as the tester was, it furnishes factory-claimed zero-to-60 times of 5.7 seconds.
Indeed, the A4 has plenty of oomph for merging and passing. There's a slight pause when it's floored for a standing start - no doubt a tad of turbo lag - but not enough to get your knickers in a twist.