Of course, if you're at all interested in the 2017 Audi A4, you've probably read all about it in the official press release a few days ago. So we'll cut to the chase and tell you the bits you don't already know: the American-market details. We spent a day at Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt last week finding out the latest and poking around the A4 in the metal.
The new A4 is wider, longer, and roomier than before. The lines are crisper and sharper, but yes, the proportions have remained very similar. That was done on purpose, thoughtfully. Not out of laziness. Stand any two sequential generations of Porsche 911 next to each other and you'll find they are rather similar. And yes, people do complain about that. But they also complain about the property tax rate on their third home in Monaco.
That familiar-looking body gets a shockingly low coefficient of drag of just 0.23. The improvements in drag come from fine-tuning details down to the placement of the side mirror (now on the door, rather than the triangular window panel) and the contouring of the inner edge of the side mirror, which gets little vortex generating bumps to improve the turbulent airflow in that area, reducing drag. Attention to detail and refinement of a successful design – not boring, lazy repetition.
Another notable departure in the styling of the new A4 is equally subtle, but even more significant from a precision manufacturing perspective: the hood has no cut lines on its upper surface. Instead, the hood now wraps around the tops of the fenders, the cut line integrating with the sharp crease that runs down the entire body side. The creation of this cut line requires extremely tight manufacturing tolerances to enable the precise alignment of the hood and fender gap with the stamped-in crease in the door panel; misalignment would be obvious and catastrophic to the clean, simple design's flow.
Now, let's rip off this Band-Aid: no, we won't be getting the Avant. Why? Because no one buys it, vociferous vocalizations on the Internet aside. Instead, we'll get the A4 Allroad (like we currently do), which, according to Audi's internal measurements, will sell about ten times as many units in the US as the Avant would have.
Next, the engines. We will get two; the 2.0-liter TFSI turbocharged gasoline four-cylinder and the 2.0-liter TDI turbocharged diesel. The gasoline engine is significantly updated, with a new cylinder head including an integrated exhaust manifold, dual fuel injection, variable valve lift, and an electronic wastegate for the turbocharger.
The 2.0-liter TFSI also gets a new Miller-cycle-style alteration of the compression and power strokes of the four-cycle process. When driven lightly, the valves close early on the intake stroke, reducing the volume of air to be compressed (and thereby reducing compression losses). The smaller intake volume means the compression ratio could be raised from 9.6:1 to 11.7:1, gaining back some of the power lost to the smaller intake volume. When driven in a sporty manner, the intake valves stay open longer, bringing more air into the engine. These changes were made to maintain the car's power and performance when pushed hard, and to enhance its efficiency when driven more typically.
Like its application in the new Audi A6, the 2.0 TFSI is rated at 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The 2.0 TDI diesel engine is largely the same as the one we already know in the US from Audi and Volkswagen.
All A4 models will launch, initially, with the seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission, but a manual is still under consideration for the US. Better yet, the manual may be available with Quattro all-wheel drive (which is standard on the S-tronic launch models). Sadly, we don't have any word, or even hints, whether that manual may become available in the American-spec Allroad.
Inside the A4, the specification is raised, as well, with Alcantara door panel coverings as standard equipment on all cars, and Alcantara seat inserts included as part of an upgrade package. Open-pore woods, high-quality plastics, and Audi's hard-earned reputation for precision fit and finish are all in evidence in the cabin of the new A4. While the previous A4 was beginning to look a bit dated, both in terms of its design and materials, the new A4 is primed to take on the current class-leader, the latest Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Beyond these bits, we'll have to wait until closer to the US-market launch of the A4 to learn more about the equipment and features that will be approved for our market. One thing we can promise you, however, barring monumental change in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, is that we won't be getting any frickin' lasers.