Road trips are great ways to test cars. Long periods of time behind the wheel. Lots of miles. Lots of time to play with all the different options and features. A chance to really get a feel for a car. So when I have a road trip planned, I always check to see what car is coming up. My upcoming road trip was a one day dance competition in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania for my 13 year old daughter. She was to dance in the afternoon so I was planning on an up-and-back trip. One day 500 miles. 8 hours of driving. In what was the only question that remained.
I had just done a 240 mile roadtrip the weekend before to the Eastern Shore, Maryland in the Roadfly Black Bear Jeep – 4 hours in a lifted Jeep with 37 inch tires isn’t the most comfortable ride. So I was hoping for something comfortable. Something smooth. I wasn’t disappointed. The car of the week was a 2017 Audi A4 Sedan 2.0T Quattro S-tronic. Riding in an Audi for twice as long would be nothing. In fact, it might even be fun. I owned an early 2000 Audi A6 2.7T Quattro and loved it. I’ve always liked the way Audi’s drive, but had found the A4 to be a bit small for my six foot frame at the time, so I went with the larger A6. I was looking forward to spending some time in the new A4. I wanted to see how I fit and whether they were still as good as they used to be. I was also excited to spend some more time with the Virtual Cockpit. A few months ago I spent a week in the 2016 Audi TTS Coupe, the first Audi to have the Virtual Cockpit. And I loved it. Check out my detailed review here.
My daughter and I grabbed some breakfast around 8:00 a.m. Saturday, dialed in the address in the nav, and hit the road. The first think I did was put the Virtual Cockpit into infotainment mode. If you are not familiar with the Virtual Cockpit or if you haven’t seen it, it’s the coolest thing to hit a car’s dashboard since the multimedia screen. Audi uses a 12.3-inch TFT display that allows for a totally customizable dash panel behind the steering wheel. There are two primary views that the Virtual Cockpit allows. In classic view mode, the speedometer and rev counter are the standard size with a smaller screen in between (reminiscent of most cars these days). Infotainment mode shrinks both gauges and moves them to the corners thus utilizing the majority of the 12.3-inch screen for nav, phone, media and other important information. The Infotainment mode is the mode I prefer for long road trips. Unlike the TT and TTS which only have the Virtual Cockpit screen and no center dash screen, the A4 also has a 7.0-inch center MMI Infotainment/nav display. With the nav set up on the Virtual Cockpit screen, the entire center dash screen is left open to display sat radio or other info. In cars without Virtual Cockpit, you either have to toggle back and forth on the center dash screen between nav and sat radio info or go into a split screen that only provides limited information. Having the two screens is pretty awesome.
The 2017 A4 comes with the very capable 2.0L turbo 4 that puts out a respectable 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque matted to a 7-speed S-tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission with Quattro all-wheel drive. If you need more power in a 2017 model year, you would have to go with either the smaller S3 with with 292 horsepower (starting at $42,,500) or the larger (and quite a bit more expensive – starts at $70,900) S6 which was a 4.0 TSFI engine with 450 horsepower (the 2016 S4 came in at 333 horsepower and started at $49,000, but isn’t available in 2017). For most people, 252 hp in a small four-door sedan is plenty of power. I found it well powered for its weight and size. On the highway it’s a dream and cruises effortlessly. Once we hit the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I set the basic cruise at 79 mph and we rode effortlessly. I wish Audi would include an intelligent cruise system in their cars. Since there wasn’t much traffic, it wasn’t a problem, but for a sedan at this price point I would expect to have it. There were a few times when slow cars got in my way in the left lane and I had to turn off cruise and operate the gas manually (in the age of intelligent cruise control, using the pedals on long road trips is almost like using a smartphone to make a phone call – you just don’t do it very often). With the Virtual Cockpit in Infotainment mode, the speedo is a bit smaller then usual and thus not as prominently displayed. When I checked my speed during my brief period of manually operating the gas pedal, I was a bit surprised to find out I was going 92 mph. Whoa!!! That’s just how smooth this Audi is. You can do 90 mph and its feels like 70 mph. I guess that’s good . . . and bad. The suspension and handling is tight, but comfortable and the cabin is very quiet, except for those periods when you have the 3D Bang and Olufsen Surround Sound System (part of the Premium Plus Package) cranking to Satellite radio.
The base price for the A4 is $39,400, but Audi likes to put a lot of its features in option packages so you are rarely going to purchase the base price car. My A4 added the Premium Plus Package for $3,800, the Technology Package for $3,250 and the Sport Package for $750. An extra $575 for the metallic paint and a $950 destination charge puts the total MSRP at $48,725. The Sport package adds front sport seats with 4-way power lumbar and a sport suspension. The Premium Plus Package adds 18-inch wheels; better tires; the B&O stereo; heated, auto-dimming power folding mirrors; alarm; SiriusXM; Audi advanced key; Audi connection CARE; heated, 8-way power front seats with memory; LED headlights; parking system plus. and the S-line exterior. The Technology Package is a must have in my opinion; that’s what gets you Virtual Cockpit, Audi MMI nav plus, side assist and pre-sense rear, and six months of Audi Prime and Plus.
We completed the first half of the road trip in about 5 hours; it took us almost 50 minutes to go the last 5 miles to Pittsburg because the highway right outside of Pittsburg was closed – we almost missed the dance competition. The competition was delayed by over an hour so we didn’t hit the road until about 10:15 p.m. that night which got us home around 1:30 in the morning. Needless to say, there was not a lot of traffic at that hour so we cruised the whole way home. Audi says the A4 gets 24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. For our 470 mile road trip we averaged 27.2 mpg. That’s right on Audi’s estimate.
If you haven’t gone car shopping in a while, you might think $48,725 is a lot for a mid-sized four-door sedan. But once you have looked around a bit more, you will find that there is a lot of technology, performance and luxury jammed into this mid-sized sedan compared to its peers. And then you might realize that less then $50,000 for the Audi A4 sedan isn’t that much compared to what you are getting for your money. If you require more luxury, you can always opt for the A4 Premium Plus which adds about $4,000 to the base price or the A4 Prestige which adds a whopping $9,000. I haven’t driven the Premium Plus or the Prestige yet, but as much as I loved the base A4 sedan, I can’t wait to give each of these a spin.