Over the years we have seen compact executive class models grow in size and in features. Competition has truly bred excellence in a class where much is expected, and even more is delivered.
Such is the challenge of the new Audi A4. Going against segment stalwarts such as the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class isn't easy, but Audi is banking on something that is unique to them: they call it 'vorsprung durch technik', or progress through technology.
Currently on its fifth generation, the 2017 Audi A4 (B9) is built on a more solid platform: VW Group's updated MLB platform called MLBevo. This architecture underpins a wide variety of vehicles from the new A5, the much larger A8, the Q5 crossover, the new Q7, and even the ultra-luxury Bentley Bentayga SUV. Not only that, other models such as the Lamborghini Urus and Volkswagen Touareg will also be using the same platform.
In case you're wondering why the B9 is the 5th generation, the A4 traces its roots back to the Audi 80 which was introduced in 1972 with chassis code 'B1'. It has significantly grown since then. The original B1 measured 4175mm long, 1600mm wide and 1362mm tall with a 2470 mm wheelbase; in contrast, the B9 now measures 4726mm long, 1842mm wide and 1427 mm tall with a 2820 mm wheelbase.
Design-wise, the A4 stays true to Audi's overall styling direction, it might even be mistaken as the previous model at first glance. The differences however are quite significant if you look a little closer. For the B9, designer Frank Rimili decided to strengthen the A4's appearance, introducing sharper lines and a wider front grill, which gives the car a more masculine appeal. It also gets a duck tail embedded into the trunklid for added downforce. It is finished off by a set of 19-inch wheels. These elements give the A4 a stronger statement compared to the B8 it replaced aside from the 23mm stretch, 16mm wider and 12mm longer wheelbase. Rimili is part of the design team which came up with the Audi shuttle Quattro virtual car for the film Ender's Game.
Step inside and you are welcomed with engineered minimalism. The clean and ergonomic controls were designed to work with ease of use, minimizing distraction. The factory infotainment system is quite different as your only way to pair your phone as a media device is to use WiFi and an Audi app. A welcome change is that they finally decided to ditch the interface port in favor of a pair of standard USB ports and an Auxiliary socket.
The new A4 is equipped with Apple CarPlay connectivity which offers seamless functionality with iPhones, however it seemed to have a hard time pairing with my personal iPhone SE; a newer iPhone 7 worked flawlessly though.
Under the hood is a revised version of the inline-four 2.0-liter TDI rated at 150 PS and 320 Nm mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. While the numbers may not exactly be stellar when compared to its competitors, the A4 does deliver respectable performance for the daily commute around town and occasional sprints when traffic opens up.
In case you're wondering, the engine is a new version of the one made infamous during VW's 'Dieselgate'. Domestically, however, there is no need for a defeat program here; our emissions standards were only recently upgraded to Euro-4, while the dieselgate scandal was intended to meet Euro-5 and 6.
In the handling department, the A4 manages corners from normal to slightly spirited driving quite well. Despite being fitted with 19-inch wheels and low profile tires, it seems to ride comfortably thanks to a well-tuned suspension. That's a testament to the attributes of the new MLBevo platform which underpins larger and more premium variants with the VW Group.
The 2017 Audi A4 delivers the right amount of dynamism and comfort for its class, it is equipped with premium amenities and some of the latest tech gear. However, the price may be a bit of a letdown at PhP 3,850,000 as you could already buy a larger car from competing premium brands.