2017 Audi A4 First Drive

— San Diego, California

Audi sweated the small stuff when redesigning the A4. You can see it by looking at an exterior view of the sedan, and tracing the path created by the shut-line of the hood. That precise cut – creating a wide, flat lid that looks more like custom coachbuilding than mass production when it’s raised – develops into a deep, straight shoulder line that crosses the doors, creases the fuel filler door, bleeds into the rear light clusters, and then integrates into the rear deck.

The understated piece of industrial design is more remarkable for the attention its execution required from the engineers. The elegant hood line necessitated an opening mechanism that is both complex and fascinating to watch, and no doubt took countless hours of engineering to bring to life.

All that attention to detail is visible if you’re compelled to look, up close. But from a 50-yard view the A4 has evolved conservatively from its previous generation. The three-box sedan wears a crisper suit of sheet metal now, wider and longer, but the headlights and the grille are perhaps the only immediate changes that a layman will see right away. This styling restraint is compelling when you consider what a runaway sales success the previous car was, but it does stand in stark relief versus the erotic approaches of brands like Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

2017 Audi A4

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