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Audi’s Virtual Cockpit display gives the A4’s cabin a high-tech feel that’s almost unrivaled at this price point. Volkswagen is already rolling out a similar feature on two crossovers, but that only takes away a little of the feature’s appeal on our long-term Audi. When it comes to tech, our all-wheel-drive 2017 A4 2.0T gets a high grade overall, with just a couple exceptions.
The Virtual Cockpit is a well-executed, fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster display. Cool digital instrument clusters are offered by other brands, but if you want your new car to dazzle you, Audi’s system is worth considering for the way it combines an easy-to-customize functionality with a slick interface. On the A4, the tech is offered on the top Prestige trim, and I appreciate the various display options. If I’m looking at a map on the 8.3-inch infotainment screen, I can stretch audio info (and the album cover thumbnail image) across the instrument cluster’s screen, minimizing the speedometer and tachometer.
Or, after shrinking the tach and speedo, I can take full advantage of Audi’s use of Google Earth imagery. Sometimes, as a way to relax a little more on a congested drive home, I’ll watch the imagery of city streets and buildings turn to mountains and ocean as I use the steering wheel control to zoom out close to the system’s maximum, and the display is filled with an image of our planet as well as stars around it. Of course, this isn’t a practical way to use the technology, but if I wanted a practical car, I would have “purchased” a less expensive and more spacious Volkswagen Passat. The Virtual Cockpit can be useful by viewing navigation directions and audio info in the car’s more than 20 inches of cumulative screen space, but what makes it a cool luxury to me is that “look-at-how-insignificant-you-are” planet view with Google Earth satellite data. As this is written, Audi offers a six-month trial, after which a Connect Prime plan includes the Google Earth imagery and data, along with Inrix XD Traffic data and many other features such as a Curfew Alert and remote locking/unlocking. That plan is currently $199 for six months and $499 for 18 months, and if I wasn’t such a regular user of Apple CarPlay, I might consider paying those prices.
Like many new cars, the A4 includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard equipment, and I still find the tech very helpful. With Apple CarPlay, after plugging my phone into the car via one of the two USB outlets, I tell my phone I’m OK with connecting to the car and gain access to a few cool features shown on the car’s 8.3-inch infotainment screen. The voice-command text message system works well, plus there’s a crisp display for Spotify, Audible, and other audio services. Although Audi’s own navigation system is easy enough to use, for me, nothing beats quickly getting directions to a place even though I don’t know the address. As long as I know the name of the restaurant/store/hotel and the city, I’m set. With one voice command using a long press of a button on the steering wheel, my phone and the car’s voice-recognition system will usually understand what I want, and we’re off.
In future updates, I’ll share more on how the car drives and discuss the A4’s advanced suite of active safety tech.
Read more about our 2017 Audi A4 2.0T:
|2017 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$52,325|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.0L/252-hp/273-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,645 lb (56/44%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||186.1 x 72.5 x 56.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.0 sec @ 98.2 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||126 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.84 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.3 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||24/31/27 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||140/109 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.73 lb/mile|