2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4: An insider’s perspective

On January 20th, 2016 / By

2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4 - An insider's perspective

2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4: an insider’s perspective

Introducing the all new 2017 Audi A4

Less than one month ago, the calendar turned from 2015 to 2016. But due to the particularities of the automotive industry, the production, promotion, and release of manufacturers’ 2017 fleets are already underway. Last month, we saw the unveiling of the 2017 Audi Q7 and R8 V10 Plus. Now the German automaker has introduced the 2017 Audi A4.

The major automotive publications have begun to weigh in on the vehicle, and the initial assessments of Audi’s biggest seller (12 million vehicles over the course of nine generations) have been positive. Car & Driver claims that the A4 “is very good, and it’s poised to be a real threat to BMW’s just-facelifted 3-series, Jaguar’s new XE, and the Mercedes-Benz C-class”; and MotorTrend cuts straight to the pith, stating that the new A4 is “pretty dang exceptional.” Likewise, CNET found the vehicle “deeply impressive.” If you’re interested in additional reviews (all of which offer positive critiques of the car), check out the overviews at Consumer Reports, Kelley Blue Book, and Edmunds.

2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4: Exterior – “Same Old, Same Old”?

2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4 - 2017 Audi A4 Broadside

What most of the reviews state up front is how remarkably similar the 2017 Audi A4 looks, at first blush, to the 2016 Audi A4. Although, MotorTrend does acknowledge that, at very least, “Über-nerds will notice plenty of subtle tweaks that differentiate the new car from the old one.” Are you curious about the “subtle tweaks” that only an “über-nerd” would notice? Well, luckily for you, CNET’s reviewers are “über-nerds” and will happily inform you:

It has a sharper face this time through, owing to its less rounded six-point grille, better-integrated bumper strike face and smaller, more angular headlamps. Along the bodyside, the A4’s belt-line crease is more deeply defined, and this time, it neatly defines the edge of the hood, which is more clamshell-like than before. The other prominent profile change is that the sideview mirrors are now door-mounted for better aerodynamics — another incremental but important development. Out back, the song remains the same, with new tail lamps that echo the more angular theme.

Perhaps that’s not too much of a change; but any aesthetic similarities the two model years exhibit belie the fact that, as MotorTrend points out, “90 percent of the A4 is all-new.” But if the models appear to look the same on the outside, where and how are they different?

2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4 - 2017 Audi A4 Rear three-quarter view

2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4: Platform – The new MLB EVO

The answer to this question begins with the platform on which designers built the new A4: the MLB evo. If you’re anything like me, though, you’re probably thinking “What the hell is the MLB evo?” and “What the heck is it replacing”? To answer these queries, I figured it would be best to go straight to the source, as the wee lads say; the source, in this case, is Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg. Hackenberg is Audi’s head of technical development and the inventor of the MLB evo.

The history of the MLB evo starts in the early 1990s when Hackenberg first began working at Audi. At that time, the A4 needed to be shortened. In order to do so, Hackenberg developed the prototype for the MLB (i.e. modular longitudinal matrix) on which the car would be built; in doing so, he created a scalable platform so that the larger A6 could be constructed on top of it as well, reducing production costs.

In 1998, Hacknebrg left Audi to work for Volkswagen, and the production processes of the A4 and A6 once again diverged. Hackenberg returned to Audi in 2003 and reimplemented the idea of a scalable platform, in addition to introducing innovations that he developed while working at VW. At this point, the platform received the “official” MLB name. Hackenberg further explains:

First we defined a driveline and then built the bodyshell structure around it in a way that enabled platform dimensions to be derived here, too. We incorporated the wheels into the flexible matrix and made the platform scalable in height so that we could also realize a Q model.

However, we didn’t just establish the architecture and the technology modules of our vehicles within the MLB, but also the architecture of the factories we build them in. This addresses things like joint sequencing, jointing technology and materials parameters in bodyshell manufacturing as well as assembly sequencing. Our aim was to establish a production hub between the A4 and the A6 and between Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm.

What’s fascinating about the full integration of the MLB platform into Audi’s production process is that it not only connected different car models, but it encouraged the manufacturer to rethink the structure of its entire company, fusing different manufacturing locations in a manner that theretofore had been untenable.

Soon thereafter, Audi introduced the MQB, in which “an electric car [could] follow a gas model, which, in turn, [could] follow a diesel vehicle” on the production line. Then, the transition from MLB to MQB gave way to the MLB evo, which allows the manufacturer to add “electrified drives to the classic internal combustion engines, the TDI and the TFSI.” Moreover, Hackenberg notes:

In general, we make all technologies suitable for the various different segments, even if we don’t necessarily have to use them everywhere – it can very well be that one BEV in the C segment is enough. Depending on how the market accepts the car, we are free to adapt its factory volumes. In this respect, we have far more flexibility than one of our competitors, which builds its electric models within a completely new structure.

To this extent, Audi can pick and choose features it would like to add to a vehicle, depending on market demands and governmental restrictions. And the integration is no longer just between the A4 and A6. The new MLB evo platform allows for a fully integrated fleet, including the Q series. In fact, Hackenberg boasts that:

The MLB evo covers all the models from the B, C and D segments as well as the larger Q models. More than 60 percent of all Audis sold are based on longitudinal engine concepts. Once it’s fully rolled out, we’ll be building more than 1.2 million vehicles per year on the MLB evo. That’s not including other group brands using the matrix.

This scalability, then, makes for a more dynamic and cost-effective production cycle. Below are diagrams of the MLB, MQB, and MLB evo, respectively. Click on the images for larger views:

 

2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4 - MLB Platform 2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4 - MBQ Platform 2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4 - MLB EVO Platform

 

As outlined in Hackenberg’s interview, the differences of the platforms are as follows:

MLB: Developed by Prof. Dr. Hackenberg, the firstgeneration modular longitudinal matrix started in 2007 with the Audi A5, followed by the A4, A6, A7 Sportback, A8, Q5 and Q7 as well as the Porsche Macan. An important technical feature was the new arrangement of the clutch and torque converter behind the differential, resulting in a longer wheelbase.

MQB: Production of the new Audi A3 began in 2012, with the TT debuting in 2014. Both model ranges use the modular transverse matrix that Prof. Dr. Hackenberg conceived for many of the Volkswagen Group’s models and brands. Cars like the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron (pictured), with its plug-in hybrid drive, demonstrate the versatility of the MQB, while the TTS shows its dynamic potential.

MLB evo: The second generation of the modular longitudinal matrix is set to continue the success story. Its first user was the new Audi Q7, now followed by the new A4. The strengths of the MLB evo include the extremely wide bandwidth of drive concepts, the multi-material bodyshell designs and the flexible architecture for operation and display, infotainment and driver assistance systems.

2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4: So What’s New?

The question, then, becomes: What does this all have to do with the new 2017 A4? Well, it means that the vehicle contains all the components afforded to other new releases. For example, the 2017 A4 will be outfitted with Audi’s new Virtual Cockpit, which I have already written about extensively.
2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4 - 2017 Audi A4 instrumentation
Furthermore, the full arsenal of driver’s assistance technology that I wrote about for the 2017 Q7’s release will also be available in the A4. As a refresher, those technologies include such features as adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, self parking, traffic-jam assist, turn assist, exit assist, Audi Connect, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a soon-to-be-released smartwatch interface. You get the picture: the digital bells and whistles are extensive.

If that’s not enough difference for you, the 2017 A4 will be 265 pounds lighter than the 2016 version, making it one of the lightest vehicle in its class. Additionally, Audi will offer the consumer multiple engine options, such as: three 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines, a TFSI gasoline engine with either 190-hp/236-lb-ft or 252-hp/273-lb-ft iterations, and a TDI diesel with 190 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.

And remember how, at the beginning of this overview, I mentioned that the outside of the car looks remarkably similar to last year’s model? While that may be true, the inside of the 2017 version has critics raving. Car & Driver says:

Perhaps the coolest thing about the A4: The futuristic interior is actually retro. The full-width air vents are lifted straight from the C2-generation Audi 100/5000, a big seller for the company in the late 1970s. And the automatic air conditioning—with its touch-sensitive, metallic buttons—is designed to call to mind 1970s aftermarket car-stereo systems.

2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4 - 2017 Audi A4 dash and console

And MotorTrend agrees:

The A4’s interior is a big step forward. A decade ago, Audi ruled the roost when it came time to talk about overall cabin excellence. Since then other OEMs (and Mercedes in particular) have made huge strides…However, the A4 is lovely inside and…I thought the white leather seats with dark contrast stitching were a particularly pretty highlight in the blue test car I drove. They feel nice, too.

So, rest assured, when you’re actually inside of a 2017 Audi A4, you will certainly notice the difference between model years.

The A4 sedan will be the first version released to market and will be offered at three levels: premium, premium plus, and prestige. The sedan will be followed by an all-road quattro; an S4 version, equipped with a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6, will hit dealerships later in the year. Rumors, as of now unconfirmed, suggest an RS4 might also be available in the U.S. at some point as well.

2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4:  Prestige Imports

Whether you are interested in the 2016 or the 2017, get your new Audi A4 at Prestige Imports

If you’d like to find out more about the 2017 Audi A4 vs 2016 Audi A4, please call Prestige Imports at (833) 825-5423 to speak with an Audi Brand Specialist. You can also stop by the dealership, which is located at 9201 West Colfax Avenue between Wadsworth and Kipling.

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