Audi moved the A4 to the VW Group's second-generation MLB platform toolkit. Increased use of aluminum and lighter components in the five-link front and rear suspensions cut 99 pounds on front-wheel-drive models and 66 pounds on all-wheel-drive models, Audi says.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine revamped to produce 15 percent more horsepower and 6 percent more torque than the outgoing A4's base 2.0-liter mill. It's also more powerful than the BMW 328i and Mercedes-Benz C300.
Switching platforms allowed Audi to ditch the continuously variable transmission used on fwd versions of the outgoing A4 and use a new, fast-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission for both awd and fwd A4s.
"If you look at top purchase reasons, fun-to-drive is going to be in the top two for this segment, for sure," said Filip Brabec, director of product management at Audi of America. "We did a lot in the suspension tuning to hit just the right balance for that segment."
Buyers may have a tough time discerning the subtle differences in sheet metal between the redesigned A4 and its predecessor. The starkest differences are in the interior. Leather seats are standard, as are LED ambient lights along the doors and dashboard. The design emphasizes driver-oriented controls and an airy, horizontal layout.
"We wanted to be able to design to support this and show the customer that the car got lighter," said Ruediger Mueller, senior manager of interior design architecture at Audi AG.
Audi also simplified its MMI infotainment system by reducing the number of prompts and commands needed to operate the interface. An available upgraded system replaces the standard control wheel with a touch pad that can be used to draw letters for entering search words or addresses.
Audi's "virtual cockpit" is optional. The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, powered by an Nvidia processor, replaces analog gauges with high-resolution digital ones.
Keogh says Audi will build out the A4 lineup after the volume sedan launches next month. A high-performance S4 will come to the U.S. market with a V-6 engine and eight-speed dual-clutch transmission from ZF Friedrichschafen AG. The A4 Allroad arrives this fall.
Brabec says Audi is working on a business case to bring the RS4 Avant stateside but says U.S. plans are still undetermined.