You might need to take a second glance if you see the 2016 Audi A4 glide by. But while the German maker has opted for a relatively subtle and evolutionary exterior update, this all-new model delivers a number of more revolutionary changes.
Despite growing longer and wider, the 2016 Audi A4 is as much as 265 pounds lighter than the outgoing sedan. And it offers a variety of new technologies, including an updated infotainment interface that will recognize your handwriting as well as your voice.
With a variety of new four- and six-cylinder gas and diesel engine options, the fifth-generation Audi A4 will make its official debut a few months from now at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Some might question Audi’s strategy for the design of the 2016 A4, especially when one considers the increasingly tough competition in the compact luxury segment. The luxury arm of Volkswagen AG appears to be playing it safe, focusing more on technology and fuel economy, rather than trying to set off on a new styling track.
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Though it might look much the same, Audi claims the exterior is much more aerodynamic with a drag coefficient as low as 0.23 for its most fuel-efficient model, which will be offered in some markets with a modest 1.4-liter gas engine.
Sharing the same underlying MLB platform as some of the Volkswagen brand’s newest models, the 2016 Audi A4 undergoes a number of changes meant to reduce mass including the much more extensive use of aluminum, especially in the front end. Depending on the version, weight drops by as much as 265 pounds. That should translate into a noticeable improvement in fuel economy even though the overall length of the 2016 A4 sedan grows to 15.5 feet on a 9.3-foot wheelbase.
There are some other subtle exterior tweaks, including new LED headlamps.
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Once you get a closer look at the 2016 Audi A4 you’ll start to see where some of the biggest changes have been made. For one thing, the driver now has a 12.3-inch LCD display rather than conventional gauges, a system borrowed from the recently updated Audi TT. It’s a reconfigurable system so a motorist can choose a relatively conventional layout, opt to have virtually the entire screen display a navigation map, or opt for something in-between.
Lifting an idea from Acura, meanwhile, the new Audi A4 adds a third screen in the center, on top of the conventional display used for navigation and infotainment duties. Connecting to the Internet is faster than before thanks to a 4G LTE system like the one that debuted last year in the updated Audi A3.
But it’s the interface that Audi hopes will really change the game. The new MMI Navigation Plus promises improved speech recognition by allowing more conversational commands, such as “Dial Peter Miller.” It also adds the ability to recognize handwriting on the touchpad for, say, someone entering an address into the navi.
The 2016 Audi A4 will offer wireless phone charging – and integrates both the new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems.
Initially, Audi will deliver seven engines worldwide, including three gas and four diesels. That includes a 248-horsepower turbo 2.0-liter that will be one of the options for the U.S. market.
Audi claims the new A4 makes a significant leap in terms of steering and handling thanks, in part, to an updated five-link suspension and new electromechanical power steering. There’s also an optional dynamic steering system which will automatically adjust shock stiffness and steering ratio.
Initially, Audi will offer both the sedan and wagon A4 body styles – though it has not outlined specific U.S. plans for the two-box design. Expect to see a number of A4 spin-offs to follow, including the S4 and RS4 performance models, an Allroad version and a coupe that will be labeled the next Audi A5.
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