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The Audi A4 isn't the most exciting car to emerge from the storied halls of Ingolstadt. This is the kind of thing that can happen when your line-up has included a bona fide supercar, as well as a smattering of high-powered sedans and wagons that are nearly as fast.

The Audi pecking order has not changed with the introduction of the all-new, fifth-generation A4. This car, officially unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, continues to be a vital cog in the Audi system.

But for a volume seller, the Audi A4 is an inspired proposition –underneath a decidedly conservative shell beats the heart of a technological tour de force.

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First: the engineering.

The first new A4 headed to Canada (early next year) features a reworked version of the familiar turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, revised to generate more useable torque and better fuel-efficiency. In other markets, there is a 190-hp version tuned for greater fuel savings; our A4, a 252-hp take, is significantly more engaging. In fact, while purists may choose to wait for the inevitable S4 and (possible) RS4 variants of the A4, they shouldn't – this iteration is quick enough for virtually any scenario.

To secure the sedan's performance credentials, there is a dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters and the quattro AWD system. When combined with the optional adaptive damping system, the AWD A4 proved tenacious coming into and powering out of corners. The steering is too light, a common trait in Audi vehicles, but the car was otherwise a willing accomplice on the country roads north of Venice.

While the driving dynamics are credible, the most impressive aspect of the A4 is the look and feel of the passenger cabin. The materials are first-rate, from our test version's leather seats to its genuine wood trim pieces, which were painted a menacing black. The racy steering wheel, optional TFT instrument panel, revised shift lever, and touch-sensitive climate control switches all evoke a high-quality vibe. To top it off, the aerodynamically slick exterior has slashed wind noise, forcing a hush to fall over the proceedings.

All told, the 2017 Audi A4 2.0 TFSI Quattro is a compelling vehicle. It's bigger than before, lighter than before, more powerful and more technologically advanced. There's only one caveat – pricing has yet to be announced. The current model starts at $42,800; if the new version is within a few grand of that figure, it's a good deal.

You'll like this car if ... You're an Audi addict looking for your next fix.

TECH SPECS

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  • Base price: TBD
  • Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder
  • Transmission/Drive: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic/all-wheel drive
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): NA
  • Alternatives: Acura TLX, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, Infiniti QX50, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class

RATINGS

  • Looks: The new A4 bears a close resemblance to the previous A4, not a particularly ambitious approach from the design team. But the A4 needs to sell in big numbers, so taking big risks would be unwise.
  • Interior: The passenger cabin is more spacious than before with increased headroom in the front and legroom in the back. It’s also downright luxurious – materials used in the A4 wouldn’t look or feel out of place on an executive sedan costing twice as much.
  • Performance: The turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder is fantastic: 252 horsepower and, more importantly, 273 lb-ft of torque from as low as 1,600 rpm, an impressive ground floor for a turbo engine. The dual-clutch automatic is well sorted and responsive.
  • Technology: The optional 12.3-inch TFT screen, also seen on the brand-new Q7 and TT, is cool, and presents information in a clear, vibrant fashion. The image from the rearview camera, projected onto the screen above the centre stack, is similarly crisp.
  • Cargo: The act of opening the trunk on the new A4 is like a magician pulling back the curtain to reveal the missing assistant: The space is so cavernous, it appears to vanish into the shadows created by back seat.

The Verdict

8.0

Were the silhouette bolder, the new A4 would strike terror in the hearts of its competitors.

The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

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