At first glance, the 2017 Audi A4 looks remarkably similar to the outgoing car. But as we’ve come to expect of Audi, and in particular of the A4, its best-selling model ever, there’s considerably more news inside the cabin and under the skin than immediately meets the eye. The ninth-generation A4 has more power, a new transmission, a lighter body, and numerous advanced safety features, plus the availability of Audi’s customizable digital instrument panel.

Audi’s sweet-and-smooth 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine has been reworked to produce 252 hp and 273 lb.-ft. of torque, up from 220 and 258, respectively. But instead of the previous pairing of front-drive cars with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and all-wheel-drive versions with an eight-speed automatic, all 2017 Audi A4s will come with the same transmission, a seven-speed dual-clutch setup.

Audi claims the A4’s handling has been improved thanks to a redesigned front suspension system, along with “significant weights savings” due to a new, lighter body and aluminum suspension components. The car’s standard Audi Drive Select system lets you adjust parameters for transmission shift points and the steering response, as well as for the adjustable suspension and adaptive cruise control, if the car is so optioned.

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2017 Audi A4 interior

We’ve complained of the A4’s tight rear seating in the past, and to this Audi says the new car has better rear legroom along with increased shoulder and headroom up front, although specific dimensions and increases weren’t available. A new option for the A4 is a 12.3-inch customizable instrument panel, previously seen on the TT and the 2017 Q7, which can display a large navigation screen in between traditional-looking gauges in the interest of keeping the driver’s eyes on the road.

There’s still a seven-inch standard or 8.3-inch optional infotainment display on top of the central dash, as well as the option of a full-color head-up display on the windshield.

Of course there’s a slew of driver-assistance systems available, including traffic-sign recognition to warn the driver of speed limits, no passing zones, and school zones; an exit assist to warn of a vehicle or cyclist approaching from the rear as you open a door; and a triple-play adaptive cruise control with the ability to control acceleration, braking, and steering below 38 mph.  

2017 Audi A4 rear driving

We’ll definitely be looking forward to feeling the thrust of the A4’s higher-output engine, but we’re also keen to see how much extra space the cabin provides and if the interior controls are easier to decipher.

The 2017 Audi A4 goes on sale in the spring at a starting price of $37,300 for the front-drive Premium model, a $1,400 increase over last year’s base car. All-wheel drive starts at $39,400 with the Prestige Quattro topping the lineup at $48,000.