After winning its first comparison against the Mercedes-Benz C300, we took the Audi A4 out for a bit of a road trip, where we played around with the Audi Virtual Cockpit and MMI infotainment system.
The short road trip was also a chance to finally stretch the A4’s legs and see what kind of mileage numbers we could put up when taking a more leisurely highway cruise. Granted, it was still a cold day at the tail end of winter and on winter tires, so we couldn’t quite break the 30-mpg barrier, but the return leg was much warmer and the car was returning an impressive 29.8 mpg (so close!). It’s nice to see the efficiency because the A4 2.0T does require premium fuel, so it’s always a relief to see the better mileage.
SEE MORE: 2017 Audi A4 Long-Term Test Update 1
Meanwhile, inside the cabin, we enjoyed the various functions of Virtual Cockpit and MMI. Virtual Cockpit is the digital gauge cluster behind the steering wheel, while MMI is the Multi-Media Interface that can be accessed via the Virtual Cockpit or the console controls and central display. Since our A4 is not equipped with a data subscription, we usually opt for Google Maps for the commute into work over the native mapping or Apple CarPlay (Apple Maps essentially sucks, so I don’t bother with that), it was a nice chance to use the navigation, entering the ski resort’s name in the Destination menu using the handwriting recognition function on the top of the control knob on the console. The route guidance was on point and able to display navigation instructions in the gauge cluster, head-up display (definitely my favorite) or central dash-mounted screen.
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One of the drawbacks in the A4 and other two-screen Audis is that the full capabilities of the MMI are not available through Virtual Cockpit, so, for example, you can pick favorites from the navigation menu, but you could not enter a destination. The Virtual Cockpit and the fingertip controls on the steering wheel remain my method of choice for flipping between radio stations, but I got a geeky thrill out of using handwriting recognition, so that became my go-to method to quickly narrow down the search list for contacts I wanted to call.
To see the full array of menus and functions of Virtual Cockpit and MMI, check out the video above. After a few months in the car, I found the system intuitive and incredibly responsive, and my one main criticism is that because a few choice functions are not available in the Virtual Cockpit, more an more often I tended to gravitate to using the console knob and dash-mounted display to control even basic tasks for audio and phone, when I should have been keeping my hands on the wheel and using Virtual cockpit.