Seat Time – 2017 Audi A4 – How I Came To Hate Lane Keeping

August 11th, 2016 at 1:30pm

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Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: John McElroy
Vehicle: 2017 Audi A4
Price: From $37,300

Final Impression:

“What the hell is wrong with this car?” I asked myself. I was driving down the freeway at 70 miles an hour in a steady rain. And the car was wandering from one side of my lane to the other. It felt as if the steering gear had ground off half its teeth. The on-center feel was so vague that it felt like the steering wheel was loose.

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So I quickly went through a mental checklist. Could I be hydroplaning? No way, I thought. It wasn’t raining hard enough and I wasn’t driving fast enough. Besides, this was an Audi with Quattro—all wheel drive—and Audi’s are exceptionally good all-weather cars.

Could it be bad EPAS calibration? After all, as cars have migrated to electric power assisted steering, there’s been a long learning curve as engineers try to get them to behave like good old mechanical steering. And it’s obvious that some automakers are much better than others at calibrating EPAS. But I quickly crossed that thought off the list, too. We’re talking about Audi, I told myself, and there’s no way they got the calibration this bad.

And then it occurred to me. It had to be some sort of lane-keeping system, you know, those systems designed to automatically keep the car in between the lane markers. But while I’ve driven lots of cars with lane-keeping, I had never come across anything this aggressive. It kept adjusting the steering even when the car was tracking in a straight line.

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I quickly scanned the instrument panel to find a switch to turn it off. I couldn’t find a thing. Then I scanned the center console for a switch. Nothing. That’s when I gave up. I had to keep my eyes on the road instead of searching for a switch.

Later, back in the safety of my garage at home, I searched more thoroughly. I checked the bottom half of the instrument panel, especially to the left of the steering wheel, where most automakers put these kinds of switches. Nothing. I went through all the menus on the screen on the center console. Nothing. I looked in the glove box for an owners manual, always my move of last resort, but this car didn’t have a manual. Frustrated, I gave up.

The next day, a quick call to the helpful people at Audi’s public relations department quickly solved the problem. They confirmed that I was probably feeling the lane-keeping system and told me that I could turn it off with a button at the tip of the turn signal.

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Now, before you think I’m a complete idiot, I hasten to point out that the steering wheel blocks your view of the end of the turn signal stalk. I never saw it. But sure enough, once I knew where it was, it was easy to turn off.

And that cured everything. Suddenly I went from driving a car with a propensity to wander within its lane to a proper Audi that steered exactly the way I wanted it to. What a difference! From total frustration to driving bliss. All with the flick of a switch.

After that all I can report about this car is that it’s everything you’d expect from an Audi A4. Well-crafted, visually appealing, responsive, nimble, um, what else can I say? It’s the kind of car that will appeal to almost every upscale car buyer…except when it’s in lane-keeping mode.

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