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Jorge Velez - Roman Birds Music Album Reviews

Inspired by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, this five-track ambient wonder finds the New York producer letting pulses and motifs overlap until the tracks resemble the inside of a lava lamp.
Jorge Velez has long been prolific, but that’s been especially true in the past few years. Like many underground electronic musicians, the New York producer has taken advantage of the internet’s self-publishing opportunities—in particular, the direct-to-fans platform Bandcamp—to sidestep label gatekeepers, streaming services, and crowded retailers. (Velez’s Bandcamp page currently numbers 26 releases.) Velez first gained recognition a dozen years ago with blippy disco derivatives for labels like Italians Do It Better, but his output has gradually become more esoteric and inward-looking. He’s still capable of ebullient club tracks, as last year’s excellent Forza attests, but many of his long, undulating machine jams sound like late-night missives to himself.



2018 Audi A4 Review

2018 Audi A4 Review
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The 2018 Audi A4 and Allroad are sophisticated luxury cars with few glaring faults—and lots of commendable features, particularly the high-tech Virtual Cockpit.

MSRP: From $36,975

Horsepower: 190 to 252 hp

MPG: Up to 27 city / 37 highway

Review continues below
Dimensions: 186″ L x 73″ W x 56″ H

Curb weight: 3,450 to 3,626 lbs

The 2018 Audi A4 returns for another year of its heated rivalry with German rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, with Jaguar and Cadillac and Infiniti now in the hunt.

The A4 lineup includes a compact sports sedan and an Allroad wagon that’s sold as a crossover SUV alternative.

The A4s are supplemented by the brand’s higher-performance S4 sedan and the A5/S5 coupes, which are covered elsewhere.

The A4, available in Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim levels, rates an 8.0 out of 10 on our scale. It has impressive technology, all-around competence, and a range of flexible powertrains.

For 2018, there’s not much new after last year’s full redesign. A new Black Optic Plus package sprinkles black and red trim inside and out and a few formerly optional features have been made standard on every trim level. Additionally, the lineup has been pared slightly to reduce the number of models available with front-wheel drive in favor of more all-wheel-drive variants.

Still conservatively styled, the A4 sedan isn’t especially eye-catching, but what’s there is good. The Allroad takes a more mountain-inspired approach with its slightly raised suspension and flared fenders

The cockpit is a little more adventurous, simple yet high-tech. Most variants boast a wide, high-resolution display for infotainment. Another screen can replace the gauge cluster. No rival delivers the same high level of technology—at least not yet.

All A4s draw power from a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4. A4 Ultras serve as the gateway to the brand with 190 horsepower, an impressive 37 mpg, a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, and front-wheel drive. The rest of the range includes a 252-hp version of the same engine and, depending on model, a choice between a 6-speed manual or the dual-clutch automatic, and newly standard all-wheel drive. Befitting their dirt road intentions, the Allroad models are exclusively offered with all-wheel drive.

Though they fall short of truly sporty—that’s where the S4 fits in—the A4 and Allroad are nonetheless polished and precise regardless of suspension setup. Standard, sport, and adaptive suspensions are all on offer, depending on a buyer’s needs and budget.

The latest A4 pushes the autonomous-driving envelope with a suite of extra-cost safety add-ons like adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a halt and start things up again and a warning system that will alert you if you’re about to open a door into oncoming traffic.

Though not especially adventurous, the Audi A4 is thoroughly modern and up-to-date outside and especially inside.

Audi’s evolutionary approach to styling hardly pushes the limits, but that seems to work with the A4. It boasts a crisp, almost minimalist look inside and out; we’ve awarded a single point for its clean exterior and two for the wonderful way its interior integrates high-tech without overwhelming.

The A4’s three-box shape is clean without being overly aggressive unless the optional S-Line appearance package is added into the mix with its unique bumper styling and larger wheels.

Inside, the A4 is sparse without feeling downmarket. Its horizontal dash and toggle-switch controls are easy to sort through at a fast glance. Audi’s “Virtual Cockpit” option replaces conventional analog gauges with a beautiful high-resolution screen. Tap a few steering wheel buttons and the display switches between several different screens that imitate real gauges or go fully high-tech with a lifelike Google Earth satellite map pointing the way forward.

The Allroad takes the Subaru Outback approach. It wears butch fender flares available in contrasting matte painted plastic, unique wheels, a taller ride height, and a toothier version of the base A4’s grille. It all works well enough to make the A4 Allroad something of a tonier off-roader, even though its four-wheeling chops are only marginally better than the sedan’s. Allroads differ inside only in some minor trim colors—and, of course, their cargo-swallowing trunks.

We’re smitten with the reasonably priced adaptive dampers that turn the 2018 Audi A4 into a proper sports sedan at the press of a button.

Audi offers several flavors of its 2018 A4. We’ve only spent time in the more powerful model, but it is polished, confident, and poised over any surface. Thanks to its good handling, its excellent ride, and the flexibility of its engine lineup, the A4 rates an 8 out of 10.

We haven’t yet driven the base A4 Ultra. It employs a 190-horsepower, 236 pound-feet of torque version of the automaker’s 2.0-liter turbo-4 and it’s only available with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and front-wheel drive. In addition to its lower price, the Ultra is also the thriftiest A4 in the lineup.

A 252-hp version of the turbo-4 is fitted to the rest of the range, including the A4 Allroad. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional on sedans; the Allroad is, only available with all-wheel drive and the 7-speed dual-clutch. If you’re a fan of shifting things yourself, you’ll have to go for an all-wheel-drive A4 with the 252-hp engine; no other model is available with a 6-speed stick.  

The 252-hp engine works well in the A4. Smooth and quiet, with only muffled rumble reaching the cabin, it is well-matched to the dual-clutch gearbox. There’s little of the low-speed confusion that’s often seen with these fast-shifting automatics. We’ve not yet driven an A4 with the 6-speed, but it’s a configuration few dealers are likely to stock. If you want one, you’ll probably need to place an order.

The A4’s stiff body allows for a compliant suspension in order to achieve commendable handling. Pop for the $1,000 adaptive suspension and you can either soften or stiffen things up at the press of a button. Electric power steering doesn’t deliver much feedback to the driver’s hands, but it is precise and firms up nicely at speed. Auto mode increases steering boost at low velocities and greater steering angles, a boon to urban driving.

On the road

Prominently positioned on the dashboard are a pair of switches to control the Audi Drive Select system. Pre-set modes let drivers work through comfort to sport configurations, but the Individual setting allows for the highest degree of customizability.

We’ve hustled A4s—in 252-hp, all-wheel-drive dual-clutch configurations with different suspension setups—through a variety of roads and have found them to be engaging if not as entertaining as, say, the Cadillac ATS. Still, every setup is balanced and comfortable, with little room for significant improvement.

For the most part, the Allroad behaves just like its sedan siblings. Its suspension is slightly softer to allow for more wheel travel, but only hard driving reveals a major difference. Though it boasts some off-road chops thanks to taller sidewalls and additional ground clearance you’ll want to leave serious off-roading to different vehicles. For the trek from Reno to Tahoe or Denver to Aspen, however, the Allroad handles things with aplomb.

Audi’s latest all-wheel-drive system is dubbed Quattro Ultra. Unlike its predecessor, which constantly sent power to all four corners, the new system decouples the clutch and only sends power to the rear wheels at certain times. If the system detects it needs grip, the clutch reengages in 200 milliseconds to shift power from the front to the back, up to 100 percent before frictional losses. Its action is transparent; power moves front-to-back seamlessly under normal driving conditions, and the wheels have good grip when you expect—and need—them to.

Comfort & Quality
Spacious and nicely finished, the Audi A4 is a standout inside.

Roomy and finished to a high standard, the 2018 Audi A4 delivers mid-size sedan space for a full complement of passengers.

Five adults fit well enough in the A4, but the choice seats are certainly up front. All models come standard with leather upholstery—a rarity in a segment where most come fitted with synthetic leather—and heated seats are newly standard for 2018 on every model. We’ve spent a lot of time up front in an A4 and have found its power-adjustable driver’s seat to be terrific at reducing road trip fatigue.

In the back, there’s enough width for three average adults to sit abreast for the first time ever in an A4; 6-foot passengers can sit behind other 6-footers in comfort. A big trunk in the sedan swallows a vacation’s worth of suitcases, but it’s the Allroad that excels in this department. Its wagon cargo bay holds 58.5 cubic feet of whatever you need with the rear seats folded down, and 24.2 cubic feet of stuff with the rear seats up.

As is the norm for Audi, the A4 and Allroad interiors reflect careful attention to detail. It’s not a dramatically styled interior like you’ll find in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but the Audi’s inner trappings are finished to a high standard and we love its gorgeous TFT displays.

Smart standard and optional safety features plus good crash test scores make the Audi A4 a very safe choice.

Even the base Audi A4 is loaded up with high-tech safety features, but a fully equipped model can nearly drive itself over long distances.

The A4 has earned the IIHS’ coveted Top Safety Pick award when fitted with optional LED headlights that bend with curves. The NHTSA gives the A4 five stars overall in its barrage of instrumented tests, but it notes four stars for frontal impact protection.

Every A4 starts off down the right path when it comes to collision-avoiding safety tech: standard low-speed forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, a full complement of airbags, stability control, and a rearview camera.

This year, Audi has made blind-spot monitor and rear automatic emergency braking standard on Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels of the A4 and Allroad, while the Prestige now includes adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality and automatic high beams standard.

Premium Plus and Prestige models even alert passengers if they open their doors into busy cross-traffic after parallel parking.

No Audi A4 lacks for features, but loaded models are as advanced as new cars get these days.

Starting at $36,975, the A4 range can tickle $60,000 with everything selected on an Allroad—but that money nets buyers one of the most sophisticated cars available at any price point.

The A4 lineup starts with Premium and makes its way through Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels, albeit with one caveat: the A4 Ultra is only available as a Premium or Premium Plus.

Premium variants are outfitted with standard leather and heated front seats, a 7.0-inch infotainment system, xenon headlights, a power moonroof, three-zone automatic climate control, low-speed automatic emergency braking, and streaming Bluetooth audio. For 2018, they’ve also gained as standard an S line appearance package that delivers a slightly sportier look, albeit without any additional go.

Premium Plus models swap in LED headlights, Bang & Olufsen audio with a staggering 19 speakers (count ‘em all!), rear automatic emergency braking, and keyless ignition with a hands-free trunk release that requires only the kick of a foot under the rear bumper.

The Prestige models top the lineup with Audi’s “Virtual Cockpit,” a 12.3-inch screen that replaces conventional gauges, navigation with an 8.3-inch display screen, adaptive cruise control, acoustic glass, a head-up display, and a surround-view camera system.

Fans of the manual gearbox should appreciate Audi’s commitment to making a 6-speed stick available on all three trim levels when the more powerful 4-cylinder engine is selected.

Allroads essentially mirror A4 sedans—except that they’re all fitted with the 252-hp engine and the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.

You’ll want to take your time to walk through the A4’s numerous options packages, but some highlights include the Technology Package that’s standard on the Prestige and optional on the Premium Plus. It features navigation, the “Virtual Cockpit,” and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication that lets the Audi talk to traffic nerve centers in select cities for information like when signals are about to change.

A Sport Package lowers the suspension by nearly an inch and firms things up. It also includes form-fitting, well-bolstered seats up front.

Pop for the 8.3-inch Multi-Media Interface (MMI) and you’ll find an 8.3-inch screen with navigation controlled by your choice of voice commands, a console-mounted knob, or a laptop-esque touchpad that can read your handwriting. Though there are sometimes several layers of menus to work through for more obscure functions, MMI is highly intuitive given its complexity.

Finally, Audi will gladly paint your A4 or Allroad any color you’d like—for a nearly $4,000 upcharge. What better way to treat yourself than to match your new Allroad to your favorite sweater?

Fuel Economy
The Audi A4 Ultra is the real gas saver here, but all A4s and Allroads are fairly thrifty.

All versions of the Audi A4 and Allroad are among the best in their class when it comes to sipping fuel, especially given that most models are all-wheel drive.

The most popular variant—an A4 Quattro with the dual-clutch transmission—is rated at 24 mpg city, 34 highway, 27 combined, enough to score a 7 out of 10 on our scale.

Pick the manual transmission and things don’t change much: 24/33/27 mpg.

The 2018 A4 Ultra is rated at an impressive 27/37/31 mpg, and the high-riding Allroad is predictably the lowest at 22/30/25 mpg.

All versions of the A4 feature automatic start/stop to save fuel in traffic, while Audi’s latest all-wheel-drive system reduces consumption by operating in front-wheel-drive mode most of the time.


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