Audi A4 Avant road test and review
SO WHAT does triple world surf champ Mick Fanning take to work each morning?
Well, you didn't expect it to be a battered old Kombi or Valiant Safari did you? The shark brawling wave master needs somewhere to sling the boards of course, but doesn't mind the luxury of a sure-footed and quick Euro with all the trimmings. Audi's A4 Avant (its word for wagon) seems to suit our Mick.
Just hope he towels off before sitting on that leather.
Audi's new A4 sedan launched to much acclaim in March, and now the more practical Avant has arrived in shapely fashion.
I have a huge soft spot for European wagons, but even through my bias it's easy to see there's much to gain and not a lot to lose by going the Avant when A4 shopping.
The Avant's weight gain, higher fuel usage and slower 0-100kmh sprint times are as good as negligible, so your main concern is the price. A4 wagons cost you $3000 more than the four-door sedans, but for that you gain a larger and more practical boot space and, in my eyes at least, a more attractive automobile.
The new Avant is lower, longer, wider and roomier inside than its predecessor, is 70kg lighter and, Audi says, is the most advanced car they've ever offered, flush with kit and tech typical of a car in the segment or two above.
You've less powertrain choice with the Avant compared to the sedan, with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol in 140kW or 185kW guise all that's on offer. We tested the entry-level 2.0 TFSI which will set you back $63,900.
Leather as standard ensures the cabin lives up to typical Audi levels: beautifully laid out, cossetingly comfortable and effortless class.
Ours featured the optional Technik package for $2100 which really is a must as it brings Audi's virtual cockpit, a fully digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel with 12.3-inch hi-res colour display that is truly class leading.
The new model's efforts to create greater interior space has been rewarded by the A4 Avant offering best shoulder space and headroom in its class. Three adults across the back is possible, but is ideal for a couple of kids.
If you want to spoil them, optional rear seat entertainment means detachable tablet screens ($2000 for one, $3600 for two) offering personal movies, internet, maps or trip information. Looks good value if you're in to peaceful, undisturbed long family trips.
On the road
Typical driving duties of an A4 Avant will be town and highway, so the 140kW version we tested offered sufficient shove. 320Nm of torque from a low 1450rpm ensures every squeeze of the throttle is met with decent response, but you'll need to get in the 185kW quattro for more grin-inducing performance.
Despite drive going through the front wheels (rather than the quattro's all wheel drive) the Avant remains sure-footed even under full throttle on wet roads, its safety systems mopping up problems with barely a flutter.
The engine could sound a tad fruitier, and feedback isn't on a par with BMW's rear drive 3 Series, but with optional ($1700) adaptive comfort suspension fitted, the Audi delivers what it promises: a quiet, sure-footed comfortable drive ideal for family duties.
What do you get?
Generosity abounds. The non-quattro scores leather seating, 18-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights, 8.3-inch screen with navigation, MMI touch and DVD player, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 7-inch hi-res info screen behind the steering wheel, tri-zone climate, DAB+, convenience key and hands-free opening and closing tailgate.
Included safety gear means autonomous emergency braking, exit warning (which prevents you opening your door into cyclists), blind spot warning, rear view camera and innovative Audi pre-sense rear, which warns traffic behind if they are at risk of running into you by flashing the rear lights. Top spec quattros get 19-inch rims, Sport suspension and improved audio.
Love a German wagon? Also sample the BMW 320i Touring ($65,300), Mercedes C200 Estate ($63,400) or all-wheel-drive Mercedes CLA250 Sport Shooting Brake ($66,400). Don't discount the Volvo V60 T5 R-Design Wagon ($63,990), or if you fancy saving some coin the VW Passat 140TDI Highline ($47,990) or Skoda Octavia RS Wagon ($39,090) are damn fine cars for a lot less money.
Wagons are winners in terms of low down load space and cargo volume. To directly compare to a wagon's nemesis - the SUV - Audi's own Q5 ($63,210) has only fractionally more boot room than the A4 Avant. The wagon boasts 505 litres (best in segment amongst its competition) to the Q5's 540 litres, and even with rear seats folded it's close: 1510 and 1560 litres respectively.
It seems Audi has borrowed from VW Group's Skoda wagons for some "simply clever" touches, such as the carpeted boot floor able to be turned over to give a hard waterproof surface for mucky gear, while a boot rails system with load securing partitions the cargo area superbly, albeit for a $350 price.
Wave your foot under the rear bumper and the tailgate auto opens and closes (very handy with an armful of shopping or children), and while fuel economy figures can't compete with diesel offerings, a best-in-class 5.6-litres/100km in the entry Avant is still superb. Our test drive returned an impressive 6.5-litres/100km, even after enthusiastic driving.
Wagons aren't for the old duffers anymore. German wagons like the A4 Avant suggest a sporty, active lifestyle rather than dull dad sensibleness. Sharp lights, air inlets and structural lines give an edgy modern style, and Avants look even better with roof bars for the triathlon bike or surf ski attached, or option the S line sport package (from $3200) for a bad boy family man look.
The new A4 has already earned its stripes as an excellent family sedan, but for an extra $3000 the Avant is almost a no-brainer choice for the family with its smart rear space and delightful style.
Standard inclusions are generous for the asking price, and the quality and luxury in the A4 Avant is such that it always feels very good value. It's hard not to tick some of the tasty cost options however, but choose wisely and you'll secure yourself a quite brilliant all-round family car.
What matters most
What we liked: Beautiful body design, excellent cabin comfort and layout, practicality, smart safety, tech and storage features (albeit many as cost options).
What we'd like to see: The brilliant Virtual Cockpit ($2100) to come as standard; same engine line-up as the A4 sedan to give cheaper entry point and a diesel option; a fruitier exhaust note.
Warranty and servicing: 3-year/100,000km warranty. A servicing plan is available for three years or 45,000km for $1620. Servicing is every 15,000km or 12 months.
Model: Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI Sport and 2.0 TFSI quattro Sport.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive premium small wagon.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol generating maximum power of 140kW @ 4200rpm and peak torque of 320Nm @ 1450rpm (TFSI); or 185kW @ 5000rpm and 370Nm @ 1600rpm (TFSI quattro).
Transmission: 7-speed S tronic automatic.
Consumption: 5.6-litres/100km (TFSI); 6.6-litres/100km (TFSI quattro).
Performance 0-100kmh: 7.5 seconds (TFSI); 6.0 seconds (TFSI quattro).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $63,900 (TFSI); $72,900 (TFSI quattro).