Audi A4 Avant review
The popular Audi A4 Avant estate is stylish, practical and good to drive
Practical and stylish, the facelifted Audi A4 Avant is now the equal of its rivals, the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class. The latest model drives as well as it looks, thanks to a sharper chassis and strong engine line-up. There's a range of efficient and powerful diesel engines, from a torquey 2.0-litre TDI in the Ultra model that will return 64mpg to a smooth and powerful 3.0-litre V6. Residual values are excellent, and the A4 finished an impressive 36th in the latest Driver Power reliability survey.
Our choice: A4 Avant 2.0-litre TDI SE
Engines, performance and drive
The Audi A4 Avant has sharp, accurate steering, although S line cars have a very firm set-up and larger alloy wheels which harm the ride. The twin-clutch DSG gearbox is excellent and a worthwhile option, as is the Audi Drive Select (ADS) system, which allows you to optimise the power steering and adjust the dampers and sharpen throttle response. You get a choice of two petrol engines - a 1.8 TFSI and a 2.0-litre. The smaller unit is turbocharged and gives the A4 a surprising turn of speed, while the thirstier 2.0-litre sounds good and is genuinely rapid. Most buyers are likely to pick one of the excellent diesels. The torquey 2.0-litre TDI is punchy and smooth, while the V6 3.0-litre options are all, powerful and serious rivals for larger petrol motors. If you really must have a petrol engine the turbocharged 1.8 TFSI and 2.0-litre TFSI are both excellent engines but the entry-level 168bhp unit can feel sluggish. Audi also offers a 330bhp S4 Avant powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Strong residual values of around 50-60 per cent are some of the best in the class, while the late 2011 facelift includes stop-start and energy recuperation fitted to all cars. That means improvements to fuel economy averaging 11 per cent across the range. Best is the 2.0 TDI Ultra which claims 64.2mpg and 114g/km, which also offers strong performance at the same time. Even the high-powered 201bhp 3.0-litre V6 models are quite cheap to run, with front-wheel-drive models claiming 57.6mpg. However opt for the petrols and you can expect higher annual fuel bills - and servicing and parts bought from main dealerships can be pricy - as it can with any premium brand.
Interior, design and technology
The latest model shares its front-end styling with the A5 Coupe, complete with the neat LED lamps however these are only standard on sporty S line versions - the SE has to make do with more basic Halogen bulbs. While the styling of the new car closely mirrors that of its predecessor, the A4 is still a handsome and smart-looking motor. Seven-spoke alloy wheels come as standard, with another five variations available on the options list. Three trim levels are available – S, SE and S-Line. The latter adds sporty detail to the exterior and cabin like thicker bumpers and side sills, bigger alloys and lowered suspension. From behind the wheel the A4 is starting to look dated though and despite high quality materials and some minor tweaks to the trim on the steering wheel and centre console it does not feel as modern as the BMW 3 Series Touring.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Avant serves-up a reasonable but far from class-leading 1,430 litres of carrying capacity with the rear seats folded. However unlike its rival the BMW 3 Series Touring a powered tailgate is optional and you cannot open the rear screen separately from the rest of the boot. Rear space is good even for adult passengers and the boot lip is low and wide enough to make lugging heavy items around easier. An electronic parking brake and Multi Media Interface screen – both first seen on the larger A6 and A8 – are fitted as standard. Other hi-tech kit available includes lane assist, a reversing camera, electric handbrake and blind spot warning system.
Reliability and Safety
Thanks to a combination of six airbags and strong structure, the A4 managed to claim a five-star Euro NCAP rating for adult protection. All models feature ESP as standard, while options to consider are the hi-tech ‘Lane Assist’ and ‘Side Assist’ systems – the latter offering blind spot warning. The current-generation A4 finished an impressive 36th in our latest Driver Power reliability survey. Audi came seventh overall, and it's unlikely the facelifted A4 will tarnish the brand's reputation as it uses tweaked versions of the same engines as the