Audi A4 Avant review
The Audi A4 Avant estate is everything you'd expect it to be: it's a more practical version of the classy and refined A4 saloon
The Audi A4 has long sat near the top of the executive car tree, beside rivals like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Jaguar XE. The Avant estate has always been held in similar esteem, taking everything that is great about the saloon but offering more versatility for a growing family.
The A4 Avant trims mirror the saloon, so SE, Sport and S line models are available, while S4 and RS4 models will join the range at a later date. Engines kick off with a 148bhp 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine, with company car drivers likely to favour the entry-level 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel. Those after a bit more performance should try the 187bhp version of the same engine.
There’s a pair of higher-powered petrols of 2.0-litre capacity, as well as two 3.0-litre TDI diesels. There's also the S4 warm estate, which uses a 349bhp 3.0-litre turbocharged V6, and topping the range from 2018 is the RS 4, with a 444bhp 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 replacing the old naturally aspirated V8.
As with all Audis, certain versions are available with quattro all-wheel drive, as well as a choice of six-speed manual and automatic gearboxes. Soon, Audi’s new part-time quattro system will be implemented on the A4 and A4 Avant – improving fuel economy and lowering running costs. Those after actual off-road ability should look towards the A4 Allroad, with its raised ride height, rugged body cladding and permanent four-wheel drive system.
For many, the Audi A4 Avant is a more compelling overall package than the saloon. The sober yet classy looks aren't sacrificed, it's largely identical to drive, and the spacious and beautifully built interior still features. Yet the Avant adds a welcome does of practicality and versatility into the mix.
Audi's smallest estate is refined and composed on the road, although it trails the BMW 3 Series and (saloon-only) Jaguar XE for outright dynamic ability. There’s a wide range of engines, though, offering something for everyone – from cost-conscious company car drivers, to speed freaks and everyone in between.
It’s most comfortable in entry-level trim on the smaller wheels, but the added power of the mid-range diesel will come in handy if you ever load it to the brim. The A4 Allroad also exists for those who demand a modicum of off-road ability, while the S4 makes for an extremely subtle fast petrol estate. The RS 4 offers sports car performance, yet is less compromised to own and use every day than its predecessor.
Engines, performance and drive
The Audi A4 has been a well-mannered and predictable car to drive for years. Its front or four-wheel drive chassis falls short of rear-wheel class-leaders like the BMW 3 Series in terms of handling, but its sure-footed nature will suit many buyers down to the ground.
Around town, both front and four-wheel drive versions are easy to manoeuvre thanks to the punchy engines and light steering. The Avant is no worse off, and thanks to a large glass area, feels no more cumbersome in tight city streets.
On the open road the light, feel-free steering means it isn’t as much fun to drive as a Jaguar XE – though it’s worth noting that the Jag isn’t currently available as an estate. Its front-wheel drive chassis majors on composure over fun, however, while quattro all-wheel drive models get loads of grip.
All this suits the A4 when it’s employed as a motorway mile-muncher. It’s a perfect companion for high mileage drivers who spend a lot of time driving the length and breadth of Britain. On standard dampers the car’s ride is smooth and easy-going, while the adaptive set-up allows drivers to tune their car to make it feel sportier or suppler as required.
Ultimate ride comfort comes in the form of the A4 Allroad, however, which sacrifices some body control to offer a softness that's almost unrivalled in his sector. It's a welcome addition, especially as its full-time four-wheel drive system (petrol models get a new, more efficient part-time syetm) offers some genuine ability in the rough stuff and makes it a strong alternative to an SUV.
The S4 offers strong pace and a fruity soundtrack, but the handling isn't much different from an S-Line spec A4, so those looking for an entertaining drive are better off looking elsewhere. The RS 4 is an altogether more serious performance car, however, with blistering straight-line pace and a grippy, planted feel in all conditions. In its less aggressive drive modes, however, it becomes almost as comfortable and easy to live with as a standard A4.
A six-speed manual gearbox comes as standard on lesser variants and is pleasant and easy to use. Buyers can add a seven-speed auto on most engine options – and we’d recommend doing so as it suits the car’s premium character. Its dual-clutch setup swaps cogs seamlessly, making it perfectly suited to stop-start traffic and high-speed motorway driving.
Entry-level A4 Avants come with a 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine, which is smooth and quiet on the move. The larger 2.0-litre petrol engines are faster, but not necessarily worth the extra cash. We’d splash out on one of the excellent diesels, instead.
The basic 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI Ultra will do 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds (three-tenths slower than the saloon), while the S tronic auto shaves 0.2 seconds off both times. The more powerful 187bhp diesel trims this to 7.5 seconds – though in this case, the auto is no faster than the manual. There’s a pair of 3.0-litre units, too, with the fastest 268bhp car capable of 0-62mph in just 5.3 seconds. The A4 Allroad is available with everything except the base 148bhp diesel, with slightly slower acceleration times.
A 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbo petrol engine features in the S4. With 349bhp, the direct-injection unit can sprint to 62mph in just 4.7 seconds and hit 155mph flat out. It's fast, then, and sounds great, but it's not as exciting as the figures suggest. Indeed the considerably more frugal top-spec 3.0-litre diesel, thanks to its 600Nm of torque, feels just as fast in the real world.
The RS 4's 2.9-litre six-cylinder petrol features two turbochargers to the S4's one, boosting power to 444bhp. It feels relentlessly fast and very flexible from as little as 2,000rpm, while the eight-speed automatic gearbox slips through the ratios smoothly and quickly enough. It's not as dramatic and exciting as a Mercedes-AMG C63 estate, and the old V8s sounded better, yet the RS 4's superior cruising ability and economy will win many people over.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
Being one of the newer compact executive cars, the Audi A4 Avant is among the cheapest in its class to run. Even the entry-level 1.4-litre TFSI petrol claim over 50mpg on the combined cycle, while the most efficient diesels can top 70mpg. Company car drivers will be drawn to the 2.0-litre TDI Ultra, which – thanks to its low CO2 emissions – will offer rock bottom company car tax.
It’s the Ultra that takes the crown as fuel efficiency champion, returning 70.6mpg officially regardless of whether you choose the manual or S tronic automatic gearbox. CO2 emissions fall 3g/km shy of the saloon – at 104g/km.
If you need a bit more power, the 187bhp version of the TDI Ultra is still super-impressive, returning 68.9mpg while emitting 106g/km of CO2. Even the most powerful 3.0-litre diesel will do 53.3mpg and 139g/km officially, which given the performance on offer is impressive.
The petrols are competitive, too. The 148bhp 1.4 TFSI does 51.4mpg, while the quicker 187bhp 2.0-litre car returns 48.7mpg. With no RS4 yet, the range-topping 248bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol emits 139g/km of CO2, while also returning a respectable 46.3mpg.
Of course, the hotter models sacrifice running costs in the pursuit of performance. The S4 manages 35.8mpg combined, which looks decent considering the performance on offer, until you consider the flagship 3.0-litre diesel feels just as fast and manages over 50mpg officially. The RS 4's performance is in another league, so the 32.1mpg figure looks pretty reasonable and is better than most rivals.
All A4 Allroad models sacrifice fuel economy for the rugged look and ability, particularly the diesels which run the old permanent four-wheel drive system for now. The most frugal model returns 57.6mpg and emits 128g/km. The petrol, running the new 'quattro with ultra' part-time four-wheel drive system, returns 44.1mpg.
Exact insurance groups haven’t been determined for the Audi A4 Avant, but saloon models range from 19 (entry-level 1.4 TFSI SE) to group 36 (for the 3.0 TDI S line). That compares favorably against rivals, with the BMW 3 Series starting at group 23 for a 318i SE. Interestingly, the 3 Series Touring estate model sits in identical bands to the saloon, and the same is true of the Mercedes C-Class – which starts from group 29.
Depreciation (or the lack thereof) has always been a strong point for Audi. However, Avant prices don’t stack up too favourably. A basic 1.4 TFSI SE will only retain 33 per cent of its value after three years or 60,000 miles, while an S line is even slightly less. The 2.0-litre diesels perform better – at around 40 per cent – with some Allroad models nudging 45 per cent.
A BMW 320i Touring will hold on to 39 per cent of its value, while a 320d could retain around retain 45-46 per cent. BMW reckons the newest, most powerful 340i models will top 50 per cent. A Mercedes C-Class Estate near enough matches the BMW across the board.
Interior, design and technology
You’d be forgiven for thinking this new A4 Avant is just a reprofiled version of the old car. However, this model – introduced in 2015 – sits on a totally new platform, and despite the similar styling, is apparently all new.
From the front, it’ll look very familiar to any owners of previous generation A4s, with similar LED daytime running lights and gaping grille. It’s more chiseled in its appearance, while at the rear you’ll find a set of sharp tail lights and a well considered estate shape. Allroad models sit 34mm higher off the ground, with plastic wheelarch claddign and underbody protection to mark it out.
It’s nicely screwed together, and all the materials have a premium feel. Basic SE cars get comfy cloth seats, while Sport upgrades the standard chairs to sports seats. S line models get embossed part-leather seats for an upmarket edge - with electric lumbar support controlled via a series of buttons on the base.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Taking its inspiration from the recently launched TT coupe and Roadster, the A4 is a class leader when it comes to in-car tech. While the TT does without a central infotainment screen, the A4’s neat display sits proud on the dash, controlled via the usual MMI wheel on the centre console.
Unfortunately, sat-nav doesn’t come as standard on the basic SE. Don’t fret if you’ve bought a car without, though, it can be simply retro-fitted at your local Audi Centre, which could be handy if you’re searching for a car on the used market. Upgrade to the Sport or S line and it’s added to the standard kit list, however, with 3D mapping and dynamic route guidance included.
But the beauty to Audi’s TT is the stunning Virtual Cockpit display, which replaces the analogue dials with a completely digital setup. It’s so simple to use, and adds a real touch of class to the cabin. It’s not standard on the A4, but well worth the extra if you’re thinking of upgrading.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Audi A4 is among the more practical compact executive cars. The standard model is a four-door saloon, but those looking for a more versatile family car should look toward this Avant model – with its more practical body shape and 505-litre boot.
All cars come with five seats, meaning families of seven will need to consider Audi’s much larger Q7 SUV. However, none of its rivals offer seven seats, so this is unlikely to be a major factor for potential customers.
Visibility is good thanks to the car’s large glasshouse, while practical features like the standard-fit power tailgate mean the A4 Avant is among the more versatile cars in this class. Cabin storage is good, too, with big door bins and a deep cubby hole between the front seats. You’ll find a pair of cupholders and a gloveboox, too.
The Audi A4 Avant is almost identical in length, width and height to all its main rivals. It sits ever-so-slightly lower than a BMW 3 Series Touring and is almost 100mm shorter. The Mercedes C-Class has a longer wheelbase, but again there’s not much to separate them. It’s worth noting that neither the Jaguar XE nor Lexus IS comes as an estate – making the A4 infinitely more practical for growing families.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The A4 fares well for passenger space, both up front and in the rear. It’s easy to find a comfortable driving position due to the flexibility and movement of the front seats – meaning long journeys are a pleasure rather than a chore.
Headroom is decent, and you can fit three across the back seat if you’re prepared to squeeze. You’ll find two ISOFIX child seat mounts, as well as one in the front, which matches rivals for family practicality. Access is good, too, with wide-opening doors that aid in the installation of child seats and/or shopping. Dark headlinings on S line cars can make the interior feel a little claustrophobic, though.
The Audi A4 Avant has one of the biggest boots in its class. At 505 litres, the A4 trumps the BMW 3 Series Touring and Mercedes C-Class Estate by 10 and 15 litres respectively. Neither the Jaguar XE nor the Lexus IS is available as a load-lugger.
Flip the seats down and you’ll reveal a generous 1,510 litres of space, which is 10 litres bigger than the 3 Series and identical to the C-Class. It’s a practical shape, too, and a standard-fit power tailgate means it’s all nice and easy to access. The low loading lip makes lifting heavy items a doddle, while foldaway hooks and handy storage nets make it easy to secure loose shopping.
If you’re looking to tow a trailer, the A4 can pull anything from 1,600kg to 2,100kg. If you’ve got a particularly heavy load, you’ll need to opt for the most powerful 3.0-litre TDI.
Reliability and Safety
The Audi A4 Avant should be one of the safest cars on sale. Its saloon counterpart managed to achieve the full five stars in Euro NCAP’s independent safety tests, with particularly high ratings for adult and child occupancy. It managed 75 per cent scores for the pedestrian protection and safety assist categories, which is very impressive.
This score was achieved by Audi adding a host of safety kit, including head and chest airbags, and all-round seatbelt reminders. The A4 also gets an active bonnet and automatic emergency braking.
The A4 didn’t feature in the latest Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, but the brand dropped from 13th to 21st overall – falling far behind BMW and Mercedes, which finished 15th and 12th respectively. Owners weren’t very happy with running costs or practicality – two areas that should see improvements next year thanks to this new A4 Avant.
All Audi A4 Avant models come with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty, which is actually slightly inferior when compared to the three-year unlimited mileage warranties offered by Mercedes and BMW. As a result, high mileage drivers may want to look elsewhere, to ensure they’re covered after they tick past 60k.
As with many new models, the A4’s servicing costs vary depending on engine size. Models fitted with the smaller 1.4 or 2.0-litre engines can be covered from £159 for an interim service, or £309 for a major service. The larger 3.0-litre cars cost £199 or £399 respectively.