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 Technik, Sport Edition, S line, Black Edition and Vorsprung models are available, while the S4 and RS4 models cover the performance end of the range.
Engines include fuel-saving mild-hybrid tech and kick off with a 148bhp 2.0-litre 35 TFSI petrol engine, followed by a 40 TFSI unit delivering 201bhp and a 45 TFSI quattro variant with 261bhp. Diesel options include a 30 TDI 2.0-litre powerplant with 134bhp, a 161bhp 35 TDI and a 201bhp 40 TDI quattro version.
Audi has chosen 3.0-litre V6 diesel power for the S4, producing 336bhp, although it sits in the shade of the 444bhp 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V6 of the RS 4.
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. 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 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 predecessors.
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 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 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.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
The basic 134bhp 2.0-litre TDI will do 0-62mph in 9.8s, while the 161bhp 35 TDI version cuts this time to 8.5s. Moving up to the 40 TDI quattro sees a sprint of 7.1s, with a top speed of 130mph.
Entry-level petrol power is represented by the 35 TFSI version with a six-speed manual gearbox. This base car still manages 0-62mph in a very respectable 8.9s, which is quicker than the S tronic auto variant by three tenths.
The 201bhp 40 TFSI unit manages the same dash in 7.3s, while the 261bhp 45 TFSI car shaves a further 1.6 seconds from this time.
Buyers with cash to splash may be drawn to the performance-orientated S4 and RS 4 models. The former provides 336bhp and 0-62mph in 4.7s, but the extra 108bhp of the RS 4 helps the super estate reach the same benchmark in a supercar-rivalling 4.1s. Top speed for both is 155mph.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Company car drivers, in particular, may be drawn to the diesel-engined A4 Avant models which offer tremendous fuel economy and decent CO2 emissions. The 134bhp 30 TDI returns up to 57.6mpg on the combined cycle, with 127g/km of CO2, while figures for the more powerful 35 TDI are almost identical. Upping power to the 201bhp 40 TDI car does, however, bring the consequence of a reduction in overall efficiency. Audi claims a maximum 52.3mpg, with emissions rising to 141g/km.
The entry-level 35 TFSI manages up to 44.8mpg and 143g/km of CO2 when mated to the six-speed manual gearbox, while opting for the S tronic auto transmission brings a slight drop in fuel economy to 44.1mpg, with CO2 of 145g/km.
The 201bhp 40 TFSI delivers an average of 39.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 161g/km, with the 261bhp 45 TFSI version only capable of 34.0mpg coupled with rather hefty emissions of 189g/km - not hugely dissimilar to the S4's figures of 38.7mpg and 191g/km.
Buyers looking towards the the top-of-the-range RS 4 probably won't be too bothered by overall economy, which is just as well as the performance estate posts 28.8mpg on the combined cycle and 222g/km of CO2.
Insurance premiums for the lower-spec A4 Avant models shouldn't prove to be too expensive. The entry 35 TFSI Technik sits in group 22, but choose a 201bhp 40 TFSI model in popular S line trim and you'll find things quickly become a bit pricier, as it occupies group 31. The 40 TDI S line and top-spec Vorsprung diesel models range from group 32 to 36.
Depreciation (or the lack thereof) has always been a strong point for Audi. However, Avant prices don’t stack up too favourably. Over an average ownership period of three-years and 36,000-miles, the Avant holds onto around 41% of its original list price, although the Allroad. version fares a little better at 43-44%.
Interior, design and technology
The A4 Avant benefitted from a light refresh in 2019, with revised headlights, new LED lighting graphics and redesigned bumpers front and rear.
From the front, it’ll look very familiar to any owners of previous generation A4s, with similar 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 cladding and underbody protection to mark it out.
It’s nicely screwed together, and all the materials have a premium feel. Basic Technik cars get comfy cloth seats, while Sport Edition upgrades the standard chairs to leather sports seats. S line models get leather/Alcantara trim for an upmarket edge, and top Vorsprung cars receive Nappa leather upholstery.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The 2019 facelift brought in a larger 10.1-inch infotainment screen, which sits on top of the dash. The previous MMI wheel has been dropped in favour of touchscreen functionality, while the latest Virtual Cockpit digital dials are also present.
The higher resolution of the display is welcome and there are three individual layouts to choose from - presenting the navigation, entertainment and driving information in separate ways.
The hi-res screen looks great and the menus are laid out clearly, but the touch-sensitive display can feel sluggish when swiping or using pinching gestures.
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 495-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 glovebox, too.
The Audi A4 Avant is almost identical in length, width and height to all its main rivals. It sits ever-so-slightly taller than a BMW 3 Series Touring and is 53mm longer. It’s worth noting that the Jaguar XE doesn't 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 495 litres, the A4 trumps the Mercedes by 35 litres, while the BMW 3 Series just takes the crown with a 500-litre capacity.
Flip the seats down and you’ll reveal a generous 1,495 litres of space, which is 15 litres bigger than the C-Class, although down on the 3 Series by the same margin.
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 2,000kg.
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 an 89% score for adult occupant safety, with 87% for child passenger protection.
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.
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.
Audi offers two types of service schedule: fixed servicing should take place every 9,300 miles or annually, while the flexible option is up to 18,600 miles and every 2 years.
Audi recommends a flexible schedule for those who drive longer distances, usually on motorways and main roads, while a fixed schedule is more suited to lower-mileage drivers who do more urban driving.
Monthly payment plans are also available to help spread the servicing costs.