HOW DO YOU MAKE AN AUDI A4 MORE APPEALING? SIMPLE: SUPERSIZE ITS RUMP.
It’s been a long time since wagons were the go-to family car in Australia, and even then it was large wagons that were preferred. Midsize wagons? Travelling salesmen liked them, but few else.
But the Audi A4 Avant is here, and it’s doing its part to change the way we look at wagons. It’s got all of the style, quality and on-road nous of its sedan stablemate, but marries all that with a practical five-door body that’s perfect for lugging the occasional piece of outsize cargo.
And it does all that while looking gorgeous, with great proportions that compliment - not corrupt - the front-end sheetmetal that it shares with the A4 sedan.
Vehicle Style: Premium medium wagon
Price: $63,900 (A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI Sport) to $72,900 (A4 2.0 TFSI quattro Sport), plus on-road costs
2.0 TFSI - 140kW/320Nm 2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl | 7sp automatic
2.0 TFSI quattro - 185kW/370Nm 2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl | 7sp automatic, AWD
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.6 l/100km (A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI), 6.6 l/100km (A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI quattro)
Just two months after the local arrival of the Audi A4 sedan comes the more capacious, more pragmatic A4 Avant.
The A4 Avant range has been kept simple for now: Just two models will be offered, both powered by a 2.0 litre turbo, one FWD and the other with quattro AWD.
No diesels are in the product plan - that’ll be the domain of the A4 Allroad that arrives later in the year - and there’s no 1.4 litre base model like there is in the A4 sedan range. The premium for the Avant bodystyle? A reasonable $3000.
- Standard equipment: Three-zone climate control, cruise control, trip computer, keyless ignition, powered tailgate with foot sensor
- Infotainment: Audi MMI infotainment interface with 8.3-inch colour display, satellite navigation, AM/FM/DAB/USB audio, Bluetooth phone and audio integration and Audi Connect internet-enabled functions.
- Cargo volume: Minimum and maximum (seats up and seats down)
Up front there’s the same impeccably-finished cabin furnishings as the A4 sedan, with a clean and fuss-free presentation that oozes that ‘technical sculpture’ look that Audi does so well.
There’s the same great switchgear, with an easy-to-use infotainment interface (that now sports eight programmable shortcut keys, a feature pinched from rival BMW), a high-set infotainment display and, if you pay the extra $2100 for the optional Technik package, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit reconfigurable LCD instrument panel and a head-up display.
Pretty swish, but the new stuff is at the back.
From the B-pillar rearward you’ll find a taller roof that provides slightly more back-seat headroom and a sizeable 505 litre boot space that’s 15 litres bigger than the previous A4 Avant.
Fold the seats down and luggage space grows to 1510 litres - 80 litres more than before. There’s also a standard-issue power tailgate that can be opened by kicking your foot under the rear bumper - handy when you’ve got your arms full of groceries, squealing offspring, or perhaps both.
And that’s in addition to the three-zone climate control that’s standard on all A4s, which gives your back-seat passengers control of their own destiny - or cabin comfort, at least.
For an extra $455 you can get integrated luggage rails in the boot floor, along with a range of storage accessories to help keep your cargo in check. A reversible boot-floor also comes with the kit, flipping over to reveal a hard surface that’s perfect for carrying wet or dirty gear.
Another option (that’s also available on the sedan, but worth mentioning for a family-focused load-lugger like the A4 Avant) is the rear entertainment system, which adds two removable 10.1-inch Android tablets and their respective docks to the front seat backrests for $4680.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0 TFSI - 140kW/320Nm 2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl | 7sp automatic
2.0 TFSI quattro - 185kW/370Nm 2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl | 7sp automatic
- Transmission: 7-spd dual-clutch sports automatic, FWD (TFSI Sport); AWD (TFSI Sport quattro)
The A4 Avant’s engine range is dramatically cut down compared to the A4 sedan, with just two engines (it’s really just the one engine in two different states of tune) offered.
The entrypoint is the 2.0 TFSI, which makes a healthy 140kW of power between 4200-6000rpm and 320Nm of torque from 1450-5200rpm. That’s a wide torque band indeed, and that makes the 2.0 TFSI feel more than zippy enough out on the open road.
It drives the front wheels through a seven-speed twin clutch automatic, and, though this is the low-output motor in the Avant family, it’s got enough grunt to make the front tyres chirp on a hard launch. On wet roads (we encountered plenty during the launch), the stability control cuts in smoothly to limit any traction loss.
The car we drove was equipped with the optional Adaptive Comfort suspension, which has a 10mm lower ride height than standard but is tuned to provide a more cushy ride than the default dampers and springs.
Over the craggy roads of the New South Wales north coast, this hardware did its best to tame the poor-quality tarmac. There was the occasional crash into deeper potholes, but by and large it delivered on the promise of “Comfort”.
On fast-flowing roads, the 2.0 TFSI reveals its outstandingly flexible power and torque delivery. High gears are its preference, and there’s more than enough torque in the low- and mid-range to keep the A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI moving swiftly without needing big revs.
If you’re chasing a little more speed and security, the A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI quattro Sport may be more your thing.
It’s a solid $9000 more than the FWD 2.0 TFSI, but extracts 45kW more power and 50Nm more torque from its turbocharged 2.0 litre inline four, boasts quattro all-wheel drive and sprints to 100km/h in a hot-hatch-like 6.0 seconds - a clear 1.5 seconds faster than its FWD sister.
The AWD gear brings kerb weight up to 1540kg, 80kg more than the 140kW front-drive model. That said, it’s still lighter than similarly-priced wagon rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz despite those models only featuring a 2WD driveline.
The car we drove also came equipped with the optional Adaptive Sport suspension ($1100), which marries electronically adjustable dampers with 20mm lower springs for a sportier drive.
In this configuration the A4 feels brisk, but not too lairy. A hot hatch in a grown-up wagon body? That’s not far from the mark.
We did pick up a couple of minor issues during our drive, mainly refinement related. In the FWD 2.0 TFSI we detected some audible clunks from the transmission as it disengaged its clutches while rolling to a stop, and in both cars there was intermittent buzzing coming from the B-pillar on the driver’s side.
Those niggles aside, it’s pretty hard to fault the A4 Avant. We didn’t get the opportunity to test the standard non-adaptive suspension, however we’ll take a closer look at the ride quality of that model in a future test.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: Eight airbags, ABS, EBD, brake assist, AEB, fatigue monitor, stability control, traction control, parking sensors and rear view camera are standard across the A4 range
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Germans are the main players in the midsize luxury contest right now, though Volvo is nevertheless present with its V60.
Mercedes has a broader range than Audi with five powertrain options across the C-Class Estate family, but BMW has a similar strategy to Audi in only offering two petrol-only models. Volvo has one petrol and one diesel option, with the tasty turbo six-cylinder Polestar variant now discontinued.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Is the A4 Avant worth the extra $3k spend? Absolutely. Wagons are no longer the frumpy cousin of the sedan, and the A4 Avant is the latest evidence of that.
Granted, a great many people believe luxury cars should be sedans. That’s fine. For those people, the A4 sedan will serve them very well indeed.
But those who look for a little more utility from their luxury car - but don’t want to follow the crowd and step into an SUV - the A4 Avant is damn near perfect.