More or less, less is more with the 2017 Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI Sport.
Among the many curious phenomena with premium vehicles, turning a four-door sedan into a two-door coupe can cost the buyer up to $10,000 extra, which is a lot of money in return for reduced practicality and but a promise of extra sportiness.
Yet morphing a sedan into a roomier, more versatile five-door wagon barely costs the consumer any extra – in the case of the new A4 2.0TFSI Sport, Audi charges $3000 to shift between each bodystyle.
The A4 Avant is no longer or wider than the sedan, though it is slightly taller, while boot volume moves from 480 litres to 505L here in the five-door. It doesn’t sound like much, but the improved practicality of a wide-opening tailgate is palpable.
Vehicle Style: Medium wagon
Price: $72,900 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 185kW/370Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol | seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.6 l/100km | Tested: 8.9 l/100km
Although few things are more quintessentially ‘Audi’ than the brand’s ‘quattro’ all-wheel drive system mixed with an ‘Avant’ wagon bodystyle, more Australian buyers simply prefer an SUV such as the ($92,955 plus on-road costs) Audi SQ5 TDI.
Although that is $20K more than the A4 2.0 TFSI Sport in standard form, our test car was equipped with a staggering number of options (see below) that bridged the gap.
The total $95,325 (plus orc) as-tested price presents us with a new question – fully-equipped A4 Avant or unoptioned SQ5 TDI? Dare to be different with a wagon, or follow the crowd into an SUV?
Both Audis offer about the same luggage space, each send drive to all wheels, and the duo similarly balance performance with economy. So, let us split the differences.
- Standard Equipment: keyless auto-entry and push-button start, power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, tri-zone climate control air-conditioning, leather-trimmed electrically adjustable front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter, cruise control, automatic headlights and wipers, and electric tailgate
- Infotainment: 8.3-inch colour screen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, twin USB and SD card inputs, satellite navigation with 3D maps and live traffic updates, one-shot voice control and eight speakers
- Options Fitted: $3600 rear entertainment package (twin 10.1-inch tablet screens), $3200 S line package (19-inch wheels, Alcantara trim and sports exterior and brushed aluminium interior trim), $2100 Technik package (12.3-inch driver instrument cluster and head-up display), $1900 Assistance package (active lane-keep assistance, adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance system and adaptive auto high-beam), $1700 matrix LED headlights with dynamic front indicators, $1500 Bang and Olufsen 19-speaker 755-watt sound system, $1420 metallic paint, $1100 adaptive sport suspension, $950 parking assistance package (surround-view camera and automatic reverse park assistance) and $350 luggage load area rails
- Cargo Volume: 505 litres
It could be concerning that the above options list of the A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI Sport is longer than its standard equipment list.
On the upside, buyers get to pick and choose from the staggering array of technology available on Audi’s newest medium-sized wagon. Another upside is that, despite the near-$100K pricetag of what is essentially a middle-tier model grade, our test car came with virtually every bit of modern equipment imaginable – some of which was the reserve of expensive luxury cars not long ago.
Just call this a German techno-showcase in practical wagon form.
Unfortunately, Audi also arguably needs to migrate at least some of the plethora of options to the standard kit list. Even on our loaded test car, heated front seats remained available at extra cost.
The S line styling package isn’t necessary, but adaptive cruise control, automatic park assist and lane-keep assistance are standard on a $71,900 (plus orc) Mercedes-Benz C250 Estate, adaptive suspension and head-up display are included in a $73,300 (plus orc) BMW 330i Touring.
Even ignoring the sublime style and functionality of the optional colour-screen driver’s instrument panel dubbed ‘virtual cockpit’ by Audi, however, the new A4’s interior is a wonderfully finished and furnished place to be.
The standard climate controls and 8.3-inch centre screen operate with tactility and intuition, while the seats are lush and supportive in every position.
Rear passengers perhaps have a touch less legroom than they would find in an SQ5 TDI, for example, or any rival medium-sized SUV. But the difference isn’t sizeable, while air-vents, a separate climate zone and (in the case of our optioned test car) twin entertainment screens no doubt make up the difference.
Not only does Audi only charge $3000 to move from sedan to Avant, but that price includes an electric tailgate. The 505L boot volume is only marginally down on the 540L of the SQ5 TDI, with the 1510L seats-down maximum also not far behind the Audi SUV’s 1540L best.
While the A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI Sport can be rightly critiqued for its hefty options list, it also can’t be criticised to the same degree when practicality meets high-end luxury and technology to such a high standard. It’s a great circa-$100K cabin – but only just.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 185kW/370Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, AWD
- Suspension: multi-link independent front and rear
- Brake: ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
By far the greatest aspect about the A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI Sport is that it drives just like the A4 sedan 2.0 TFSI Sport.
That means there are none of the cumbersome compromises of a high-riding SUV that quite often superfluously has been designed to go slightly off road. The Avant’s kerb weight of 1540kg is just 30kg up on the sedan’s 1510kg.
By comparison an SQ5 TDI weighs an astonishing 2000kg – although it is built on an older platform and is due to be replaced next year by a lighter, new-generation Q5.
Still, for wagon and SUV vehicles that are about the same size with similar interior space, the difference is huge. The A4 Avant always feels light on its feet, it rides well even on low-profile 19-inch wheels and in any of the (optional) adaptive suspension’s Comfort, Auto or Dynamic modes.
Around town it is nimble, with sharp and precise steering and an enthusiasm for rushing around from one end of town to the other. Yet in the country, through twisty roads, it drives just like a semi-sports sedan, and it would certainly take something akin to a Porsche Macan to match this wagon through bends.
When pressed the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol is a raucous operator with a gravelly snarl, too, yet when driven sedately it’s refined – although that also highlights the decent amount of road roar emanating from the fat 19-inch tyres.
The engine delivers a competitive 185kW of power between 5000rpm and 6000rpm, and 370Nm of torque from 1600rpm until 4500rpm. Connected to a slick seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, the 6.0-second 0-100km/h claim feels realistic, despite being two-tenths slower than the sedan.
Combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.6 litres per 100 kilometres, however, really is only achievable with the lightest right foot. We returned an average 8.9L/100km in mixed conditions.
An SQ5 TDI gets a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel that outputs 240kW/650Nm. This is a hefty amount, but its 5.1sec 0-100km/h claim is less than a second faster despite 55kW/280Nm extra. And despite running on diesel, its 6.8L/100km claim is inferior.
It really depends on how much that second-quicker acceleration is to the family, though, because most of the above, tantalising array of luxury and technology options isn’t standard (or even available) on an SQ5 TDI.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars – the Audi A4 range scored 34.50 out of 38 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2016.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, rear-side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, blind-spot assistance with pedestrian/cyclist detection, forward and rear collision warnings with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Audi’s three-year/45,000km servicing package includes three dealer checks, one every year or 15,000km, for a total price of $1620 – or an average $540 each.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The popular SQ5 may be an in-house rival, but the 3 Series Touring also beats the A4 for outright driver involvement, if not cabin class, while the C-Class Estate rates a mention for standard technology and luxury, if not the same nimble driving feel. The V60 is an interesting wild card, underrated but only if the deal is strong.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
For near-$100K the A4 Avant should arguably either be offered with a more potent six-cylinder petrol or diesel, or with several options migrating to the equipment list. Doing so would turn this fantastic family car into a flawless family car.
Audi’s A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI Sport is outstanding from a practicality perspective and depending on the options ticked it can also be a superb technology showcase and luxury car, while still (only just) managing a five-figure pricetag.
Even with a four-cylinder turbo it is quick, responsive and enjoyable to drive, and with all-wheel drive it can head to the snow or a gravel road as effortlessly as the heavier, more cumbersome and hardly roomier SQ5 TDI it shares showroom space with.
Like many wagons born out of superb sedan brethren, it simply outsmarts the SUV.
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