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Audi A4 Avant estate (2008 – ) expert review

By Stuart Milne, 30th November 2011

The verdict

The Audi A4 Avant is one of the most desirable small estates available, thanks to its excellent build quality, strong image, great engines and superb cabin.

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Expert rating:

3.9

Pros

  • Superb build quality
  • Strong used values
  • Class-leading cabin

Cons

  • Costly to buy
  • Rear seats don’t fold flat
  • Not as fun to drive as some rivals

Full Review

1. Exterior

The Volkswagen Group pioneered the use of the over-sized grille several years ago, and now all Audis have one. This trademark nose, with eye-catching daytime running lights either side, ensures the A4 doesn’t disappear into the background. However, the Audi A4 Avant still looks rather discreet in profile as well as from the rear. A raft of revisions in late 2011 include more pronounced lines, new bumpers and front and rear light units. The S4 Avant performance estate has subtle badging, S4-specific grilles and vents, rear spoiler and two sets of exhaust pipes hinting at the extra performance.

Our rating: 4

2. Interior

Audi makes some of the best cabins in the business and the A4 is no exception. Clearly laid out, made of high-quality materials and with very comfortable seats, the A4’s cabin is a great place to spend hour after hour. The multi-media interface (MMI) is Audi’s way of controlling the car’s major functions such as climate control, sat-nav and stereo. Out of all the systems fitted in the executive segment, it’s arguably the easiest to use. Rear seat space is adequate and getting comfortable in the front is easy, thanks to multi-adjustable seats and a steering wheel that adjusts for reach and height. A range of different steering wheels, interior colours and dash inserts are offered, and chrome edging around the dials and controls add a upmarket feel. S4 models have sporty dials, brushed aluminium dash inserts and more S4 badging.

Our rating: 4

3. Practicality

Although some posh estates put style before practicality, the Audi A4 Avant offers both. With the seats in place there’s a useful 490 litres of loading space, but with them folded this increases to 1,430 litres. The rear seat backs don’t fold flat though, and the boot isn’t as wide as some rivals. The seats are both comfortable and supportive over long distances, and there’s more interior room than there’s been in previous Audi A4s, with enough room for five adults.

Our rating: 3

4. Ride and Handling

Audi doesn’t have a great reputation for producing driver’s cars, thanks to most versions set to front wheel drive rather than rear. The BMW 3 Series is undeniably more fun to drive, but the A4 is still very good. Audi also has a reputation for building cars with incredibly firm ride, but as long as you don’t opt for oversized wheels you’ll find it’s fine – no better and no worse than rivals. The quattro four-wheel drivetrain improves traction significantly, which should prove helpful when it rains. For 2012, the A4 has an all-new steering system which is claimed to offer more feedback, although the differences between the two feel minimal, and tweeked suspension, which is cossetting on smooth European roads. The S4 remains extremely comfortable and refined if leaving enthusiastic drivers feeling a little detached from the driving experience.

Our rating: 4

5. Performance

Three petrol engines and six diesel engines are offered. The petrol line-up starts with a a pair of smooth 1.8TFSI engines developing 118 or 167bhp offering 0-62mph times of 10.5 and 8.1 seconds and top speeds of 129 or 143mph respectively. The 2-litre TFSI petrol is available with two- and four-wheel drive and develops 211bhp for a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 153mph. Diesel choices are the most popular and all are refined and perform well. The 2-litre unit develops 134, 141, 160 or 174bhp which can accelerate from 0-62mph in between 9.3 and 8.2 seconds, with top speeds ranging from 133 to 142mph. The 2-litres are so competent, they almost render the 3-litre diesels redundant for most buyers. They offer plenty of power though, with 201 or 241bhp making for 0-62mph times of 7.1 or 5.9 seconds respectively. S5 models are powered by a 333bhp supercharged 3-litre V6 engine which sounds superb when worked hard. It’ll reach 62mph five seconds before hitting a limited 155mph.

Our rating: 4

6. Running costs

Audis are costly to buy but tend to hold their value well, as long as you choose your options carefully. The diesels offer good fuel economy, the 134bhp 2-litre can return an average of 65.7mpg while emitting just 112g/km of CO2; even the two-wheel drive 3-litre diesel can cover 57.6mpg. As expected, the petrols are less frugal, although they’re around 11 per cent more efficient than before. All models now feature start/stop systems to save fuel when stationary. For a premium saloon car, the Audi A4 is reasonably well priced, but the options list is long, tempting and expensive.

Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

Audi engineers its cars to a high standard, so they tend to give few problems. The sorts of things that afflict cheaper cars, such as electrical gremlins and trim squeaks and rattles, seem to be largely absent from the A4. However, if problems should arise, Audi dealers tend to look after their customers well.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The A4 scored a full five star EuroNCAP crash test rating, thanks to its rigid structure and a generous level of standard safety kit. As well as electronic stability programme, anti-lock brakes, traction control, brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, there are Isofix child seat mountings front and rear. There are airbags galore too, including front and side airbags as well as curtain airbags front and rear.

Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

There are four versions of the A4 Avant: SE, SE Tecknik, S line and Black Edition, and the performance orientated S4 Avant. SE models come fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels, three-zone climate control, electrically powered bootlid, Bluetooth connectivity, 6.5-inch infotainment screen with CD, AUX-IN and USB compatibility, cruise control and automatic headlights and wipers. SE Technik models add leather upholstery, sat-nav, park sensors and an upgraded music interface. Sport S line models also feature 18-inch alloys, lowered sports suspension, xenon headlights, S line sports styling inside and out and a multi-function trip computer. The Black Edition comes with 19-inch alloy wheels from the RS 3 hot hatch, bespoke bodystyling, a Bang & Olufsen stereo and a digital radio.

Our rating: 4

10. Why buy?

Strong, safe, beautifully built and good to drive, the Audi A4 Avant also comes with a decent amount of standard kit and a superb cabin too. While it isn’t the most practical car in its class, it’s reasonably spacious, while the availability of four-wheel drive means it’s the perfect tow car too.

Our rating: 4

Expert review 3.9stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior4
  • Practicality3
  • Ride and handling4
  • Performance4
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety4
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?4

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:

A4 Avant 1.8TFSi

Perky engine and all the creature comforts

Best-seller:

A4 Avant 2.0TDi e SE

Ultra-frugal diesel gives strong performance too

Blow the budget:

A4 Avant 3.0TDi quattro S line

Massive performance, diesel economy, huge amounts of kit

Strong, safe, beautifully built and good to drive, the Audi A4 Avant also comes with a decent amount of standard kit and a superb cabin too