Aston Martin celebrates its 100th anniversary with a radical one-off concept car
Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDI: month three
Model: Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDI 177 S line
On fleet since: May 2012
Total mileage: 10,225
Average economy: 46.1
Official combined mpg: 58.9 (126g/km CO2)
Costs: £0 so far
Pros: Stiff and sporty suspension, superb engine, great seats
Cons: Ride can be bumpy, enthusiasm of engine not great for fuel economy...
Where have we been in the Audi A4 Avant?
We went to Stoke Gabriel in Devon for our first family holiday with 10 month old daughter Daisy. The ultimate challenge for any family car: people choose which cars they buy with the annual getaway as a key criteria. As, I must admit, so did I.
No squeezing bags into the back of a sporty coupe or hot hatch supermini for me anymore. With a baby comes the need for lots of space. If you're going away, the essentials have to go with you, from pushchair to steriliser to toys to... you name it.
We got on fine, as you'll read. As for the journey itself, it was something of a busman's holiday for the A4, given how much motorway work it's been undertaking recently. The odometer has now clicked over 10,000 now and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Wearing an A4 Avant-shaped groove in the M40 has made me even more appreciative of the Germanic talents possessed by the Audi. This is a car designed by engineers focused on making a car that thrives on the high-speed autobahn. UK motorways are a breeze in comparison.
What do we like about the Audi A4 Avant?
As we discovered on the trek south to Devon, it's the Audi's ability to cover long distances in time-shrinking comfort that provides the main long-term satisfaction. Peter recently commented on the "brilliant" seats, which hug you tightly and support you perfectly; they're just one of many long-distance aids.
The tied-down suspension I've commented on before, for example, means you're not jostled or jerked by even the most surprising high-speed surfaces. The engine's prodigious pulling power is always a toe-squeeze away and its superb refinement mean it's never intrusive or unpleasant. (Drive a rival to realise how subdued the clatter is here.)
It all sounds a bit remote, but it's not. I've grown to really like the Audi's responsiveness to the steering, its roll-free handling and big-tyre'd grip, its surprising enthusiasm for corners. It's not as pure as a BMW, of course, but leaning on it through bends does still elicit some reward.
The details also won praise in Devon: the big door pockets. The genuinely set-and-forget climate control. The auto-release of the electronic parking brake (hilly Devon gets busy in the summer...). The satisfaction that can be drawn from the snappy gearbox. Even the meaty weight of the steering at low speed. Built into the A4 is lots of integrity, all right.
What don't we like about the Audi A4 Avant?
While we loaded everything we needed into the A4, with space to spare, there were still challenges prior to departing for the M5. Number one here was the frustrating shortage of an inch or two in boot length. We packed the boot carefully leaving space for the pushchair, and slid it tightly in with no bother.
Until we came to shut the boot lid: we couldn't. The pushchair was standing proud of the boot opening. Normally, we put it in sideways, but we needed access to it this time round, so we couldn't. That's when we discovered this key shortfall over our old (longer) Audi A6.
We got round it: we folded the rear seat down. This also helped us load up the rest of the essentials we'd forgotten. Tightly squeezed in, then, but it was at least all in. Downsizing coped with the payload of our first family holiday, then. This is as large a car as we need, clearly...
It did everything we needed during the holiday, although fuel consumption did dip into the low 40s with the air con fighting that lucky week of glorious weather we had. Devon's roads were also busy, but stop-start helped here.
It got us back fine too - we did fill the tank before we left, but this was mainly to take advantage of some extra points on our favoured fuel company loyalty card. We'd have got there, all around and back on a single tank with miles to spare.
Back home, the clear-out wasn't as much fun as the packing. Particularly as the moody black interior that I like so much showed the marks of a week's holiday - sand, grit and, infuriatingly, speckles of cotton all over the grippy seat trim. It's a magnet for this sort of stuff. Top tip: keep the beach towels in the boot...
What's next for the Audi A4 Avant?
After a week where it barely got a breather, the Audi's been pitched straight back into the motorway runs. It's familiar with Heathrow's long stay car parks, and the 3am starts that accompany this, and I'm familiar with how many clicks the fuel tank will take before it's fully brimmed (five).
Familiarity hasn't bred contempt, though. This is one very satisfying car to lead a busy life of driving in. That slow-burning Audi appeal is getting me again...
Need to know
Performance: 0-62mph 8.4secs / 134mph
Power/Torque: 177@4,200rpm / 280@1,750-2,500rpm
List price: £31,330
Insurance group: 28
Options fitted: DAB (£305), metallic paint (£615), storage pack (£100), interior light pack (£170), Audi music interface (£255)
Price as tested: £32,775
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
On the road with the landmark Lambos for special golden anniversary drive.
Date 13/05/13, Duration 4:26, Views 8776