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Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDI: month two
Model: Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDI 177 S line
On fleet since: May 2012
Total mileage: 7,352
Average economy: 47.1
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?
My first two months in the A4 Avant have gone very nicely indeed. Compared to the A6 Avant I had previously, this is faster, sportier, easier to park, more cocooning over long distances and more economical at all speeds. So far, this downsizing lark has been a breeze.
Unusually for me, I've been conducting a lot of short trips in the A4, as well as the regular diet of long motorway hauls. And it's on these quick-fire journeys that the talents of the A4 shine through.
Remember, I swapped from an A6 which the same engine. Compared to that, this feels like a rocketship. The power-to-weight ratio benefits are immediately appreciable and it makes charging through town, well, not up to my usual economy standards. Must. Resist.
Harder than it sounds. VW Group has evolved this 2.0 TDI engine into a very free-spinning engine - and has the added bonus of a high-tech turbo whine when you're pressing on. This sounds like it could be annoying, but it's not: the noise is quite in keeping with the sporty feel of the Audi.
What do we like about the Audi A4 Avant?
We like powerful diesel engines in relatively small cars. A few years back, 110hp was usual for this sector. Then, it went up to 130hp. Now, 140-150hp is the accepted average: so, 177hp (and 280 lb ft of torque) makes for good entertainment.
Because of all the torque, and because of the minimal turbo lag, it feels even swifter than this. Chuck in the alacrity of feel that comes from the stiff suspension and I find myself with an unexpected premium hot hatch.
There's an interesting point about downsized engines to be made here too. Last month, I drove the Superchips Ford Focus with a 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine tuned to 145hp. Yes, it was swift, but only with the turbo spinning. Let it drop and you really felt it.
Getting back into the Audi, it struck me how much more inherent 'pull' this engine has. Even without the turbo, the 2.0-litre has muscle to get you moving, meaning it's even more able still when it IS spinning. Downsizing is impressive, yes, but you need to remember how it's been achieved; never let the turbo drop off...
Oh, and like the A6, I'm also finding its talents growing on me. Again, at first, it felt dull and anaesthetised. Not a patch on an F30 3 Series. Now, I realise this is clinically judged sophistication, like nothing else in this class provides. As I grow to understand this, so I grow to like the A4 Avant more.
What don't we like about the Audi A4 Avant?
Jump from a BMW 3 Series into my A4 and boy, does the ride feel stiff. Not crashy and poor, just firm and very sportily focused. It's always a surprise when I get back into it and realise how nuggety it rides. Thing is, I don't actually mind.
Less satisfying is the click of the indicator
See, while there's a lot of detail about the road surface transmitted to you, I actually find it works well. It is a bit jostly, sure, but Audi's sophisticated setup means there's lots of 'feel' sent with it. It's thus a bit selfish: passengers find it bouncy, I simply find it satisfying.
Less satisfying is the click of the indicator stalk. Seriously? Yes: somehow, the plasticky, lightweight and cheap bounce when you turn the winker on just doesn't feel right. The substance of a BMW is lacking: in the premium world, details like this matter.
There's a downside that's not the car's fault - the lack of sat nav. It means the central colour display cheerfully shows radio and Bluetooth phone settings, but doesn't actually do anything useful. As my portable TomTom system flies into the footwell once again.
What's next for the Audi A4 Avant?
It's holiday time for us and the A4. We're off to Devon, which will the biggest challenge yet for our downsizing test. Frankly, we haven't noticed much loss of usable space up to now - but I'm sure this will change in a week of so's time...
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
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