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Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDIe 163bhp review (2012 onwards)
Model: Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDIe 163, £28,755 (£30,440 as tested)
Bodystyle: Five-door junior executive estate
Engine: 2.0 turbodiesel with stop-start, 163hp @ 4,200rpm, 280lb ft @ 1,750-2,500rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
What is it?
This Audi A4 Avant could well represent all the car you will ever really need. Powered by a "TDIe" turbodiesel, in spite of being an eco variant it still produces 163hp, while the big estate car boot makes it effortlessly practical.
Tested here in SE specification, it's well equipped, well made and comfortable. Equipment levels are acceptable as standard and easily enhanced to epic proportions by an options list that is a typically high tech Audi toy store.
Even the exterior looks are fresher than ever, thanks to recent mid-life revisions influenced by the youthful lines of the smaller A1. And the allure of those four interlocking rings from an image perspective shows no sign of dying away.
Where does it fit?
As a junior executive estate car, the A4 Avant competes against the likes of the Mercedes C-Class and the BMW 3 Series - though BMW is yet to launch a Touring version of its very latest 3.
Non-premium rivals you might also consider include the Mazda6, the mahoosive Ford Mondeo and Skoda Superb, the classy Peugeot 508 SW and impressive new Hyundai i40 Tourer. Then there's the SEAT Exeo ST, which is based on the previous generation A4 Avant.
The eco models cost the same as their respective non-eco brethren
As for this car's position in the A4 range - that's more complicated. Before you even contemplate other engine choices, Audi makes no less than four different versions of the 2.0-litre TDI A4 now: two regular and two eco.
The eco models cost the same as their respective non-eco brethren, but trade a few horsepower for increased fuel economy and lower CO2.
Is it for you?
This is the higher-powered eco model. Its 163hp plays the non-eco equivalent's 177hp, and in this spec both cost nearly £29,000 at present. The lesser 136hp eco and 143hp non-eco alternatives cost nearly £28,000 - so there's not much in it.
Which makes the 163hp variant perhaps the most rounded option. It promises reduced fuel (and company car tax) bills, but has enough performance to keep more spirited drivers interested. It makes a lot of sense.
A significant difference between this and its Mercedes and BMW rivals, however, is the powertrain. The Audi is front-wheel drive, the others rear-wheel drive. Arguably this ultimately makes it less dynamic, but also allows you to push harder in tricky conditions when the weather goes awry.
What does it do well?
Almost everything. Seriously, we were blown away - especially after being left slightly underwhelmed on the European facelift launch late last year. With such a wide range of talents, in the UK it feels not only at home but very complete.
With the optional Audi drive select package you have a choice of steering and throttle settings - normal, eco and dynamic - and it manages to feel natural enough in all of them that the chances are you won't fiddle with this very much.
speed that can leave your passengers gasping
In addition to that 163hp, the engine has a noticeably hungry 280lb ft of torque - which arrives at just 1,750rpm. This figure is exactly the same as the 177hp car, and gives the A4 Avant an urgently instant slug of speed that can leave your passengers gasping.
You have to be swift with the six-speed gearbox to keep up this momentum, but as it's a sweet shifting unit that's hardly a chore. Add in the relatively compliant SE suspension and you've got a car that's always happy to really go, whatever the road surface or the conditions.
What doesn't it do well?
We find ourselves with few complaints. Our chief Audi issues are usually related to numb steering feel and crashy, uncompromising "sporty" suspension - and this particular A4 suffers with neither problem.
The engine even sounds good. Since Audi has added a dual mass pendulum type flywheel refinement is up and vibrations are down, leaving you and everyone else on board to enjoy the 2.0-litre four's muted growl. A noise that just makes you want to drive faster.
In an effort to increase the fuel economy, Audi has increased the length of the gearing - but with the way it responds you're hardly likely to complain. Or notice. The test car's grey trim choice did divide opinion, though. And prepare to pay a good deal extra for fitted sat-nav.
What is it like to live with?
Extremely pleasant. The A4 Avant is now just about the right size to make it highly practical for carrying stuff about, but not so big that you get nervous at the sight of multi-storey car parks.
despite having 163hp, this particular Avant officially emits just 120g/km
There's plenty of legroom fore and aft, the quality of the materials inside and the way they've been attached to each other is every bit as good as Audi's reputation would suggest, and the interior design offers clarity and beauty in equal measure.
A sense of smug self-satisfaction seems to envelop you almost as soon as you get behind the wheel - make of that what you will - born out of the way this car feels as if it will cope with just about anything you could possibly throw at it.
How green is it?
Audi claims this TDIe will return 62.8mpg combined. That makes it just 3.9mpg more efficient than the 177hp version, 1.7mpg more efficient than the 143hp version, and only 1.4mpg less efficient than the 136hp version. Confused? So are we.
Exactly why Audi is bothering to offer so many different variants of the same engine is a bit of mystery. But it starts to make more sense when you look at the CO2 outputs - despite having 163hp, this particular Avant officially emits just 120g/km.
Compared to the 177hp alternative, that puts it into the 13 per cent bracket for company car tax instead of the 18 per cent bracket, and also reduces annual road tax from £100 to £30. 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds is hardly tardy, either - being only 0.3 seconds behind.
Chances are you'll hardly see any difference either way in the real world. But it's good to know this particular car, with its standard stop-start system and energy consumption monitors, is doing its absolute best for you.
Would we buy it?
It surprised us, this A4 Avant, by being such a well-rounded product. Audi has really started to back up its style with a great deal of substance now; choose to go down this moderately greener engine route, and it's unlikely you'll ever have serious cause to regret it.
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