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Audi A4 Avant: final report
Model: Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDI 177
On fleet since: May 2012
Official combined mpg / CO2: 58.9mpg /126 g/km CO2
Actual mpg: 46.0mpg
Pros: Engineering, engine, S line ride and handling (yes, really), quality, seats
Cons: Hard to love (and a BMW 3 Series is easy to love), ride CAN be too much in town
What was great about our Audi A4 Avant?
The A4 Avant appealed from the off, thanks to some key driver-pleasing traits: brilliant bolstered seats that dropped super-low, great steering wheel, creamy engine and serious, serious shove.
The latter was immediately apparent. Pull away and the torque of the 2.0 TDI 177 is there right away, in a way it wasn't in the heavier A6 Avant (with the same engine, remember). It felt almost GTI-responsive, with both the force generated and the lack of lag in doing so convincing me right away this would be a long-termer to enjoy.
Once my typical Audi four-week bedding-in period was complete, it really won me over. The stability and assurance afforded by the stiff suspension (see below) made it unusually satisfying at speed, something that stormer of an engine only enhanced.
A timely trial of a BMW 318d during my time with it also proved that Audi has BMW licked for four-cylinder diesel engine refinement. This is a very sleek and smooth engine indeed, with a distant timbre that's at odds with the surprisingly gruff clatter of the BMW.
Those beautiful seats were appreciated by everyone who sat in it, while I never failed to tire of details such as the dials, the dash lighting, the sense of wholesome quality and the all-pervading feel of engineering-above-all.
Swallowed everything we needed them to
It was generally practical enough too. Daisy's child seat went in the back fine; mum and dad found the front fine, stowage slots swallowed everything we needed them to. Illuminated footwells helped us find stuff when we chose not to use them as well.
Only a lack of length in the boot caused grumbles - packed to the gunnels for holiday, we had to fold the rear seat down to get the pushchair in. Wouldn't have had to do that in the A6. Once in six months to feel the downside of downsizing wasn't bad, though…
What wasn't so great?
First thing we did when we got in the A4? Check for sat nav. There was a nagging doubt it may not be there, despite all new executive cars demanding it, particularly ones that cost £32k. Right? Er, wrong. Our fears were confirmed: no nav.
It's available as an option, but not on our car. Crazy, we know. So it was six months of the jarring contrast of balancing a TomTom next to the gearlever in order to find our way. All that premium interior work undone by trailing wires and a power socket poking out the cigarette lighter.
The 'NAV' button on the steering wheel rubbed it in. Press it, and 'nav not fitted' flashed on the dash. What's wrong with a blanking plate, Audi? At least all the other essentials were standard, as part of S-line spec - including 18-inch wheels and sports suspension that raised such initial debates.
Yes, the A4 Avant's suspension was stiff. In the first few miles, you sensed the jiggles and jostles were too much. With time, though, I unexpectedly found myself really liking its ride quality, for the well-damped fluidity, composure and balance it gave, particularly at higher speed.
What, me, a long-time ride quality obsessive, becoming convinced by something you had to steer around potholes? Yes - because the pay-off was worth it. Perhaps it would be too much if most of my driving was in town, but for the high-speed travels I most often do, it was ideal. Doubts erased.
Was it expensive to run?
It of course didn't go wrong and even 12,000 miles didn't see us get near a service. All those motorway miles meant the 18-inch tyres didn't need replacing either - had my driving been on different roads, deploying the prodigious torque may have seen them taxed more…
The biggest expense was fuel. And here's where the A4, as with the A6, disappointed. Once again we didn't get anywhere near the official claimed figures, usually averaging mid to high-40s on the motorway. It should have done 57.6mpg.
Of course, those are official stats and nobody gets near those, right? Well, we usually do, because our commute is largely motorway-based. Look at long termers of old to see how the figures have compared... I can only conclude, then, that the A4's economy has been disappointing, even if the shove it generates does partly compensate.
Would we recommend the A4 Avant to you?
If you'd have asked my while I still had the Audi, I'd have said absolutely yes. It was a very satisfying car to live with, one that oozed quality, integrity and engineering precision.
Make sure you take a very long test drive
But now it's gone, do I miss it? In the way that I miss, say, a BMW 3 Series press loan car? Sadly, no. And here's the problem for Audi - those who live with its cars swear by them, but once they're gone, their lack of emotion means it's easy to live without then, too.
You won't go wrong with it, and I certainly preferred it to the A6 Avant it replaced... but just make sure you take a very, very long test drive if you're in the market for one. Only then may you be able to dig beneath its icy-cool competence and tap into the real reasons for its appeal.
Would I have it back, though, for another six months? Oh, like a shot… I don't actively miss it, but I would with pleasure keep on running it if I had to. And that logic, with its possible implications on customer loyalty and brand reputation, is a conundrum only Audi can solve…
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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