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First drive: Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.

First drive: Audi A4 Avant
Audi's sixth-gen A4 Avant estate reviewed in V6 diesel format.

 



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Audi A4 Avant

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

No dramatic overhauls for the all-new, sixth-generation Audi A4 Avant, but a series of carefully thought-out and highly intelligent updates transform the mid-sized wagon from quietly competent also-ran to probable class leader.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi A4 Avant 3.0 TDI 218 Sport
Pricing: A4 Avant range from 27,300; 3.0 TDI Sport starts from 35,650
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, seven-speed S tronic automatic
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 114g/km (VED Band C, 0 first 12 months, 30 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 64.2mpg
Top speed: 152mph
0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
Power: 218hp from 4,000- to 5,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm from 1,250- to 3,750rpm

What's this?

The latest Audi A4 Avant, which is simultaneously larger than before and yet up to 120kg lighter. And yes, it really does look a lot like the old one. Although, if you peer at it closely, you can spot the 2016 A4 Avant signifiers: that reshaped Singleframe grille is one; as are the angular light clusters that now sit either side of it; there's a defining line sweeping along the lower portion of the doors; and a four-metre-long groove runs from front to rear above the door handles. So no, the A4 Avant is hardly a radical bit of car design, yet drastic redrawing of a generic shape that has sold 2.5 million units globally since 1994 was hardly necessary - and the resulting estate is a handsome, sharp-suited machine.

The interior is another Audi glory, now sporting the wide strip of air vents that is becoming the premium hallmark of the more upmarket Volkswagen Group products (see Volkswagen Passat and Audi Q7 for details) and it is also blessed with much more interior space than before. Two genuinely tall people could sit behind two more genuinely tall people in an exquisitely finished cabin, while the boot is ahead of its key BMW and Mercedes-Benz rivals with the rear seats up (505 litres) and capable of matching the C-Class Estate - and still beating the 3 Series Touring - with them folded away, totalling 1,510 litres.

Three petrol and four diesel engines make up the UK launch range, with a choice of front- or four-wheel drive (model depending; some cars are front-wheel drve only, some are quattro only) and three transmissions: a six-speed manual, a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch auto and an eight-speed, 'traditional' torque converter Steptronic auto on the most powerful 272hp diesel only. Trim lines run SE, Sport (+950 on SE) and S line (+1,500 on Sport), although there's a much more limited choice of engines for the SE than for the other two specifications.

Generally, the Avant comes with a decent level of kit even on SE models, with Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lamps, 17-inch wheels, three-zone climate control, keyless go, cruise control, a powered tailgate and the MMI infotainment system with a seven-inch colour monitor among the standard equipment. Sport will take half the UK A4 Avant sales and adds satnav, sport seats in the front and an Audi Sound System, while S line obviously brings styling accoutrements, firmer suspension and leather trim. However, there are still plenty of cost options - including some of the better items fitted to our test car, such as the head-up display, Virtual Cockpit 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster and, perhaps most crucially of all, the Adaptive Sport suspension with on-board adjustable dampers.

How does it drive?

This is the 218hp 3.0-litre V6 TDI model with front-wheel drive (a quattro version is offered too, for an extra 1,430; nevertheless, either 218 version is fitted with the S tronic gearbox), which Audi proudly touts as the most efficient V6 diesel in the world. OK, fine, and no doubt it's a lovely engine, but when there's a cleaner, greener 190hp 2.0 TDI ultra that's 1,720 cheaper as an S tronic - or even a sizeable 3,250 less with a manual gearbox - we wonder why you'd bother with this 3.0. And that's before we've got onto the 150hp 2.0 TDI ultra lurking even further down the price lists...

However, we're quibbling over the minutiae here because in all other respects the new A4 Avant really is quite magnificent. Specifically in terms of mechanical refinement. Audi made no less a claim than that there's only one more hushed model in terms of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) within its fleet, and that's the super-luxurious A8. And when you whisper off down the road in the 3.0 TDI, half-wondering if you've picked up a rare hybrid A4 Avant by mistake, you're really inclined to believe such bold assertions. At absolutely no point does tyre roar, wind noise or suspension clunk make its way into the Avant's cabin, while the V6 diesel is only audibly vocal if you ask a lot of it; and even then, it just sounds meaty and pleasing.

The ride is also sumptuous, obviously due in part to the adaptive dampers fitted here, but also because of that aforementioned weight reduction the Avant has over its predecessor. So while we can't tell you what a passively sprung A4 will feel like, we would hazard a guess that fitting conventional springs and dampers would hardly ruin things. Thus, you're unlikely to get better from anything else in this market and it's notably smoother than the already-impressive Volkswagen Passat Estate with which it shares so much hardware.

Is the new A4 a great drive? No, not really, but it's a lot better than it once was, resisting understeer admirably and providing a decent level of feedback through both the wheel and the squab of the driver's seat if you decide to press on. And given the rear-drive competition (BMW included) are no longer more exciting to drive than the Audi, we'd have to give Ingolstadt credit for the A4's dynamic prowess. The engine provides plenty of accelerative punch, while the S tronic transmission is flawless - even shifting down three cogs utterly needlessly at a constant medium pace, causing the V6 to rev out to its redline, didn't see our passenger's head bobbing about as each of the shorter ratios slotted home. Seamless; utterly seamless.

Verdict

The all-new A4 Avant won't blow you away with its radical new design, nor does it set the keener driver's heart a-fluttering, and you probably don't need the V6 TDI - nice though it undoubtedly is - and the car isn't exactly cheap, despite having a lengthy options list... but none of this stuff really matters. What does count is that the A4 still looks super-classy inside and out, and it has ride/refinement levels that are unsurpassed in this class. Stick a frugal engine in the Audi's conk and you've probably got the new class leader for the executive wagon segment; that's how good the A4 Avant is.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 17 Oct 2015









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2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.

2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.



2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.
 

2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.
 

2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.
 

2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.
 

2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.
 

2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.
 

2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.
 

2016 Audi A4 Avant. Image by Audi.
 






 

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