Most A4s are sold with diesel engines, and our favourite is the 134bhp 2.0 TDIe – it’s powerful enough for the job and makes the most economic sense. There are other 2.0-litre units that get progressively stronger (141bhp, 161bhp and 175bhp), the most powerful of which is so strong that it makes the heavier 3.0 V6 seem rather pointless. If you can’t countenance diesel power, the 1.8 and 2.0 TFSI petrol units deliver swift performance.
Although it doesn't live up to Audi's billing as a sporty car to drive, the A4 Avant is good enough, with well balanced handling and lots of grip. The steering weights up at speed, but has a rubbery feel. However, ride comfort is the A4’s Achilles Heel: all too often the car seems to make a meal of apparently smooth surfaces.
On the whole, the A4's cabin is quiet. Wind- and suspension noise aren't a problem, but a little too much road noise makes its way into the cabin. Most of the engines are quiet, too, especially the four-cylinder diesels, but the 1.8 petrol becomes gruff when worked hard.
Audi generally undercuts its rivals from BMW and Mercedes on list price, and that's true of the A4 Avant. Although four-figure discounts are available, resale values are high. All the four-cylinder diesels have very competitive fuel economy and CO2 emissions, so running costs are a strong point. The V6 and four-wheel-drive versions will hit your wallet harder, though.
Audi's reputation hinges on quality so the A4 is a bit of a disappointment. At first glance it looks great, but the cabin just doesn't feel quite as special as it should. Audi reliability isn't always as good as buyers expect, and the A4 rated as below average in this respect in the 2012 JD Power survey.
The A4 Avant ticks most boxes for safety kit, with six airbags and stability control as standard. Rear side airbags are available as an option, as are lane-departure- and blind spot-warning systems. Deadlocks and an alarm are fitted as standard to guard against theft.
A wide range of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel means that the A4 Avant caters for drivers of all shapes and sizes. However, the pedals are heavily offset to the right so it can be difficult to get comfortable. Forward visibility is fine, but the rear view is compromised. Controls are logically arranged and Audi's MMI control system is fairly intuitive to use, but the A4's dash layout is busy and can be confusing at times.
The A4 Avant accommodates four passengers and luggage better than most of the cars in its class. Headroom is a little tighter than in some rivals, but legroom is generous enough to compensate. With the rear seats in place, the well-shaped boot is larger than a Mercedes C-Class Estate’s. However, the seats don’t lay completely flat and the Mercedes offers more space with the seats folded.
Basic SE trim is our favourite, with 17-inch alloys, three-zone climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors and automatic headlights and wipers. Diesel-engined SEs can be upgraded with the Technik pack (leather upholstery, sat-nav etc), while sporty S line adds larger alloys and lower sports suspension, as well as a unique look. Beyond that, the Black Editions are based on S line, and add 19-inch alloys, a black styling package and an uprated stereo with DAB radio.
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This is arguably the most attractive A4 for business users, thanks its good package of price and equipment, topped off with low CO2 emissions.