We’ve already sampled the all-new A4 Saloon in pre-production form, but this is our first chance to get behind the wheel of the more family-minded estate version.
Expected to account for around 40% of all A4s sold in Britain, the Avant will face some pretty tough competition when it goes on sale in November. That will come mainly from estate versions of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, although the cheaper and bigger VW Passat Estate will also be on the radar of those not overly concerned about a posh badge.
The bulk of A4 Avant buyers will understandably opt for one of the 2.0 TDI diesel versions. However, here we’re testing the unexpectedly efficient 188bhp 2.0 turbo petrol. Large petrol engines aren’t usually the last word in fuel economy, but Audi reckons it’s found a way to make them more efficient than smaller engines when fitted to larger cars.
It’s a concept the German manufacturer calls ‘right-sizing’, and the official figures seem to suggest it works because this engine emits just 114g/km of CO2 – only fractionally more than the equivalent 2.0-litre diesel.
What’s the 2015 Audi A4 Avant like to drive?
Like the new A4 Saloon, the Avant weighs a lot less than its predecessor, which is one of the main reasons that it’s better to drive.
The new Avant is far more agile than the car it replaces, turning in to corners more willingly and leaning less when doing so. Granted, a BMW 3 Series Touring is that bit more enjoyable to drive along a country road thanks to its better steering and pointier front end, but the Audi is capable and composed and always inspires confidence.
There are four different suspension options to choose from; our test car rode on the more comfortable of two optional adaptive set-ups. Select the softest of the three different settings for the dampers and the Avant provides a fairly smooth ride – particularly at high speeds. However, beaten-up surfaces and potholes cause the car to fidget around a little more than we’d like around town.
The engine may be remarkably efficient for such a powerful petrol, but it never feels quite as lively as you might expect. You don’t get that same mid-range shove as you do from the diesel, and the engine also sounds slightly coarse when you inevitably have to rev it.
Mind you, with an official 0-62mph time of 7.7 seconds, the 2.0 TFSI 190 is clearly no slouch when you work it hard.
The A4 Avant is also a peaceful companion on the motorway. There's with very little wind noise, no doubt partly due to the fact that this is one of the most aerodynamic cars in its class. Road noise wasn’t an issue in Germany, either, although the UK’s road network will undoubtedly prove to be more of a challenge.
What’s the 2015 Audi A4 Avant like inside?
Let’s start with the most important bit: the boot. It’s slightly larger than that of either a BMW 3 Series Touring or a Mercedes C-Class Estate with the rear seats in place, and the shape of the load bay is usefully square and free from intrusion from the wheelarches.
Better still, there’s no lip to negotiate at the boot entrance, while all versions come with a powered tailgate and tonneau cover that peels itself back electrically when you open the boot, before sliding back into place to cover up your valuables when you close the tailgate.
If you need more load space the rear seats fold down almost flat, leaving a very gently slope in the floor of the extended load area but no annoying step or ridge.
Space in the rear cabin is generous enough. A rather chunky tunnel running along the centre of the floor makes life somewhat uncomfortable for anyone sitting in the middle, but two six-footers will be comfortable thanks to generous leg room and reasonable head room.
Audi is renowned for its classy, minimalist interiors that are both wonderfully finished and super intuitive. The new A4 Avant doesn’t disappoint – it betters its rivals from BMW and Merc with sumptuous materials everywhere you look and a user-friendly dashboard layout.
Audi’s MMI infotainment system comes as standard on all versions of the Avant, featuring a clear 7.0in display mounted centrally on the dashboard that you control using a rotary dial sited between the front seats. You twist the dial to scroll through the on-screen menus and press it down to select, and there are some handy shortcut keys to take you straight to specific functions.
The driving position was hard to fault on our left-hand-drive test car, with plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment and comfortable, supportive seats. However, given that the right-hand-drive version of the outgoing A4 Avant was infamous for its offset pedals, which forced the driver to sit at a skewed angle, we’ll reserve final judgement until we’ve driven a UK-spec model.
Should I buy one?
The A4 Avant has never been the world’s most practical estate and that remains the case with this fifth-generation model. Yes, it has a slightly bigger boot than its two main rivals – the 3 Series Touring and C-Class Estate – but there are far more practical family wagons, including the considerably cheaper VW Passat Estate and the only slightly dearer BMW 5 Series Touring.
However, if you want something a bit more compact that still offers a healthy dose of practicality, the new A4 Avant makes plenty of sense. It’s good to drive, generously equipped and supremely classy inside, and accordingly to Audi will cost almost exactly the same as an equivalent 3 Series Touring.
As frugal as this 2.0 TFSI model claims to be, though, we’d recommend going for one of the diesels. With considerably more low-rev muscle, they’re more flexible performers and are also likely to be significantly more fuel-efficient in real-world driving.
What Car? says...
Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI 190 Ultra S Tronic
2.0-litre turbo petrol