The Audi A4 is an improvement over the previous version, but isn't good enough to topple the BMW 3-series
What is it?
This is the all-new A4 Avant, the best-selling compact luxury estate. The A4 Avant shares its underpinnings and key dimensions with the saloon, which means a much-longer wheelbase than the outgoing A4 and a footprint that’s grown to be close to the old A6. In fact at 490 litres the boot, with seats up, is a touch bigger than the old A6.
What’s it like?
Inside the A4 Avant are a bigger, roomier cabin and load bay. Audi claims the luggage bay (490/1430litres) as the biggest in class, outpointing even the commodious new C-Class estate by 5 litres with the seats up. But the Merc fights back with an outright capacity of 1500 litres, 70 litres bigger than the Avant.
Key details are a boot floor positioned as low as possible to maximize carrying volume, which means a bit of boot-lip to lug over. Some rivals offer a level load bay from the bumper top, but the downside is a shallow and unusable space under the load floor.
There’s also a cut-out behind the right-hand suspension tower that means a couple of golf bags can fit across the bay, according to Audi. And like most rivals, the seats don’t fold perfectly flat.
Otherwise the Avant drives pretty much like the saloon. Our 1.8T test car was in SE spec with the standard chassis and 17ins alloys. This offers a typical, long-travel Audi suspension that lopes over longer undulations, but patters over shorter bumps.
It steers reasonably, but struggles for grip in challenging bumpy corners, with the ESP programme cutting in early. We preferred a test car with £600 optional 18in alloys, which steered and rode with more precision. The downside was a firmer ride.
Even better is the optional computer-controlled suspension, but at £1000 for adjusting dampers and £700 for variable-ratio steering, it’s much too expensive to spec on this entry-level Avant.
The 158bhp 1.8T is an all-new ‘global’ engine that will feature in most VW Group companies and is a more refined unit than the venerable five-valve 1.8 engine it replaces.
It’s pretty economical for a petrol engine, rating 172g/km of C02. The 1.8T delivers its power smoothly and its strong point is around 3500rpm. There’s not much go below 2000rpm, though.
Should I buy one?
The A4 is a quality, luxury estate with handsome styling, a well-finished interior and practical cabin and load bay. But if driving enjoyment is important, the 3-series and C-Class estates do it better.