THE new Audi wagon is an attractive proposition, as much for its on-road behaviour as its chic lines, unlike the previous generation.
But you will need deep pockets. The pretty-muchstandard 1.8 Avant we drove from Melbourne to Bright in the Victorian alps had Milano leather upholstery, Servotronic steering, eight airbags, daytime running lights and $1600 metallic paint.
The S-line packaged version in which we returned also copped great, grippy 18-inch low-profile rubber, paddle shifters, perforated leather and the optimum version of Drive Select (through which steering, gearshift and damping responses are altered to mood or circumstance).
Even without the fulllength sun roof ($2850), this car returned little change from $70,000.
That is steep, even when placed next to the Audi’s direct rivals, BMW’s 320i Touring and the MercedesBenz 200K Estate. And not a little silly if you’re not so badge-besotted that you can’t see the merits of Skoda’s Octavia (with the same engines) and the Mazda6.
Both are equally good if not better drives, both are bigger and both are $25,000 to $35,000 cheaper. We could also point to Holden’s new Commodore Sportwagon, but badge blindness goes only so far.
We’ll get to the diesel in coming weeks, but on the word of trusted colleagues it reflects the equivalent sedan’s disposition.
That’s to say that the extra weight, especially over the front axle, drags it back against its more adroit petrol sibling. Audi’s persistence with longitudinal engines means the bigger the donk the more negated the advantages of its much-vaunted new mechanical platform.
Nor can a decisive economy advantage be claimed for the oiler. When pushing on, it needs to be spurred.
In city traffic its consumption approaches that of the petrol car. In fact, the petrol 1.8 TFSI combines the best characteristics of petrol and diesel, with the flexibility of the former (at 8.9 seconds it’s almost one tick quicker to 100km/h) and the low down response of the latter. And all of its 250Nm is available from 1500 revs — almost the instant the throttle is floored.
It’s a lightweight contender that punches above its weight to give the Avant a dynamic behaviour that’s about as rewarding as you’re going to get in a front-wheel-drive wagon. While never a fan of CVT, there are few grounds to complain of the way in which it transmits power to the road.
As ever with Audi, the inside story is one of tactile delight. The interior of even a basic Avant has an air of comfort, convenience and sheer quality that exceeds the Mercedes C-Class and leaves the BMW 3 Series for dead.
So, when you’re sitting this prettily, you don’t mind so much which wheels are doing the driving.
Supreme power: the A4 Avant’s behaviour is as good as a front-wheel-drive wagon gets.
AUDI A4 AVANT PRICE $56,400 TFSI, $57,800 (TDI) ENGINES 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol, 2.0-litre turbodiesel POWER 118kW (TFSI), 105kW (TDI) TORQUE 250Nm (TFSI), 320Nm (TDI) TRANSMISSION Continuously variable automatic FUEL ECONOMY 7.4 litres/100km (TFSI), 6 litres/100km (TDI)