"The A4 Avant has all the luxury and grown-up driving dynamics of the saloon, but with an added dose of practicality."
Audi gave the A4 Avant estate a nip and tuck towards the end of 2011, which made it much better to drive and considerably kinder to the environment. Every engine available in the range is now more efficient, offering improved economy and emissions. The car's suspension has been altered to boost the comfort levels on the road and inside in the car, now better than ever even though the interior was already one of the best in its class. Thankfully, the big, practical boot remains, confirming the A4 Avant's position as one of the finest all-round premium estates available on the UK market. The A4 Avant comes in four specifications – entry-level SE, then SE Technik, S line and the top-of-the-range Black Edition.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Audi added stop-start and energy recuperation in all A4 Avant models in 2011, so the fuel economy across the whole range has been improved, resulting in fuel efficiency improvements of as much as 21 per cent. The most efficient 2.0-litre TDIe diesel engine now emits only 116g/km of CO2 and returns a claimed 64.2mpg in fuel economy. The more powerful 160bhp 2.0-litre TDIe also now returns 62.8mpg, with even the 201bhp 3.0-litre V6 TDI claiming to return 55.4mpg in front-wheel drive spec. As is often the case, if you choose a petrol engine, expect your fuel and road tax bills to be higher. Thanks to the premium nature of the Audi brand, servicing costs and replacement parts are likely to be expensive.
Interior & comfort
You know you’re always going to get one of the best interiors in any segment when you buy an Audi, and the A4 Avant certainly lives up that reputation. Plus, the 2011 facelift has only made it even better. A lot of the materials used are now better quality, with many of the controls simplified to make it a great place to spend some time in. Thanks to ample insulation, wind, road and engine noise are kept to a minimum, too. The suspension set-up is generally comfortable without much body roll through the corners, but the firmer set-up and larger alloy wheels on the S Line model do reduce the comfort of the ride by quite a significant amount.
Practicality & boot space
Even with its increased dimensions, the A4 Avant doesn’t offer class-leading practicality. It's perfectly competent and reasonably flexible, but it never quite matches the likes of the BMW 3 Series Touring for sheer ease of use and storage capacity. With the back seats in place, the boot offers 490 litres of space, which expands to healthy 1,430 litres when the seats are folded down flat. Plus, the boot lip is low and the opening has enough width to make loading bulky items pretty straightforward. There's enough head, shoulder and legroom in the back for most adults to get reasonably comfortable, too. The practicality can be added to with a selection of hi-tech accessories, including a blind sport warning system, a reversing camera, an electric hand brake and a lane assist system.
Reliability & safety
Audi climbed a full spots in the 2013 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, going from 15th to 10th in the manufacturers rankings, which still leaves it behind fellow premium German company Mercedes (at number five) but does set it above BMW (at 15th). The A4 itself, however, dropped 16 spots in the top 100 cars list, coming 76th, but this will mainly due to the model's age, with the original car debuting in 2007. Regardless of this, Audi A4 drivers have always had full confidence in the build quality and reliability of their cars, with the older models performing well in owner satisfaction surveys. The good news for buyers is that the Avant also feels incredibly well put together, with solid-feeling switchgear and not a flimsy piece of trim in sight. It manages to simultaneously be luxurious, visually pleasing and able to stand up to daily wear and tear. It's also very safe, securing the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, with all models coming fitted with six airbags and electronic stability control as standard, while you can also add extras that include blind spot warning and lane assist systems.
Engines, drive & performance
The A4 Avant has well-weighted controls and sharp, direct steering that help make it very easy to drive. It's not particularly exciting to drive, though, with the accurate steering not giving very much feedback to the driver, so it isn’t as engaging as it might be and is certainly less fun that then BMW 3 Series Touring. It does corner well, however, and the there's a good range of engines to choose from. The 1.8-litre TFSI and 2.0-litre petrols are less economical but offer genuinely fast performance, with the former getting a turbocharged boost. Avoid the base 168bhp model. The diesel engines do offer a better balance of efficiency and speed, however, with the 2.0-litre TDI providing decent performance. You can also get a 330bhp 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel. We’d recommend adding the twin-clutch DSG gearbox and Audi Drive Select system to really get the best of the Avant. Two-wheel-drive models are also good value, but the quattro (four-wheel drive) versions perform the best in slippery conditions.
Price, value for money & options
The 2011 update not only brought in a lot more equipment, it also brought an increase in the list price of just more than £1,000. Climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, fatigue detection and cruise control are now all fitted as standard, though. Pay another extra £1,000 and you get other luxury extras like leather, sat-nav and parking sensors. Some aspects of the car do now feel a bit dated, but all Audis have strong resale values on the used car market of up to 60 per cent, so if you do get carried away by the options list, you should still see return on your investment when it comes to time to find a good second-hand deal.