After having tested the all-new Audi A4 in Venice earlier this year, GTspirit headed out to the South of France to put the more spacious variant of the Audi A4 to the test; the all-new Audi A4 Avant. Being this is the B9 generation, the Audi A4 series has a rich history and a certain standard to live up to.
Upon first sight, the changes to the exterior seem to be minimal and Audi clearly chose the less-adventurous road when designing the new A4 series. When taking a closer look around the car there is a strong resemblance of the previous generation A4 and in principle, there is nothing wrong with that.
Audi has a long-standing reputation when it comes to technology, reliability and all-around virtue of engineering as reflected by their famous slogan: ‘vorsprung durch technik’ (advancement through technology). The probable decision of focusing their efforts on further improving the technical aspects of the car could explain the minor exterior design changes.
Taking another look at the Audi A4 Avant, it’s the distinctive shoulder line that runs along the side of the car that contributes to giving the A4 a sleeker look as opposed to the bulkier previous generation A4. The design of the head and tail lights have also been altered slightly and contain new LED technology that emphasise the A4 Avant’s new sleeker design. A last notable change is the shiny aluminium grille that gives the car a slightly more aggressive look.
Heading inside the A4 Avant we are greeted by a simplistic yet elegant and beautiful interior that unmistakably has Audi written all over it. No expenses were spared on the materials used for the dashboard and the interior in general. The seats are comfortable, have a good feel to them and are electrically adjustable. Pushing the start / stop button makes both the engine and Audi’s virtual cockpit come alive.
The much-praised virtual cockpit is as good looking as ever and provides the driver with an excellent overview of all primary instruments and metres. The optional ‘driver info system’ lets the driver configure the virtual cockpit even more. This way it’s possible to make the speedometer and rev counter smaller or larger and have different functions displayed in between the instruments if preferred; for example a 3D navigation view.
In addition to the screen that is the Audi virtual cockpit, there is the 8.3 inch LCD screen mounted on the centre of the dashboard. It’s controllable by the centre console knob and has some nifty functions, especially when the optional driver info system package is installed. A particularly cool function is the possibility to write letters with your fingers on the touch mechanism of the centre console knob and that way inserting route instructions while keeping your eyes on the road.
Another way to do this safely is of course by making use of the speech command system. Apart from the already great connectivity system that is compatible with all mobile devices, there is the option to install Apple CarPlay for iPhone users. Last but not least the sound guru’s among us can opt for the Bang & Olufsen high fidelity sound system that is currently in the top range of what’s available on the market. Other than a few preset buttons in the centre console which can come in handy at times, most of Audi’s infotainment functions are integrated within the two screens controlled by both the buttons on the steering wheel and the centre console knob, which in the end makes for a very clean and functional interior layout.
The Audi A4 Avant shares the same drivetrain options with the A4 saloon. They consist of three TFSI and four TDI engines, of which the most powerful as of this moment are the 3.0-litre TDI Quattro delivering 272 PS and the 2.0-litre TFSI Quattro delivering 252 PS. Audi have successfully improved fuel economy while at the same time increasing the engine power.
Audi again have not failed to impress when it comes to the range of engines that customers can choose from; just consider the 252 horsepower Audi have managed to squeeze out of a four cylinder in the 2.0 litre TFSI, it’s downright impressive. Audi also offers a six-speed manual on all petrol and diesel models except for the 3.0 TDI. For those who prefer an automatic transmission, Audi offers the 7-speed S-tronic and the 8-speed Tiptronic on the higher range models.
Where the A4 Avant clearly differs from the A4 saloon is of course space and the rear design. Although space in the boot doesn’t differ much from the A4 saloon – a mere 25 litres extra luggage space – it starts to matter once the back seats are folded down. When the backseats are entirely down, there is 1510 litres of luggage space available, triple the space that is available with the backseats in their upright position.
This has its positive consequences for backseat passengers in the A4 Avant that enjoy an extra 23 millimeters in legroom as opposed to the previous generation A4 Avant. All things considered, it’s fair to say that the decision to opt for the A4 Avant as opposed to the A4 saloon solely depends on whether you need or prefer the extra space or not.
Taking the A4 Avant out for a test drive in a typical Southern French setting with plenty of hills and curvy roads, the first thing we noticed is that the difference in driving experience between the A4 Avant and the A4 saloon is just marginal, despite the slight difference in length and weight. The A4 Avant is surprisingly agile and you could maybe even call it a little playful, which is somewhat unexpected given the criticism the previous A4 generations have generally received for lacking the ‘fun to drive’ factor.
It has to be said that on our test model, the dynamic steering option was installed. It’s the same steering mechanism that you also find in the new R8 which came on the market earlier this year. Although it may come at an extra price, the dynamic steering option literally is steering the Audi A4 into the right direction when it comes to driving experience.
We particularly enjoyed the 3.0 TDI Quattro that delivers a whopping 600 Nm of torque, a welcome powerful addition to the lineup that mainly consists of four cylinders. Although any type of the engines available in the A4 Avant we have tested effortlessly made their way up the steep hills of the French Provence, including the four cylinders. In the cabin, it’s also relatively quiet and it feels like the engine has a lot more to give, which isn’t surprising considering the performance figures.
Besides the steering having been improved compared to its predecessor, the 7-speed S-tronic gearbox feels better in the newer generation A4 Avant as well especially when controlled manually as the up and downshifts are swift and steady. However, when left in standard automatic, the upshifts feel like they are a split-second slower than they are supposed to be, depending on your speed and in which mode you are driving. Altogether this can be considered to be negligible, as the improved S-tronic gearbox delivers when needed in manual and sport mode.
What to spec?
Finally, much can be said for Audi’s efforts concerning safety and the road towards autonomous driving. All of the high tech assistance features that we know from Audi’s higher range models are also optional on the A4, making it potentially the most complete car in its segment. Options such as active lane assist, front camera and satellite assistance, blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control, all-around sensor technology, automatic park assist and many more just show what the ultimate A4 is capable of. Speaking of those options, here is a shortlist of what we can recommend from our driving experience:
Audi Virtual Cockpit – arguably the most advanced driver instrument display currently on the market.
Driver Info System – to make ultimate use of the Audi Virtual Cockpit option, we recommend the driver info system to be installed. Besides complimenting Audi’s VC, it comes with many other handy features such as internet connectivity and a Google maps based navigation system, do we need to say more?
Dynamic steering power – the sole feature that makes the new Audi A4 miles better in terms of driving pleasure.
Assistance package park and city – basically covers everything making the drive this much comfortable and let’s you enjoy Audi’s latest technology in the race towards autonomous driving.
B&O sound system – for the audiophiles among us, please enjoy the best quality sound currently available on the market.
For those that prefer a sportier experience, you can’t go without the sport chassis, dynamic damping suspension and a slightly more aggressive look; think 19 inch wheels and an S-line based interior. For those that prefer sporty but are patient enough, it shouldn’t be long before the S4 and RS4 models hit the market.
The A4 Avant starts at €32,000 in Europe and has an endless range of options to choose from that of course reflect itself on the price accordingly. The cars as tested come closer to an amount of €70,000, which again indicates what is possible in the all-new A4 Avant. It’s really what makes this car great and this very well might explain what’s at the heart of the A4’s success in recent years. It appeals to a wide variety of customers, from those that prefer it simple to those that want all the bells and whistles.
The new Audi A4 Avant has taken a giant leap forward in driving experience. It’s definitely more fun to drive than its predecessor and as always, all technical aspects as well as the engine line-up are on point. We can see how the Audi A4 has been quite successful in the market recently and we are confident things will only get better with the all-new 2016 Audi A4 Avant.