Road Test

Audi A4 Avant 1.8 TFSI

The Audi A4 Avant is an estate car that exudes expense and precision. What's more, it drives like a BMW – well almost

An Audi A4 is the staple fare of a certain type of affluent middle manager with a status to protect. Perceived as less brash than a BMW 3 Series, an A4 should suggest discretion and subtle good taste. Fine, but there are snags with this argument.

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Audi A4 Avant 1.8 TFSI
Price: from £23,400, on sale now
Engine: 1,798cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, turbocharger, 160bhp at 4,500-6,200rpm, 184lb ft at 1,500-4,500rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual (Multitronic auto optional), front-wheel drive
Performance: 140mph, 0-62 in 8.9sec, 39.2mpg official average
CO2: 172g/km

First, today's 3 Series is quite demure by current BMW standards, but the latest A4 (the estate-car Avant), the subject of this test, is considerably more "styled" than its predecessor. So the two arch-rivals now meet in the middle as far as discretion is concerned. Second, previous A4s have generally been less satisfying to drive than their BMW rivals. Audi finally realised it needed something similar, as it changed its tack from apparent aloofness as regards the competition to trying to beat it at its own game.

In this Avant form, it is a handsome car, the so-called "tornado line" (the ridge just below the window line) curving artfully downwards as it reaches the load-carrying tail, mirroring the rising ridge just above sill level.

This Avant has, according to its creators, a bigger loadspace volume than any of its rivals, including the Mercedes-Benz C-Class estate and it has a reversible boot floor, useful if your dog enjoys muddy puddles. Increasingly, though, car-makers are fudging the way rear seats fold, leaving the cushion fixed and merely letting the backrest fold down on to it. That means, in this Audi and in others, that the load floor heads uphill where it is formed by the seats, and cargo-carrying ability is compromised.

But this is a posh, lifestyley estate car, not some sales rep's workhorse. It wouldn't do to consider a mere Mondeo estate as a rival, nor a new Citroë*C5 – both roomier cars – as they exist on the wrong side of the premium watershed.

But if any car is to reinforce premium notions it's an Audi. It exudes quality, expense, precision and rationality. The new A4 also gives rear passengers more space than in the old one.

A new version of a familiar engine, the Volkswagen Group's 2.0-litre turbodiesel, replaces the old pump injectors – and the result is a smoother, quieter engine with better pull from low speeds, a wider speed range and effortless overtaking ability. However, the brakes are a touch too sensitive, the accelerator's action is a touch unprogressive, the steering requires too little effort for the result you get.

The front wheels grip well and the new car also rides more smoothly over bumps than its predecessor did. But it's hard to feel a true connection with the A4 as you drive it. It's almost as if all the controls are drive-by-wire.

But my favourite new A4 is the 1.8 TFSI, with a new direct-injection, 160bhp turbo engine and regular front-wheel drive. It's an eager, punchy, sweet-spinning engine, light enough to make the most of the new drivetrain configuration, powerful enough to make a very brisk A4, efficient enough to be cheap to run. Here, the lightness of touch in corners feels totally natural and the whole car gels. An Audi which drives like a BMW? Not quite; it's still too aloof for that. But it's a big step forward.

THE RIVALS

BMW 318i Touring: from £22,325
Cheapest 3-series estate is a practical car with a separately-opening rear window. It's also a delight to drive, and lively enough with 143bhp.

Alfa 159 Sportwagon 1.8: from £19,655
It's overlooked but it's a handsome, well-made, capable car sold by a fast-improving dealer chain. Worth a look. This entry-level version has 140bhp.

Saab 9-3 Sport Wagon 1.8t: from £21,055
Scandinavian cool (including ice-block rear lights) and fine handling here. The 150bhp turbo engine is actually a 2.0-litre, despite the misleading name.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    BI Manager - £50,000

    £49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

    BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

    £48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

    VB.Net Developer

    £35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

    SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game