2009 Audi A4 Avant: Lackluster Family Trip
March 09, 2009
I shuttled my family to visit my wife's parents this past weekend in the long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant. It's a 500-mile roundtrip I've done in a variety of long-term cars. The A4 did fine, but it wasn't as cool of a companion as I thought it might have been. Further thoughts on this after the jump.
Here are a few things that disappointed:
Wagon body style didn't add anything. This is something Dan posted about before -- unless you are willing to pack up to the roof and block the view out the rearview mirror, the Avant doesn't really offer any extra luggage capacity over the sedan. As one of the commenters on Dan's blog post noted, the Avant can offer enhanced versatility (like if you want to carry a dog), but for this trip the amount of luggage I had could have just as easily fit in a sedan's trunk.
Sport package. This trip was almost all highway travel. And in this case, the stiffer ride quality and extra noise from the larger (18-inch) summer tires was unwelcome. There were a couple of times where my sleeping daughter was almost woken up when we hit some rougher/broken pavement in the A4. Nor did the A4 ever seem notably quiet in terms of wind/road/engine noise. Now, in the time I've spent with the car previously, I didn't ever find the sport package to be a detriment. And if I ever take our A4 Avant out for some aggressive driving, I'm sure I'll appreciate it. But for this trip and its substantial highway travel, the stock suspension (and, likely, the stock seats) would have been better.
Backseat . Yes, the A4's backseat is bigger than it ever was before with the latest redesign, but it's still not what I would call roomy. With our child safety seat in the middle, there just wasn't enough room for two adults to sit on the sides. Also, the A4 was one of the worst long-term cars I've encountered for securing my daughter's front-facing safety seat. I still got it installed, but 1) the car's LATCH anchor points weren't compatible with my seat; and 2) the rear head restraints couldn't be removed, making a snug fit against the seatback much more difficult.
On the positive side, the A4 was stylish and got decent overall fuel economy (26.6 mpg) even though I was riding the throttle pretty hard at times. The navigation system and iPod integration were also appreciated. But if I had to do this trip over again, and I could pick between our A4 Avant or a Toyota Venza, I'd chose a Venza. Even as a wagon, the A4 is just a little too small for long-distance family trip duty.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 8,156 miles