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2009 Audi A4: What's It Like to Live With?

Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2009 Audi A4 as our editors live with this car for a year.

Audi A4 2009

What do you want to know about?


November 12, 2008

So we're walking through the Inside Line parking garage here in Santa Monica and we're passing a 2009 Audi A4 Avant 2.0T in Quartz Gray Metallic that's wearing dealer plates.

"That really is a nice car," our Inside Line colleague says.

"Sure is," we reply. "Hope ours is that nice."

"It is ours," he says.

"We got a wagon?"


"We bought a station wagon!"



After lunch we sprint back to the office to let everyone in on the secret that our new long-term 2009 Audi A4 is an Avant — a wagon. We'd finally cast off the chains of the terminally cool, ditched the crossover fad and jumped back onboard with our favorite functional family hauler. Yet this new Audi is a far cry from our dad's wood-paneled Roadmaster.

This A4 represents Audi's newest passenger car platform, a thoroughly revised and reengineered interpretation of its traditional midsize platform. This new A4 wagon is larger, faster, more efficient, more luxurious and sportier than the car it replaces, and for the next 12 months and 20,000 miles it will be in our capable hands for a long-term test.

What We Bought
Once we made the decision to opt for the Avant version of the new 2009 Audi A4 instead of the sedan, Audi made a few decisions for us because the wagon is only available in a certain configuration. First is the drivetrain; the Avant is only available with all-wheel drive. Audi's Quattro system is largely the same as it has been in years past, but the front differential and the torque converter have switched places, a measure that allows the engine to be placed farther back in the engine compartment, improving the balance of the weight distribution.

And on the topic of torque converters, every A4 Avant in the U.S. has one, because only the ZF-built six-speed automatic transmission is available. That means no six-speed manual (available on the sedan), while no A4 in any body style uses the dual-clutch (S tronic in Audispeak) transmission. Even front-wheel-drive 2.0T sedans are available only with Multitronic, similar to a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Connected to the six-speed auto box is the new 2.0-liter TFSI engine. Turbocharged and direct injected, the 2.0-liter inline-4 produces 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the latter coming at a staggeringly low 1,500 rpm and not dropping off until over 4,000 rpm. The 2.0-liter TFSI won the International Engine of the Year award this year.

With the new A4, Audi has rethought conventional hydraulic-assist power steering even as other car manufacturers have opted for electric assist to improve fuel-efficiency, though at the price of numb steering feel. Audi's hydraulic assist features a vane-type pump that delivers only the volume of fluid that is necessary, regardless of engine speed — a measure that contributes to this car's class-leading EPA fuel economy estimates of 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway. Compare these numbers with the BMW 328ix, the A4's main competitor, which nets 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway.

The Avant's interior continues to express Audi's latest cockpit-style themes with a dash that's angled toward the driver at 8 degrees, while the overall finish is very luxurious thanks to high-quality materials, expert execution and the Multi Media Interface (MMI) driver command center. This year, however, MMI has a new toy to control: the iPod.

As part of the $4,000 Premium Plus package, the Audi Music Interface offers sophisticated iPod integration. Other Volkswagen/Audi products have had iPod capability before, but it was sloppily executed at best. Tracks were listed as CDs in a changer, and there was very little rhyme or reason as to what songs would be placed in those folders. The new system is the Apple standard, which is sorted by artist, genre, track, album, song, playlist, etc. MMI might not be the ideal solution for scrolling around a DVD-based navigation system (a $2,500 option that comes with a rearview camera), but it is the perfect medium for interfacing with an iPod that's being pumped through a 505-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system.

That Premium Plus package is more than an iPod adapter, however. It comes with daytime running lights, Bluetooth, six-level heated seats, three-zone climate control, auto-dimming mirrors and the symphony sound system. It also includes 17-inch wheels with all-season tires. Of course, we have no idea where those 17s went, because we ordered the Sport package which includes a three-spoke steering wheel, shift paddles for the transmission, sport seats, sport suspension and 18-inch wheels with high-performance tires. This choice cost $1,450.

Altogether this 2009 Audi A4 wagon cost $44,150, a far cry from its $34,500 base price. We plead guilty to option sheet overindulgence.

Why We Bought It
The SUV boom is over; the green movement killed it. The crossover movement could very well be headed the same way, as the subprime mortgage crisis has consumers thinking more realistically about their needs compared with their wants. We all appreciate a little more room, but is driving something the size of an ice-fishing hut worth it? Not for our money. The unique combination of luxury, pleasant (and even exciting) driving dynamics and a practical amount of utility make the station wagon a guilty pleasure of ours, and we're convinced that the A4 Avant will deliver, though we admit that $44 grand is an awfully pricey ticket.

This is also a chance to get our hands on Audi's new bread-and-butter car. Audi sells some 40,000 A4s a year in the U.S., although only 10 percent of them are wagons. But it's the car that built the brand and it's the car that's carrying the brand. We may rave about the midengine Audi R8, but its sales wouldn't sustain our local dealership for very long, let alone the entire country. That responsibility falls on the A4.

It's All About Quality
Unintended acceleration. Electrical problems. Unreliability. These are the elephants in the room when anyone considers the purchase of a new or used Audi. We have a long memory for the bad, and a short one for good. While this test is an exploration of function and compromise in a midsize station wagon, it is also a test of a brand with a bad rap. Will we make do with only 50.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity when we're used to much more in an SUV? Or will great handling on the road to the mountains make up for that spare cooler we had to leave at home? Will the remote key fob work? Will we regret the lack of a third-row seat that we've become so used to? Will it start every day?

For the next 12 months and 20,000 miles we'll be putting the 2009 Audi A4 Avant through the wringer that is our daily lives and reporting on it in our long-term blog.

Current Odometer: 1,250
Best Fuel Economy: 27.0 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 17.3 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 22.9 mpg

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Quick Start

November 13, 2008

Took my first drive in long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant last night and right away I was impressed by the ease of getting in and starting the drive. Our car doesn't have keyless start, but like the current-generation 3 Series, it has a fob without a metal key on it (probably has one within, though) that you stick into a slot to the right of the steering wheel.

But, you don't have to go through the awkward motion of also pressing an extraneous start button. As long as you have your foot on the brake pedal, the A4 starts right up when you put the fob in its slot. It's quick and satisfying.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Mileage Will Vary More Than You Think

November 14, 2008

Took the A4 to Vegas to cover the SEMA show. Could have driven the R8 instead or even the GT-R, but I went practical and never regretted it. The seats are comfortable, the interior is well-laid out and it feels big inside. Even with the larger wheels and tires, it rides smoothly and the wind and road noise is minimal. The steering, brakes and throttle response all feel dead on and I got 27.0 mpg even though I averaged roughly 80mph through the desert. Strangely enough, the prior tank only returned 17.3 mpg, so the mileage varies quite a bit depending on driving conditions. That said, I could deal the big swings as this car just feels right. Who knows, maybe I'll get tired of it in six months, but right now I wouldn't hesitate for a second to buy this car for myself.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 2,214 miles

Homerun for Wagons

November 21, 2008

I've always enjoyed wagons, but last night our 2009 Audi A4 Avant long termer proved pleasantly useful. The hatch lifts high and out of the way of my head, while the low lift-over height not only makes loading stuff easier than an SUV, but it's also pretty good for tying one's baseball shoes. The trunk itself is well lit with two lights on both sides along with a light in the hatch that shines downward providing plenty of illumination for changing out of one's baseball pants post game. The cargo cover that slides upwards is also a nice touch. Of the many vehicles I've driven to softball, the Avant made my pre- and post-game rituals the easiest. Plus, I think it looks pretty darn cool.

In a sorta related note, the Edmunds softball team clinched first place in our league and we're presently undefeated with two games left. We rule!

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 2,943 miles

"I-Vant" My Key, Please. No Seriously, Gimme Dat!

December 01, 2008

The sleek, keyless key for the A4 avant is nice because it doesn't have a spring-loaded switch blade-like metal key that pops out in your pocket and jabs your groin at inopportune moments. No, the black-plastic and polished-metal lozenge is all there is to it. It works nicely when you insert it into the dash and press it further to start the car. It's when you try to remove it that the tug-o-war begins.

The problem arises when it comes time to remove the key. Sometimes — and I haven't been able to determine the exact circumstances which lead to it — but the dash board refuses to let go of the darned thing. The routine is supposed to go like this: Put the car in park, depress the key into the dash to shut the car off, then tug on the key and it should pop out. That happens about 80% of the time.

The other 20% of the time, and those occasions seem to clump together for one infuriating day, it takes up to ten attempts to get the key out.

Wiggling it, applying pressure on the top/bottom edges, tugging quickly/slowly, all of those ideas don't seem to work all of the time. Finally, when the key is released, I try to remember what led up to that moment, but there doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to it.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 3567 miles

Better than a Passat Wagon?

December 15, 2008

It's me. I'm the one you're mad at. I'm the reason for the lack of recent posts on our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant. You see I went on vacation, and I took the A4 with me. And I did this for two reasons:

1) It's a really nice car and it fits my kids and my dog and my wife and I like driving it, so what would you have done? Taken the Focus? Didn't think so.

2) I've owned (well leased) that blue VW Passat wagon for the last 2.5 years. It's my wife's daily driver, and I thought it would be cool to see how the new Audi stacks up against my old VW during 10 days of life at the Oldhams.

It's a good comparison, my wife's front-wheel drive wagon packs the old version of the 2.0T engine (200 hp) and 6-speed automatic transmission, while the Audi packs the new 2.0T (211 hp), the same 6-speed automatic and quattro all-wheel drive.

Turns out the cars aren't that different. Sure the Audi is so beautiful it makes the Passat look like the box it came in, but hop out of the much newer and more expensive A4 and the Passat holds up. Even with 25,000 miles on its odometer, the Passat still feels solid, and its combination of refinement and athleticism feels just right.

Don't get me wrong, with its firmer suspension, more aggressive Bridgestones and all-wheel drive the Audi will run circles around my Passat, and my wife says the A4 feels quicker off the line. But my conclusion is that the A4, although larger than before, is still too small for real family duty, and the Passat holds up nicely when it's put forehead to forehead against its swankier sibling.

Oh and get this; our Audi stickered for $44,150. My Passat cost just $30,030 and the only feature it seems to lack compared to the A4 are navigation, paddle shifters and Xenon headlights. Plus my car has a power lift and close tailgate, which the Audi does not.

I will admit that I wish my Passat looked better (I still prefer the look of the previous generation), but the Audi's additional $14,000 cost is looking pretty hard to justify.

Tune in tomorrow for a mileage report.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 3,849 miles

Averaging 21.5 mpg

December 16, 2008

Our 2009 Audi A4 wagon is powered by the standard 211 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, 6-speed automatic and quattro all-wheel drive. The EPA rates it at 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.

So far our best recoreded mileage was an all highway run from LA to Las Vegas at 27 mpg. Although most fillups are averaging in the 21-23 mpg range, we have had more than a few below 19 mpg, including one at a very thirsty 16.9 mpg. Overall we're averaging 21.5 mpg during the cars first 4,000 miles.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 3,989 miles

Cheap Gas is a Gas

December 16, 2008

This morning while I was carefully crafting my post about the fuel mileage of our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant I dug up the car's window sticker and it gave me quite a chuckle.

Look what it says between the Audi's EPA city and highway numbers: Estimated Annual Fuel Cost $2,806 based on 15,000 miles at $4.30 per gallon.

$4.30? Remember that? That was like way back in September or something. You know, the olden days. I just paid $1.92 for the A4's required premium. Happy days are here again. Somebody better alert the Audi peeps.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 3,992 miles

Transmission Tuning By Buick?

December 18, 2008

Drive an Audi, praise an Audi. I've followed this mantra in this space many times, stroking the egos of the men behind our previous long-term Audi A4, our long-gone Audi Q7 and our present fleet favorite, our long-term Audi R8.

But there has been an exception to my compliments: Audi's lazy automatic transmissions. I've complained about the slow response of the slushboxes in both the Q7 and the R8, and now I must whine about the 6-speed automatic in our new long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant.

The tranny has three modes, Normal, Sport and Manual, but for me it only has one: Manual. It's the only way to get any response from the wagon's turbocharged 2.0-liter, which really comes alive above 3,000 rpm. Leave the shifting to the car's computer and the engine is never really allowed to spend any time in its sweet spot. In Normal the transmission is always two gears too high ( 5th when I want 3rd, 4th when I want 2nd, etc.) and in Sport it's always one gear too high. And getting it to downshift in either really requires a wack of the throttle.

Shameful really, as the transmission's refusal to play sucks much of the sporty feel from the A4.

I assume this lack of aggression in the transmission's mapping is to improve fuel economy, but it's out of sync with the rest of the car which is tuned for sharp response and driving enjoyment. Incredibly, the auto in my wife's Passat is more aggressive (I rarely use manual mode when I drive it) while the rest of her car is certainly less sporty.

Hey, Audi, I think it's time to fire ol' Wolfgang in the transmission tuning department. Send the struedel packing; maybe Skoda has an opening.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 4,012 miles

We won't get fooled again

December 18, 2008

A great President of the modern era once said, "Fool me once: Shame on you. Fool me twice: We won't get fooled again." And so it is with the Audi A4 wagon: I was fooled the first time (or three), but won't be fooled again. You see, when I first attempted to enter the A4, I saw the door handle with the smart key switch shown in the photo. All of these systems are similar, but with some you have to press the switch to unlock (with the key conveniently in your pocket); others you just pull the handle to open. I tried it both ways with the A4. Fool!!

Upon closer inspection, I saw that there is no button on the handle — it's a switch blank. There is no smart key. These switch blanks are common inside many vehicles as placeholders for optional equipment that's not on that specific vehicle, but I've never seen such a thing on the door handle or anywhere on the exterior of a vehicle. Apparently, our A4 wagon shares its door handles with a fancier A4 or a high end Audi model. But for $44K, couldn't this vehicle have its own door handles without the switch blank? Audi rubs it in by putting these switch blanks on all four door handles.

Hopefully Audi will address this issue instead of ducking metaphorical shoes thrown by this crazed journalist.

Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 4034 mi

Avant to Take it to Oregon, But...

December 19, 2008

You and I think a lot alike. Another Oregon holiday trip candidate I've had my eye on is our 2009 Audi A4 Avant. But I reluctantly had to dismiss this one even before the FX50's arrival. And the reasons are the same.

Rear cargo space with 4 aboard? Not good enough for 10-day, 2,000 mile trip with luggage and presents aboard. Only 17.3 cubic feet are available here — less than the FX50 by a fair margin. Heck, the trunk of the Pontiac G8 GT sedan is fractionally larger at 17.5 cubic feet. This isn't a big wagon.

And like the FX50, our A4 wears summer tires in the form of the Bridgestone RE050A. They're damn good tires in the dry and wet, but they aren't intended for snow-covered roads. Even quattro can't save you if the tires don't have good snow traction.

It's a pity, I know. I really like wheeling this one around town and I'd like to stretch its legs on a road trip.

Just not this road trip.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 4,203 miles

Road Trip

December 22, 2008

Don't expect many blog entries for the Audi A4 Avant this week. It's on a road trip to Las Vegas for the holidays. Check back when it returns next week.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 4,233 miles

Xmas Tree Time

December 23, 2008

You had to see the look on the guy's face when I asked him to tie that 10-foot tall Christmas tree to the roof of my brand-new 2009 Audi A4 Avant. He couldn't believe it. It was like I asked him to eat worms.

"You sure," he said to me, his eyes admiring the Audi's fresh gray paint.

"Sure guy," I replied. "Just throw it up there."

Sometimes driving somebody elses $44,000 sport wagon has its moments, but seriously, the little A4 handled this big-SUV-type job without a wimper.

And yes, I hosed off all the pine needles. I might be careless, but I'm not cruel.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

Performance Testing

December 24, 2008

2009 Audi A4 Avant 2.0 Quattro


0-30: 2.2

0-45: 3.9

0-60: 6.4

0-60 (with 1 foot of rollout like on a dragstrip): 6.0

0-75: 9.6

1/4 mile (ET / MPH): 14.6 @ 91.3

Comments: The A4 doesn't approve of brake / throttle overlap for more than a fraction of a second, limiting an aggressive launch technique. Also, it seems to be short shifting by about 500rpm shy of indicated redline. Finally, manual-shift mode still upshifts automatically — again shy of redline. Remarkably linear power delivery for a small displacement turbo engine.


60-0: 103 feet

30-0: 26 feet

Comments: WOW doest this wagon have brakes and the right tires to use them! Dramatic power, near-zero dive and no flutter or hum. Pedal effort was moderate to high.

Skid Pad


Comments: Awesome grip from both the front and rear of the A4 which indicates they've really banished the oh-so-Audi understeer somehow. Only throttle adjustments were required to steer the A4 around the circle. Steering effort was spot on.


69.3 mph

Very good balance combined with crisp turn-in made the A4 a thrilling car in the slalom. While the AWD-effect wasn't pronounced mid-run, it was evident on the exit where I could lift to rotate, and floor it for the expected bite from the front. Nicely done and it appears Audi has cracked the code and made their AWD a performance enhancement as well as a foul-weather enhancement.

Tires: Bridgestone Potenza REO50A 245/40R18 93Y

Weight: 3,860 lbs

Darn good handling numbers.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

Vegas Road Trip

December 29, 2008

Portions of Interstate 15 were closed due to snowfall just days prior to our planned run out to Las Vegas in the Audi A4. Roads were clear when we passed through but there was still enough white stuff on the ground to excite snow-deprived Southern Californians.

We won some, lost some, filled countless buffet plates and were ready to leave four days later. But our plan to skip breakfast and make good time home backfired when we ran into road construction traffic... stuck behind this Twinkie truck.

Trip totals: 800 miles, 25 mpg

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 4,872

Highs and Lows

January 05, 2009

Over the holiday weekend, I took our long term A4 to Lake Gregory, a small community in the mountains Northeast of Los Angeles. After spending about a week with the car here are a few observations:

I don't need shift paddles or 18 inch wheels - save $1,450 and skip the sport package. Acceleration is more than adequate even at 6,000 ft above sea level. The new A4 feels wider than before but rear seat leg room is lacking especially if you're using child seats that sort of force little kid's feet up and forward. Cargo space in the rear is generous - stuff for 2 adults and 2 kids fit with room to spare. The extended thigh support feature for the driver's seat is awesome - a must have on any car. Excellent wipers - mud, snow, pine needles and water are no match. The automatic smart key release is too finicky - if you don't press hard enough when shutting the car off, the key won't release. On one leg of the trip, I averaged 26 miles per gallon in combined highway and mountain driving. I love MMI - it does what I want without having to think too much; it's intuitive. Finally, this is probably the best looking wagon on the market - it's just a great looking car.

Brian Moody, Senior Automotive Editor @ 5,188 miles

First Service

January 06, 2009

We eclipsed the 5,000-mile landmark in our A4 Avant over the weekend. So Monday morning we called our buddies at Santa Monica Audi to schedule an appointment. They accepted the car in the morning, changed the oil and filter, performed their routine inspections and returned it to us later that afternoon. Based on past experience with this dealer, that is fast.

Our conversation with the cashier at pick-up was just as quick. "No charge for your first scheduled maintenance appointment, sir. Sign here, please. Have a nice day."

Now we haven't forgot about their failure to order Q7 parts in a timely manner. Or the time they forgot to tell us our R8 was ready for pick up. Or that day they left a pair of channel locks in the engine bay. But this is the most pleasant experience we've had at this dealership in the past 3 years. Could it be a sign of things to come? I'm skeptical.

Cost: $0

Days out of service: 0

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 5,359 miles

Why Buy the Wagon, Again?

January 12, 2009

I like wagons. I like the 2009 Audi A4. But I'm not sure that I see the point of the 2009 Audi A4 Avant.

Don't get me wrong, the 2009 Audi A4 Avant is a well-executed wagon that's quite nice to spend time in. The way the security cover can be slid up in a recessed track to assist loading and the overall fit and finish of the cargo space are but two examples.

But I don't think it's wagon-y enough to bother with. Example: with the rear seats in use as shown in the above photo, our avant has 17.3 cubic feet of luggage space. An A4 sedan has 16.9 cubic feet in the trunk — a virtual tie.

Here are some other numbers:

Cargo space, rear seats folded: sedan = 34.0 cu-ft, avant = 50.5 cu-ft
Front headroom: sedan = 40.0", avant = 40.4"
Rear Headroom: sedan = 37.5", avant = 38.2"
Base 2.0T Quattro price: sedan = $32.7k, avant = $34.5k

This detail shot shows that security cover track.

Yes, the Avant has more ultimate cubes and the broad hatch makes it easier to load. But that's not enough for me. I expect a cargo advantage with the rear seats in use, too.

Besides, I feel silly saying "avant" all the time.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 5,588 miles

Is that you, Optimus Prime?

January 20, 2009

While driving our long-term A4 Avant home at dusk the other night, I passed another '09 A4 headed in the opposite direction. The new LED eyelids really stood out, and when combined with the HID nozzles, give the new A4 a Transformers-esque visage: Are the Autobots cached among us as Audis? The radio never tuned itself to scene appropriate stations (though thanks to satellite radio, this is a manual option), and no one even partially resembling Megan Fox needed a lift on my route.

On the A4, the LED brows work well, throwing a cool even spread of bright light, but our left HID cannon always seems to run a little hot and high. As wild as Audi could have gone with the styling of the new LED beamers, they get a little credit for keeping things in check with just a mild bit of curvy whimsy. Did the little LED string need to hook under the HID beams in an inverted and slightly arched brow? Probably not, but this is Audi, who's set the bar of late for classy and understated design. What happens when the rest of the automotive world gets a hold of this stuff?

Once these slick LED lights work their way into the regular automotive supply chain, how long before designers start stringing up their cars like Christmas trees? We're likely to see headlights formed into illuminated logos, grilles outlined marquee style, or perhaps an option to have your name spelled out in the taillights ("Whoa" on the left, "Trixie" on the right). As LED technology advances, how long before we've got Lite Brite on wheels, with each corner of the car customizable from an in-dash display (if a Toyota, you'll have to be stationary, with the car in Park of course).

LED lights are likely to only get smaller and brighter, opening up an entirely new palette for car designers, and of course, marketing input. Making cars safer and more visible would be a nice perk, but how do you see this lightshow evolving?

Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 6011 miles

Like Running Between the Raindrops

January 22, 2009

Whenever it rains is SoCal, driving is usually a chore. Because we don't get much precipitation, the streets get slick with oil. And to be frank, a lot of drivers don't take any caution in the wet weather.

But my morning commute was no bother. I was driving the Audi A4 and except for the pit-pat of raindrops on the roof, you wouldn't even know it was raining. This AWD car felt just as sure-footed as always. No slips. No hydroplaning. Raindrops barely touched the windshield. They just rolled right off. The rain-sensing wipers are quiet and unobtrusive.

This is a great weather car.

Next time, I'll tell you about the A4's weird speedometer.

(My camera is down, so no rainy photo. I went artisic instead.)

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 6,099 miles

Sport Package Blues

February 11, 2009

This is a picture of the driver's seat of our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant. Our car is equipped with the optional sport package, which includes these sportier sport seats. As you can see, they have some big bolsters paired with a fairly wide and kinda flat bottom cushions. They are also pretty hard, in the sport seat tradition. Now, don't misunderstand, this is a comfortable driver's seat for 99% of our staffers (Donna DeRosa hates this seat.). In fact, I thought it was a great seat until I sat in the seat below.

This is the driver's seat in a 2009 Audi A4 sedan that I drove recently. The car was not equiped with the optional sport package. This seat isn't as heavily bolstered, but it's still very supportive. It's also not as wide or quite as firm, and ultimately I found it more comfortable.

Forgive my amazement, but this has never happened to me before. I always, always, always prefer the sport seats. Must be getting old.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

It's Not A Tumor

February 18, 2009

See the problem here? The sidewall of our longterm 2009 Audi A4's front tire has a growth. It's audible too, producing a subtle thubthubthub at low speeds.

It's the result of either a particularly nasty pothole or a parking job gone horribly wrong. In either case, we're parking the A4 until the tire can be replaced. lists the A4's Bridgestone RE050A in 245/40/R18 at $239.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 6,845 miles.

Eight Years Later

February 23, 2009

After driving our 2009 Audi A4 Avant a little, I thought back to the first Audi Avant I ever drove — it was a 2001 S4 Avant, the first year for the wagon in the second-generation S4. I fondly remember that car, mostly because I loved its combination of performance and utility as well as our test vehicle's distinctive Nagaro Blue paint.

You might find these test numbers interesting:

What the numbers don't show is how our 2009 Avant's handling is more taunt and responsive than that old S4. Dynamically, our sport-package-equipped A4 is superior, even though it's not an "S" model. Of course, I've had eight years of memory loss since I drove that S4, but my lingering impressions seem to be backed up by comments in our 2001 road test. Our long-term A4 also has a nicer-looking interior, a better-sounding audio system, a panoramic sunroof, navigation and iPod integration. It's no doubt safer, too.

I will say I'm not as smitten with our A4 as I was with our S4, probably because the S4 was quite special back then, and our A4 is, well, just a four-cylinder A4 with an agricultural engine note. But this 2009 Avant of ours is still a great car.

Oh, and check out the blue suede and door inserts in the 2001!

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 7,120 miles

Crisp Rearview Camera

February 26, 2009

Our 2009 Audi A4 has a rearview camera. I really do like rearview cameras in general, as they make backing out of crowded park spaces and driveways less worrisome. This is true even on our A4, which actually has decent outward rear visibility.

I've noticed that our A4's display screen, in particular, is high resolution — the view is crisper and more detailed than most other backup displays I've encountered. Is it the camera or the display that makes it look better? Not sure.

Like on our departed Q7, the screen's yellow lines bend as you turn the wheel to help show your intended path as you backup. The camera comes bundled with the navigation system, though, so the privilege of seeing more will cost you $2,500. Our A4 doesn't have the ability to play DVDs though its screen, either, though our own Al Austria tells me the new Q5's MMI will allow DVD playback.

In a belated announcement, our A4's It's Not A Tumor tire (for the Govenator version, click here) was replaced last week. Cost us $306.12 ($256 parts, $25 labor) at our favored tire shop, Stokes Tires Pros in Santa Monica.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Interior Design

March 02, 2009

I really like our 2009 Audi A4 Avant's interior. Here's why: 1) Even though our car's interior is trimmed in black, it's welcoming and premium in appearance. The wood highlights are tasteful and not overdone. 2) The control layout — including MMI — is pleasing, sophisticated and largely intuitive (some of my coworkers might disagree with me here). 3) Overall material quality, though not as superior as Audi's interiors once were, is still very high.

In short, our A4's interior looks and feels like an entry-level luxury car's should. It's one of the top reasons why someone would want to buy a new A4.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 7,230 miles

iPod Interface

March 06, 2009

I've had my 30GB iPod hooked up to our long-term A4 Avant for the past week or so. It works quite well. The attribute I like most (and this is inherent with any good integration system) is better safety. As you likely know, holding and fiddling with an MP3 player hooked up to a normal auxiliary input jack can be a major distraction.

This is greatly reduced with iPod integration, as you can control the iPod directly through the car and see songs on the main display rather than the iPod's.

Specific details about our A4's integration follow after the jump.

The connection cable is in the glovebox. There's a slide-out tray that you can use to store the iPod, but since I've got a rubbery case and bulky belt clip on mine, I've just been putting it in the larger adjacent slot to the right, which is fine.

The A4 detects my iPod quickly and displays the iPod in a very similar fashion — Artist, Album, Playlist, Podcast and so forth are all represented via folders.

To navigate, you can use the MMI wheel. Spinning it clockwise moves down the iPod list and spinning it counterclockwise moves up the list. Pressing down on the wheel selects whatever is highlighted on the screen by the little white dot. Currently playing tracks are displayed in a callout box with artist, album and song information. To back out of a folder, you can scroll up to the top to find the back folder symbol, or you can click the "return" button below the MMI knob.

You can also use the scroll wheel on the steering wheel to move up and down through an iPod list. When you do so, the gauge cluster display switches from its normal trip computer mode to show the list of songs that you're moving up or down in.

Overall, the Audi A4's integration is very easy to use. There are only two minor things I don't like. One, it's hard to find the random/repeat functions through the interface. Two: for podcasts, the Audi displays them alphabetically, which is counter to my iPod's chronological listing. As such, finding my newest podcasts has been difficult.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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

Front Seats

March 18, 2009

Since Scott outed me as an Audi A4 seat hater, I thought I would explain myself.

Let me give you a little back story. When I was growing up my father had a sandwich shop and also sold things like soda, milk, etc. When I was little, he would create a makeshift chair for me out of a milk case. They were made of metal and he would put a cardboard box over it so I could sit down and hang with him in the store. After driving the A4 Avant for the first time, I came into the office complaining that the seat cushions were so flat and unpadded, it was like sitting on a milk crate. Kevin and Scott both looked at me like I was nuts. They find nothing wrong with the seats.

OK, fast forward to this week. I drove the Audi A4 Avant home again and tried to figure out why I dislike the seats so much. I usually like sport seats. I like bolsters. I like feeling secure in the seat. The center of the seat cushion is rather flat. But that's not what bothers me so much. It's the length of the cushion. I'm only 5'4" tall, so the seat bottom is too long for me. It uncomfortably extends under my knee. And although I can adjust the seat in many ways with the power controls, I can never get it to not dig into the back of my knee. So, there you have it. I'm not a seat hater. I'm just too short for this particular Audi.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Great Ride, Now If I Could Just Exit the Car

March 23, 2009

I lucked out and scored our 2009 Audi A4 Avant this weekend. I know Brent wasn't too crazy about it as a road trip car but I loved it! Of course I didn't drive nearly as many miles as he did or have a sleeping baby to worry about but I found its ride smooth, almost floaty but not in a bad way. Actually everything about it was smooth from its throttle to brakes. The road noise from its large tires didn't bother me either but that's probably because I was too busy singing along to the Saturday Dance Mix on 1st Wave.

My only complaint, and I know this has already been covered by editor Chris Walton...

Is trying to remove that dang-blasted key from the ignition. If you put your foot on the brake pedal, it starts the car. If you try to push the key in and pull it out in one fluid motion, it still won't come out. Even if you try looking it up in the owner's manual, there's no "How to remove key from ignition" chapter. But there is a paragraph on how to remove the emergency key.

There's no telling what will make that key come out so it's best if you don't have anywhere to go in a hurry. It almost made me fear...well, not fear, but definitely didn't make me look forward to going anywhere because of the sweaty struggle that was sure to follow and the worry that I wouldn't be able to leave the car because of the stuck key.

This morning it took two minutes of pressing that key in and trying to pull it out til the car let it go. And that was one of the quickest battles this weekend. Bystanders in the garage just saw the A4's headlights flash on and off in rapid succession while a woman in the car was yelling at the dash.

And before you ask, "Why didn't you just use the start button instead of inserting the key?" I'll have you know that there isn't a start button. Unfortunately, our car is equipped with the Premium Plus package which doesn't include the Advanced Key option, i.e. keyless start.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 9,052 miles

Size Matters This Time

March 26, 2009

I have a small beef with the instrument panel of our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant. The gear readout is much too small. Look at it down there looking tiny in the lower left hand corner of the info box (M1). Try giving that a quick glance when you're making time.

I find it hard to believe, but there's obviously some dope at Audi who thinks the transmission gear is of equal importance as the outside temperature and far less important than today's date. Fool probably rides the train to work.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 9,189 miles

Wagon Our Tales

April 05, 2009

Station Wagons rule. They're so convenient. I don't know why more manufacturers don't make them.

I just asked my cubicle mate, Michael Jordan, why are wagons called "station" wagons? He says it's because back in the 1930s and 1940s, people used their wagons to pick up people from the train station.

So simple.

One of our Contributors, Ken Gross, restored an 1942 Ford Super DeLuxe Wagon back to its woodie glory.

Thankfully, our Audi A4 Avant has many more safety features than a WWII-era woodie. Being built of metal has its advantages. And gotta love those airbags. As Ken Gross wrote, "A woodie was fragile, as a fender-bender that would simply bang up a metal car body would reduce a hapless woodie to matchsticks."

All hail modern technology. Welcome to the car of the week, the 2009 Audi A4 Avant.

What do you think of wagons?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Winning Test Drive

April 06, 2009

Like some folks, I've been looking for a great deal on a new or used car lately. I've always coveted the Audi A4 Avant. I thought it'd be perfect for what I do in my free time, and a fun car to drive in between.

I never really liked the price, however.

I got to drive it up to Sonoma for the GT500 test we recently posted. I loved driving this vehicle. Besides, it became my latest photo sherpa. It allowed me to take this shot out the back:

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Hot Lap - Sears Point

April 06, 2009

As I mentioned before, we went up to Sears Point to shoot the GT00. Thankfully we took the Avant as our photo/video vehicle. Yeah, by the way, I'm calling it Sears Point. I don't care that some German company paid for the name.

During our shoot we were left alone by the Ford PR folks for a very brief period of time. Don't think we didn't take advantage of such a beautiful piece of track.

While the 2.0 isn't as powerful as the GT500, it was respectable in the straights and plenty of fun in the curves. It didn't help that some of our gear sloshed from side to side in the back.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

iLike iPod

April 07, 2009

Our Audi A4 Avant is equipped with the Multi Media Interface (MMI) driver command center.

The best part for me is the way it works with my iPod. It plugs into the adapter in the glovebox and tucks away neatly into the handy spot pictured above. Unlike the Focus, which leaves your iPod out in plain site with a lengthy cord dangling.

With my iPod out of the way and not taking up any of the cupholders, I can still control my music from the center console. I get all the sorting choices I would on my iPod, like artist, albumn, genre, etc.


I left my iPod sticking out a little so you could see it in the photo, but it does fit all the way into that spot.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Open Thread

April 07, 2009

Questions? Comments?

What do you want to know about the Audi A4 Avant?

Or do you have a review of your own? Post it here.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Clear is the New Clever

April 08, 2009

I disagree with Scott Oldham's recent complaint about the 2009 Audi A4 Avant's instrument panel.

I look at the compact screen between the tachometer and speedometer and think what a great job Audi did putting eight separate pieces of information into such a small space, while making it look uncluttered and totally readable.

In one glance I know how many miles I've traveled, how much fuel I have left, time, date, ambient temp, odometer and trip miles, plus selected gear and radio station.

And all without pushing a single button.

Perhaps our editor in chief needs some new specs.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 10,777 miles

The Secret of Good Design

April 08, 2009

What's the secret of the appeal of the Audi control layout?

Could it be a sound driving position, instruments that combine clarity with style, useful control stalks on the steering wheel, a comprehensive selection of readouts, soft-touch buttons, a proper interplay between analog controls and digital readouts, discrete adjustments for ventilation source, temperature and fan speed, a red night-vision light for every control touch point, and the best of the remote-control interfaces for the navigation and entertainment system?

Or could it be that the layout never really changes? Not from car to car, and not from year to year. As much as we like to talk about the human-factor goodness of the Audi control layout, much of the appeal comes from the fact that it rarely changes, so it's easy to use.

Sometimes the science of control placement can be just as simple as resisting the impulse to change the design just for the sake of newness. To experience the confusion of a BMW or Mercedes-Benz cabin is to appreciate once again the smart design strategy from Audi.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 10,778 miles

Good Ergos, Bad Ergos

April 09, 2009

I like the roller knob on the steering wheel that lets me quickly run up and down my presets (which are displayed in the center display once you move the roller) and pick what suits my mood. I don't like the back a**wards orientation of the power lock buttons, where up equals lock and down equals unlock. That's the opposite of what you'd expect — for as long as I can remember, those old-school plunger door locks (yes, there are still cars with them) are up for unlocked and down for locked.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 10,825 miles

I Did It! I Did It!

April 10, 2009

I dreaded being saddled with Car of the Week, our 2009 Audi A4 Avant after my last tangle with its ignition. But thanks to you commenters I was finally able to master this secret art (OK, not-so-secret art) of taking the key out of the ignition.

As commenter quattro_baby suggested: "When leaving just push it like a button instead of pulling on it immediately after pushing it in. You'll hear a clicking sound when you push it like a button. Pull the key out and you're good to go." And it worked! So easy after all! OK, yes, I still struggled a bit in the video but like any skill, it takes practice. Heh.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 10,845 milles

Power Steering Problem?

April 21, 2009

While I normally enjoy the steering feedback provided by modern Audi models, there's something wrong with our long-term A4 Avant's steering system.

At first I thought the subtle vibration in the steering wheel was just another case of front-wheel balance upset by a thrown wheel weight. But then I realized the inconsistent tugging is even more pronounced when stationary, particularly when cranking the wheel left or right during parking-lot maneuvers. It reminds me of the old cars I've driven with a loose power steering belt and/or a dying power steering pump.

And it seems to be getting worse (though it could be I'm just more focused on it after spending several days with the car). Regardless, we'll be getting it checked out soon.

Karl Brauer, Editor in Chief @ 11,279 miles

Wedding Party

April 27, 2009

I drove up to Point Reyes for a wedding over the weekend and I took the A4 thinking it'd be great to have just in case there was a last minute dash to the florist, or some other cargo capacity necessity errand to do.

What I found was something I wasn't thinking of. The long drive was very uncomfortable for my girlfriends 6ft brother sitting in the back. The cramp leg room was too much for him over the six hour drive. My girlfriend gets car sick very easily so she had to sit up front. It wasn't a pretty situation.

The brother had to sit side saddle for a long portion of the way up, but the boxes of childhood memorabilia his parents made him take back to LA meant that he was again confined to sitting in a "normal" position on the way back. Several stops on the way back were needed to stretch and relax. I felt bad that my car was making him so uncomfortable.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Really, This Is How It Rides?

April 28, 2009

I love the stance of our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant — it looks so low, so sleek and so sporty for a wagon. Even compared to previous A4 Avants (which I've always found attractive), it's a level up in fashion.

Until last night, though, I'd been admiring it from afar, though, as the A4 and I never seem to be free on the same night. After 50 miles on LA freeways, I came away a little disappointed.

Much as Brent noted, this car does not ride well. The ride is busy and loud over the rain-grooved, concrete slabs and, if you hit broken pavement, you feel the trauma in the cabin. If this was an Evo we were talking about, I'd be more forgiving, but this is a station wagon with a cargo bay and an automatic transmission and a sub-70-mph slalom speed. Honestly, it doesn't feel any better than our old 2002 A4 sedan in this department.

I guess the 18-inch wheels and Bridgestone Potenza RE050A 245/40R18 93Y tires are to blame. They look so nice, but I couldn't live with this setup, so it would be the standard 225/50R17 94H all-season tires for me.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 12,384 miles

Conestoga Wagon?

May 07, 2009

There's just something endlessly appealing about the wagon. It's that magical expression of utility, only in something that doesn't look like a box.

Though we make fun of a wagon's domesticity, it never really goes out of style, does it? Think of the enduring good taste expressed by the Volvo wagon through the decades. Even the 1955 Studebaker Conestoga Wagon that I saw on the streets of Santa Monica the other night still looks pretty interesting. (Yes, Studebaker was the original manufacturer of the Conestoga wagon back when horsepower was literal and not figurative.)

But let's not get too heated up by the practicality of a wagon. Plenty of people will tell you that a wagon can take the place of a crossover, yet I'm not too sure. And the dimensions of the 2009 Audi A4 Avant make the point.

When you go looking for utility in a wagon, you look at the rear seat and the cargo area. After all, you're going to carry things, which is why you're thinking about the wagon configuration in the first place.

Audi makes it a little hard to sort through these parameters because it doesn't publish a number for rear seat legroom, a number that seems to perfectly express spaciousness to us. Apparently the car industry can't agree on a formula for determining a standard measurement, so Audi simply declines to participate in the charade. And the same goes for EPA interior volume, which is an equally tangled subject.

So let's use wheelbase as fundamental baseline of spaciousness, and we'll put the A4 Avant in context by comparing it to the Audi A3 5-door and the Audi Q5 crossover. The wheelbase of the A3 measures 101.5 inches, the A4 Avant's wheelbase measures 110.6 inches and the Audi Q5's wheelbase is rated at 110.5 inches.

When it comes to cargo capacity, the A3 affords 13.1 cubic feet with the second-row seat upright and 36.0 cubic feet when the second-row seat folded flat. The A4 Avant has 17.3 cubic feet with the second row upright and 50.5 cubic feet with the second seat flat. And the Q5 has 29.1 cubic feet with the second-row in place and 57.3 cubic feet when the second row folded flat.

The way I see it, the A4 Avant has a lot more rear-seat legroom than the A3, but not much more cargo room when the second seat is upright. The A4 Avant has much the same rear-seat room as a Q5, but significantly less cargo capacity when the second-row seat is upright. Once you fold the A4 Avant's seat, then its cargo capacity is surprisingly close to the Audi Q5.

So where does that leave us?

The Audi A4 is a spacious package for people, but it's not a miracle of Conestoga-style, cargo-toting wagon goodness when it comes to carrying things around every day. Truth to tell, an A4 sedan is a better deal, because the Avant's 17.3 cubic feet is calculated using a measurement that goes to the ceiling, and unless you buy the optional screen to keep stuff from falling into the rear seat, much of the space is no better than an illusion. In fact, the A4 sedan's carefully contained 16.9 cubic-feet in the trunk looks more useful in comparison. But when you've got some more serious cargo in mind, then the A4 Avant will carry a lot of it, some 50.4 cubic feet. This compares very well with the Q5's 57.3 cubic feet.

What we're talking about with the A4 Avant is more like usefulness rather than abstract utility. The wagon is a good compromise, but only a compromise. A crossover is a far better choice for families because it maximizes capacity on a daily basis, though at the price of a 4,178-pound package that negatively affects fuel economy. The A4 Avant is a little more useful than a sedan on a daily basis, but only because its cargo area offers a flat load floor and a large opening. And the 3,814-pound A4 Avant also drives more like the 3,461-pound A3 5-door than a crossover.

So let's agree that a wagon is usually more fun to drive than a crossover, but let's also recognize that it can't measure up to the crossover when it comes to, you know, Euclidean geometry. A wagon is a sedan with an extra dimension of usefulness; it's not a Conestoga wagon, no matter what the marketing message might be.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 13,440 miles.

Crash Test Videos

May 13, 2009
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

Helping Out

May 20, 2009

Here at Edmunds, we make an effort to give back to the community in our home base, which is located in Santa Monica.

Today, we volunteered with Meals on Wheels. We have the wheels so we want to use them for good. We took along the Audi A4, the Ford Flex and the Honda Fit.

I was driving the A4 wagon. It had plenty of room for the multiple containers of food and a cover to protect them from the sun. Most of the meals were in temperature-safe bags. But we also had fruit and milk.

We realized the Audi A4 doesn't have the easiest hatch to operate. It opens very high above our heads and is heavy to close. Of course, you wouldn't normally open and close the back repeatedly in such a short amount of time. With normal use it wouldn't be a problem. After 10 houses, it gets a little tiring.

We were grateful for the navigation system, however. Finding our way around the streets of Santa Monica was a breeze. The nav lady always told us we were at our destination about a block away but the map itself was much more accurate.

The best part of the day, we met a lot of nice people. We encourage you to volunteer in your own community. It only takes a few hours to make a difference.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Look Ma, No Dipstick

May 21, 2009

This is my second oil checking post of the week. What can I say, I'm on a roll.

But this time our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant had a surprise waiting for me under its steel grey hood; no dipstick. There was a time, back in my youth, that I would have dinged the A4 a few points for this. Checking the oil by dipstick was one of those things in the universe that didn't need improving. It was a simple solution to a problem and it would have done the job well until the end of time.

Well, now I'm older. Wiser? I shut the hood, climbed back inside the Audi's interior and checked the oil the new fangled way.

No muss. No fuss. Thank you O'Chef of the Future. But can it core a apple?

What do you think? Am I the only one that misses their dipstick?

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 13,519 miles

What Would Bernd Rosemeyer Think?

May 22, 2009

Often when I drive a car my thoughts turn to its maker's history. They all have one you know. Each is unique and every single one of them from Honda to Hummer have had their ups and downs.

Some companies are literally crushed by the weight of their good old days. Their heritage is so rich and their good times so long ago that living up to that legacy is simply impossible. Everything done today seems to pale in comparison to the company's yesterday.

Others car companies, however, have an incredible ability to use the bright spots in their history to their advantage. As if by magic the public turns a blind eye to their dark days and seems to concentrate only on their successes, both past and present. Right now Audi is one of those car companies.

The German automaker is rich in heritage. Some spectacular. Some embarrassing. All worth remembering. This year Audi is 100 years old, and you can make the argument that it's building its best vehicles ever right now, both for the street and the racetrack.

Or is it?

And so I ask you: What would Bernd Rosemeyer think or our long-term Audi A4 Avant. Would he marvel at its technology, efficiency, luxury and speed. Or would the pilot (along with Hans Stuck) of the above 1936 Auto Union C-Type V-16 (shown here in hill climb trim with its dual rear tires) be disappointed by the machine's lack of mechanical reach?

I mean, after driving the above beast around tracks like the Nurburgring, even the R8 would seem a bit tame. Don't you think?

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

Set the Speed Warning at 150 mph

May 25, 2009

A speed warning chime is just dumb. A speed warning chime you can set at 150 mph? Well, that's just cool.

Thing is, I'm pretty sure our A4 Avant 2.0T couldn't reach a buck fifty if it were driven by Helio Castroneves off the top of the Empire State Building. I haven't driven the car faster than 110 mph, but I'd bet this is a 135 mph car, tops. And that's downhill with a tailwind. Yeah, I know it has a 180 mph speedometer, but that's just fantasy.

Anybody out there know what this car's top speed is? If not, I may just have to find out for myself the fun way.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 13,841 miles

10 Things You Should Know

May 26, 2009

1) It has no power liftgate (but my wife's Passat wagon does).

2) It has no full-size spare (but my wife's Passat wagon does).

3) Its shift paddles work even when the transmission is not in manual mode.

4) Its seat heaters have six levels (the Passat's only have five).

5) The power steering assist has an odd synthetic quality I don't care for.

6) Traction control is off with one quick push, but holding the button for three seconds turns off the ESP system.

7) It has two rear seat a/c vents, two rear cupholders (in the fold down armrest) and one power port back there (there's also one in the cargo area).

8) The LED daytime running lights can be turned off so you don't look like a sci fi character if you don't want to.

9) It sounds like a diesel at idle.

10) That vibration in the steering we've mentioned before is back, and it's bad enough that we're headed for the dealer.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 15,900 miles

Sharp Handling Might Make Up for the Iffy Ride

May 28, 2009

I was pretty heartless when I laid into our Sport-package-equipped 2009 Audi A4 Avant for its harsh ride on LA freeways. Today I got the wagon on a back road to see if I liked the tradeoff in handling. And I really do.

Considering it weighs nearly 3,900 pounds, our A4 Avant really changes directions quickly, even on roads with very tight corners where I would expect it to understeer at least a little. Now I understand that 69.3-mph slalom speed. The A4's steering usually feels pretty vacant to me (and that's unrelated to our repair concern), but it weights up nicely off-center in these situations and I didn't mind the lack of feedback (much). And the brakes feel good.

This car is fun. And both the seating position and seat design are spot-on for this kind of driving. I'll be requesting our Audi A4 the next time I take a road trip... which will be carefully plotted to avoid the interstate.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 13,939 miles

Not Big, But Usually Big Enough

June 01, 2009

I'm often amazed by how many different cars can swallow a mountain bike. Seems like Jacquot can fit one inside just about anything larger than a Smart. Given my less advanced bike assembly skills, I prefer a vehicle that can swallow them whole.

As you can see, our A4 fits that bill. Often criticized for being too small for a wagon, it's still capable of carrying a decent amount of cargo, even if it's all awkward like this bike. Sure, I had to take the front wheel off and use the larger side of 60/40 split rear seat, but I wasn't going far.

I imagine there are plenty of people out there who think they need an SUV to do this kind of chore, but even the diminutive A4 is more than capable of taking care of the job. Gets way better mileage too.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 14,038 miles

Nice Touch

June 08, 2009

I used the navi system (for the first time) in the the A4 this weekend, and liked what I saw. Besides the MMI's relatively large screen, the smaller, central info panel gives navigation aid, as well. This is handy because you don't have to keep toggling between navi and audio on the large screen each time you want to change audio settings.

After leaving the driveway, the display begins giving instructions with orthogonal directions and a count-down bar when the turn approaches. The larger navi screen has a few tricks, too: As the car transitions from freeway to off ramp to street level, it automatically zooms in showing more detail as it's needed.

But as long as I had the little navi helper in the I.P. (and friendly navi lady alerting me), I left the larger screen on audio.

Thank you, Audi, for thinking ahead. Some navi systems are more trouble than they're worth, but this one has better execution and more flexibility than most.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 14,365 miles

Steering Failure, Part Deux

June 10, 2009

On Monday, Schmidt posted a list of complaints we've received about the Servotronic Steering in our Long Term Audi S5, one of which compared it to the steering in our Long Term 2009 Audi A4 Avant. While this was the only one quoted, it was not the first time the comparison was made.

Now you could make the argument that because we have one that feels like the other, everything's fine, no need to follow up. But that's not the kind of guy I am this week.
The A4 was almost at 15,000 miles, the recommended interval for service, anyway, so I brought our Audi wagon over to Audi of Santa Monica for a service and steering inspection.

Results after the jump...

First the basic service.

What you need to know here is that Audi's aren't cheap; not to buy, not to fix. The 15,000 mile service for this A4 Wagon runs $387.62. US Dollars. For that you get an oil change (New filter $19.18, Oil, $37.00), washer fluid ($1.39), a new air filter ($47.09), and a tire rotation ($30.00). Let's do some basic math. 1.39 + 47.09 + 37 + 19.18 = 104.66. That leaves a staggering $270 to fall into the labor column. Now let's divide that by Audi Santa Monica's labor charge of $160/hr. That's 1.68 hours or 100.8 minutes — for an oil change, tire rotation and an air filter. For that kinda time, the air filter had better be inside the transmission. It's not, though, so this is just a very long time to allot for some simple maintenance.

Total cost: Arm, leg. (Cash value of arm and leg: $387.62)

Days out of service: 0.

But now onto that Servotronic steering issue. We were the third A4 that day to come in with complaints about the steering. Our service advisor was ready with a Technical Service Bulletin from Audi the second I mentioned our complaint. The condition it described was part of what we were feeling, "Customers with servotronic steering (1N3) may complain of a shudder in the steering wheel or a knocking noise when the steering wheel is turned during parking lot maneuvers or while driving at low speeds (below 5 mph)." We experienced the problem at low speeds, but also at freeway speeds. The TSB did not mention that so I asked them to check tire pressures (we'd already done that ourselves) and wheel balance (it was a long shot).

The bulletin goes on to say that the issue is currently under investigation and the interim service solution is to, "..instruct the customer that the condition will not impeded the performance or use of the vehicle. Do not replace any components. As soon as further information is known, this TSB will be updated."

So there you have it. It is what it is until they tell us any different.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 14,196 miles

4 > 5

July 03, 2009

Math majors relax, values we've assigned to numerals haven't changed, I'm talking Audi's. Specifically, the A4's clear superiority to the the S5 (though this does apply, in part, to the A5, one of which we do not have in our Long Term fleet.)

The board came 'round last night and there were two new Audis available, it took less than a fraction of a second for me to put a big "MM" next to the A4. I've fretted longer deciding between the Smart and the Nissan 370Z. Now, this wasn't an easy decision because I had hauling to do, or because I was heading out with a group of people and four-doors is preferable to two. No, this is was an easy pick for me because the S5 is one of my least favorite cars.

Want to read why? Or skip all of that and go straight to the comments to tell me off? Either way, follow the jump.

I've been in a list kinda mood lately, so let's run with it.

(1) The A4 is more functional (obviously)

(2) The A4's automatic transmission doesn't suffer from the same foolish, rubbery clutch our S5 has. It shifts smoothly and pleasantly.

(3) The A4's ride can get crashy sometimes, but it's not as wollowy and sluggish as the S5

(4) The S5 has one of the best motors in the world, and when flogged hard at the track, makes some nice numbers. But as Ed posted before, you just don't feel that in the real world. It's not like an AMG car where you don't feel the speed and you're doing 146, the S5 just doesn't go that fast without willful and malicious provocation.

(5) The 2009 Audi S5 — and here's where it gets fun — is ugly. It looks like a bar of soap that's been partially used. It's got some pretty elements, sure. As a whole it's kind of bland. I once heard that Chris Bangle described it as looking like a deflated balloon, I've yet to corroborate that as true, but I'd buy it. The S5 does look like a deflated balloon.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

Cargo Cover Covers Too Much

July 06, 2009

I love well-integrated cargo covers. Our Audi A4 Avant's shade-style cargo cover is one of the good ones. It's easy to use and slides up a nifty diagonal track as it retracts to give you wide access to whatever you're storing in the wagon's 17.3-cubic-foot luggage area. But that nifty diagonal track will come back to bite you, if you don't make sure to return it to the closed position (seen above).

(A4's cargo cover in the open position)

Forget to put the cargo cover back where it belongs and this is the view you're greeted with in your rear-view mirror.

That's about half of what you should be able to see via the rearview mirror. I made this mistake at least 3 times over the holiday weekend as we loaded and unloaded gear from the cargo area.

If you owned this car and drove it every day, at least once you got used to resetting the cover in place, your stuff wouldn't ever be accidentally exposed to felonius passersby.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, @ 14,973 miles

15,000-Mile Club

July 13, 2009

Late last week our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant quitely rolled past the 15,000-mile mark with little fanfare.

A 6-second 0-60 time makes this wagon one heavenly hauler.

Let the celebration begin.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 15,090 miles

2009 Audi A4 and S5: Steering Vibration Wrap Up

July 14, 2009

We first noticed a shimmy in the steering wheel of our 2009 A4 Avant. The vibration was most obvious at freeway speeds and reminiscent of a wheel balance issue.

Before checking the wheel balance on our A4 we noticed a similar vibration from the steering wheel of our 2009 Audi S5. It seemed too coincidental. We consulted Audi of Santa Monica for guidance. They couldn't help. Right about then we recieved a call from Audi of America.

Audi saw that our S5 was the first of the two vehicles to receive attention. First, the front tires were replaced. Three of the wheels were found to be weighted improperly and each of those corrected by road force tire balancing. According to Audi this is enough to solve the vast majority of steering vibration cases they've seen. But in roughly 10-percent of the cases this isn't enough

When road force balancing isn't enough the four lower-front control arms are replaced. These replacement arms are the same dimensions as their predecessors. But the bushing stiffness itself is altered, making the system less susceptible to varying road conditions. This adjustment transmits less vibration through the steering wheel. This adjustment also remedied our complaints in both the S5 and A4. Problem solved.

This was never a safety issue. But that didn't make it acceptable. We were pleased with the timeliness of Audi's reaction to our concern. After our initial dismay, even Audi of Santa Monica pulled itself together like we've never seen before. The TSB associated with our concern was since updated, allowing dealerships to better diagnose similar situations.

Total cost: None (all parts installed under warranty)

Days out of service: 2 (1 overnight for each vehicle)

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

Am I Hungry?

July 14, 2009

Everytime I step on the A4's gas pedal, my stomach growls with hunger. Wait - no, that's the engine. I don't recall the previous A4 being so noisy.

Brian Moody, Automotive Editor.

Wagon Helps Your Garden Grow

July 14, 2009

After stripping out the contents of an entire section of my front yard, I realized I'd better get something back into the vacant dirt bowl soon, before my friendly next-door baking neighbor started leaving me nasty notes instead of carrot cake and chocolate-chunk cookies.

Only needing a few medium-sized plants and a bunch of smalls, I figured our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant would do the job. Plus, I just plain love to drive it.

Of course, I hadn't planned on my husband adding a garden hose reel and a hula-ho (he just likes to say hula-ho) to the load, but the sporty wagon handled it all in its 17.3-cubic feet cargo area without even folding the rear seats flat.

And here's the second trip back to the nursery. It had nothing to do with the Audi's inability to carry everything at once, and more to do with my sudden planting fervor.The A4 Avant would've swallowed all the items in one trip if I had made a better pre-shopping plan. Good thing the nursery is just around the corner.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 15,291 miles

Design Exercise

July 21, 2009

Maybe you're not supposed to drive a station wagon to places where designers hang out, but over the last few days, the 2009 Audi A4 Avant has been to the Art Center College of Design's Car Classic (Burt Rutan was the celebrity guest this year), a tour of Ford's California design studio by Freeman Thomas, Director, Strategic Design (it's huge; seven surface plates!), and dinner with the jury for Michelin Challenge Design.

The Audi A4 Avant proved to be a hit everywhere. And the reason lies in its utility, not just its stylistic grace.

Stewart Reed, Chair of the Transportation Design Department at Art Center, reminded me that great design comes from expressing utility with style. Pure style is no more than a bubble on a mechanical device. It's only when there's a connection between an object's appearance and its potential use that a design really strikes us. Maybe it's no surprise that Reed drives an Audi S6 Avant himself.

Meanwhile Geza Loczi, Director of Design, Volvo Monitoring Concept Center, points out that the Audi A4 Avant incorporates some of the concave surfacing that designer Chris Bangle developed for BMW. Though this surfacing technique caused much controversy at the time, it's interesting to see elements incorporated into so many car designs from other companies these days. And it's even more interesting that we've come to accept them, not only for their aesthetic value but also for the way in which they can reduce weight and improve aerodynamics. For me, the final irony is Bangle's decision to leave BMW in the wake of the company's return to its former strategy of making one kind of stylistic sausage for the whole company, only cutting it into different lengths.

Who would have thought that a station wagon could teach us about great design?

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 15,691 miles

What Are You Looking for In Your Next Car?

July 23, 2009

As soon as I got into the Audi A4 Avant last night I thought, "I could own this car."

The night before I was in the Nissan GT-R. While I love the GT-R for its bad-boy sensibilities, the ride is so stiff that I'm afraid I will lose fillings by the time I get home.

The Audi A4's ride is comfortable and keeps the road bumps from shaking me silly. It manages to do this without flopping around in corners. It's a nice balance between comfort and sport.

It's a pretty car. Audi design is classic without being boring. There is nothing in-your-face about the way it looks. It quietly conveys luxury.

Having a wagon that offers a maximum cargo capacity of 51 cubic feet is convenient for all sorts of weekend errands.

For fun, the Audi offers plenty of entertainment features and niceties. I need a good air conditioner. I adore heated seats. I'm not a big fan of radio or even satellite radio, so I need an iPod connection. I've gotten so used to having a navigation system, that I would definitely want one. I need a certain amount of power. Fuel economy doesn't factor into my equation but the Audi A4 performs better than half the cars in our fleet. These are just my personal preferences.

If I were in the market, these are the things I'd be looking for in my car. And they all seem to be wrapped up in this Audi A4 Avant.

Tell us what features are a must for your next car purchase.

P.S. Everyone seemed so offended that Scott went to Del Taco, so I took a picture in front of an authentic Mexican restaurant. Maria's in Torrance is one of my favorites.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

More Fun than the Camaro?

July 24, 2009

I only make this comparison because I happened to drive our long-term Audi A4 Avant on back-to-back days on the exact same driving loop as a 2010 Camaro SS. Obviously, no one's going to be cross shopping these two. I make it because it illustrates the difference between what I see as two automotive schools of preference.

The Camaro SS is a wild ride — a V8-powered, testosterone-pumping, all-American extravaganza with "hey look at me!" styling. It can do that --->>. I can understand why people are lining out the doors to get one even in this crap economy. But on my favorite mountain road, the Camaro was more frustrating than rewarding. The visibility can best be described as "exotic," and with its wide, squared-off hood, the car is difficult to place into a corner. I kept feeling like I was going to smash into shrubs and trash cans mid-corner. If only Topanga Canyon Road was 50 percent wider. In general, the handling is commendable for a muscle car, but hardly what I'd call sharp. Even if it was though, much would be sullied by a steering wheel seemingly shaped not for human hands, but whatever that manbearpig thing is on True Blood .

The A4 on the other hand, is quick, nimble and responsive. I was blown away by how fun our little wagon could be, and especially the steering, which I had written off because of its bizarre, random-assist effort at low speeds. What the A4 lacks in the way of 215 extra horsepower compared to the Camaro (holy crap that thing is powerful), it made up for in this environment with athleticism and agility. If this was Mariokart, I might've been able to keep up with my Camaro "ghost" from the day before.

It comes down to this is. Are you the sledge hammer sort or a knife-wielding carver? Do you enjoy being embedded into your seat back, or hugged by the side bolsters? This isn't about A4 vs Camaro — that's ridiculous. It's about what you define as driving fun. For me, I'd take quick and nimble over brute force showmanship any day. Of course, if I could combine those two, even better.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 16,009 miles

The 21st Century Beach Wagon?

July 27, 2009

When I was a kid, my parents called the family station wagon a "beach wagon". Whether this is a New England colloquialism, I'm not sure. But yesterday, the A4 Avant pulled beach wagon duty as the girlfriend and I went off in search of some ocean-side tranquility. We went about 40 miles up the PCH (the first half of which was horrid traffic), past Santa Monica and Malibu's popular beaches and pulled over at a small, uncrowded beach a few miles south of Point Mugu...

After enjoying the sun and surf, we decided to hit the Camarillo outlets and then take the 101 freeway south back to Santa Monica (Google traffic on the Blueberry still showed some nasty red lines going south through Malibu). The 101 sucked so we bailed at the Los Virgenes road exit, whereupon I subsequently enjoyed the Avant's adroit handling throughout the twists and turns of the canyon roads back to the PCH.

A few random observations:

— The 2.0T is plenty of motor, even in a pudgy (3,900-pound) wagon. Off the line dig and passing power are both impressive and the tranny clicks off quick, lag-free down- (and up-)shifts in Sport mode.

— We're averaging about 22 mpg thus far. I imagine those who don't live in the traffic capital of the U.S. and who don't drive as hard as automotive journalists will probably average 2 or 3 mpg better.

— Great sport seats (well shaped and with 4-way power lumbar) and powerful A/C — both key when you're in the saddle for hours on a hot, sunny day.

— Sometimes annoying navigation system. Instead of P.O.I. (Points of Interest) it has "Special Destinations". So you select that, and then, for example, "Nearest to Position". But then the system goes to a "Category" screen, where you must scroll through a bunch of categories, select one (e.g. "restaurants") and either scroll through dozens of various restaurants or input the name of the one you want. That's okay if you don't have a particular place in mind. But when you do, why doesn't it allow the option of just inputting the name of the P.O.I straight away without requiring you to slog through the Category list first?

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 16,024 miles

Don't Take Over For Pontiac, Please

July 29, 2009

I really do like our A4 wagon, I swear, so allow me to get picky for a moment. See all those various buttons and switches clustered around the door handle? There's quite a few of them. A few too many in my estimation, like a Pontiac Grand Am or something.

Obviously you can't do much about the window switches, but those memory buttons for the seat could be hidden away a little better. Easy for me to say though, I never use them.

And whatever happened to a simple rotary knob for the lights? I mean, I stick the thing on auto and never touch it again 99% of the time, does it really need all the extra stuff around it?

Could probably get rid of that door lock rocker switch too. Just make the doors unlock when you pull the lever no?

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 6,091 miles

Best-Looking Wagon Ever?

July 30, 2009

Whenever I look at our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant, I think, "Well, that's it, no one else should ever bother trying to build a wagon, because it will never look this good."

The styling of the A4 wagon pulls me in every time I get the key to it. I don't quite care for the driving experience, you see. Although I like the way the car grips through corners, the combination of the 2.0T engine and six-speed automatic is fairly uninspiring in normal traffic (acceleration is fine, but a tabletop torque band can only keep you interested for so long). So whatever excitement I'm feeling about the bodywork begins to dissipate as soon I'm in the Audi.

But as soon as I get out, I'm bubbling over with enthusiasm once again. Is there a better looking wagon out there? I think not.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

All the Car You Need

August 03, 2009

I took the A4 Avant down to San Diego for a three-day weekend, picking my parents up at the airport along the way. The Audi provided enough space for four people (my girlfriend included) and a weekend's worth of our luggage Tetrised under the clever cargo cover. Although the Avant is hardly the most utilitarian wagon, it certainly provided more room than the sedan would while being infinitely better looking. But that's an argument for a another post.

For both the highway and city portions of the journey, the A4 was a champ. The 2.0T engine sounds a little ratty, but it provides just enough power for this sort of car, while returning 25 mpg on the congested freeway drive home. Indeed, more luxury cars could stand to have a turbocharged four-cylinder base engine in their lineup. The six-speed auto delivered quick enough downshifts to avoid overriding its judgment with the shift paddles.

The A4's small dimensions and nimble handling were also a boon around town, while the firm European ride wasn't so firm that it grew tiresome or sore over the craptacular freeway surfaces of I-5, I-8, I-405, I-110 and I-10. Impact harshness was a little much in downtown San Diego, though you'd need a Rolls-Royce to make that minefield comfortable.

In total, the Audi A4 Avant is the sort of "just enough" car that I would buy. Just enough passenger space, just enough cargo space, just enough power, just enough fuel economy, just enough handling, just enough luxury and more than enough style.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 16,414 miles

Panoramic Sunroof

August 05, 2009

With most cars, the sunshade will automatically roll back when you open the sunroof. Not so with the A4 Avant's panoramic sunroof, which is actually open in the above photo. I guess this is to facilitate extra airflow through the A/C vents, more than would be accomplished by simply tilting the sunroof. Or perhaps it's to provide that open feeling without the sun being on your head. Or maybe because people like wind noise without the added bonus of wind.

Actually, I have no idea why it does this, but it can. Now here's a video.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

Long Live Bluetooth

August 06, 2009

My Blackberry had been acting up lately, so this week I threw myself on the mercy of IL's IT department, preparing my case for a new phone.

Turns out, pleading wasn't necessary. Charles took one look at my worn 8700g and said, "Give me that. I'll bring you a new one later this afternoon."

Two days into my new Curve and feelin' very techy, I put away my single ear-bud hands-free "device" with a renewed interest in Bluetooth.

Audi has a super simple Bluetooth interface, and connecting the Curve to both our long-term 2009 A4 Avant and 2009 S5 took about five seconds each.

Share your Bluetooth pairing experiences. And make sure to dumb 'em down for the likes of me.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 16,952 miles

Button, Button, Who's Got the Trip Reset Button?

August 10, 2009

While I was filling up the A4 Avant today (after an uneventful weekend of mild family car duty), I noticed that the usually annoying television screen above the pump was silent. It was sort of heavenly to stand there pumping gas into the wagon and not have to tune anything out. Then I gave a little cry of joy when I got back in the car and started the sometimes arduous task of figuringout how to reset the trip odometer in a car I don't drive every day. But waiting for me right where I could find it easily was a clearly marked physical button with "0.0" on it. I pushed it and the trip meter zeroed right out. Hurray! With the advent of driver command centers and complicated interfaces for controlling so many of a car's functions these days (this Audi's MMI being one of them), the simplicity was refreshing.

Am I turning into a Luddite? How do you feel about trip odometer buttons?

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, @ 16,665 miles

Pebble Beach on the Cheap

August 17, 2009

This weekend, I drove our 2009 Audi A4 Avant up north to catch some of the annual car events on the Monterey Peninsula.

From Carmel to Seaside, hotel rooms will cost you an arm and a leg, so I resigned myself to booking a pretty low-level motel.

Judging by the company that the Avant was keeping in the parking lot, I wasn't the only spectator who was just happy to find an available room with running water.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 17,255 miles

Laguna Seca Raceway, Turn 4

August 18, 2009

No, our long-term Audi A4 Avant wasn't actually running on Laguna Seca Raceway. Instead, it was perched on the hill behind the Turn 4 grandstand with a few hundered other spectators overlooking last weekend's Monterey Historics.

Even as a wagon, the 211-horsepower Audi A4 2.0T quattro is so much fun to drive, a quick lap on the track would have been worth the price of admission.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 17,301 miles

Deer Crossing

August 19, 2009

After a full weekend of fun and games in Monterey, I headed south to L.A. on the 101 freeway in our Audi A4 Avant. Two hundred miles in and anxious to get home, I took the California SR 154 (Chumash Highway) shortcut to lop off the 101 from Los Olivos to Santa Barbara.

I must have passed six Deer Crossing warning signs, and had just three miles to go before reentering the freeway, when the little fawn stepped into my path.

Horrified by the noise and sight of the deer spinning off the road, I immediately pulled off onto the right shoulder. I knew by the size of the deer and the fact that the engine was still running that the damage to the car was minimal. But I feared for the deer.

I took several deep breaths and got out to survey the scene. Bent front license plate, cracked lower fascia, cracked grille, missing air vent, no deer in sight.

Few more deep breaths of relief, and I was back on my way.

The A4 was delivered to the bodyshop this morning. Initial estimate is $600. We'll let you know if there was any hidden damage, and the final cost of repair.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 17,665 miles

Repair Complete

August 28, 2009

Nearly two weeks ago, our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant accidentally met a deer on a two-lane California highway. A few days later, we delivered the car to the body shop and received a $600 repair estimate.

Many of you scoffed at the idea of such a cheap fix for the Avant, and we were a little unsure ourselves, not knowing the extent of the damage underneath the front bumper and grille. Turns out, we got off easy, and the final repair bill actually came in under estimate at $554.47.

We paid $391.50 for the replacement parts and $124.80 for labor. Parts included the a new center grille with quattro nameplate, front license plate bracket, a lower grille vent and miscellaneous clips and rivets.

The fix would've been much quicker, but the body shop first received a European front plate bracket, so we had to wait for the re-order.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 17,670 miles

The Steering Wheel And The Scream

September 03, 2009

The Scream, Edvard Munch 1893

Steering Wheel, Audi A4 2009

On Tuesday I posted praise upon the steering wheel in our long-term Jetta TDI. Those of you that disagreed with that praise called the Jetta's wheel boring. Well, check out the wheel in our long-term Audi A4 Avant. It's just as perfectly shaped and sized as the Jetta's, but Audi's designers were able to add a touch of flair without screwing up its comfort or function. It feels right and it looks right.

Sure it makes me think of Munch's The Scream (Anybody else see it?), but you can't call it boring.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 17,777 miles

6-Speed Won't Hold A Gear

September 07, 2009

Last Thursday I complained that the DSG transmission in our long-term Jetta TDI upshifts itself even in Manual Mode.

On that post "haub" commented that his Audi does the same thing. Which got me thinking: Does our Audi do the same thing?

The answer is yes it does. I tried it yesterday.

In Manual Mode the 6-speed automatic transmission (unlike the VW's DSG the Audi has a torque converter) in our long-term Audi A4 Avant upshifts itself at redline (actually a few hundred rpm shy of redline which makes it worse). Of course these upshifts completely negate the manual control of Manual Mode, which I thought was the point.

This makes no sense to me. If the M stands for Manual Mode, why does the transmission shift itself?

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 18,072 miles

Cool Even When It's Hot

September 08, 2009

Spent Sunday at the in-laws out in San Bernardino. How do you get there? Well, you head due east from our Santa Monica office. Travel about 70 miles. When you reach the surface of the sun hang a left and you're there.

Yeah, it's hot in Berdo. But we lucked out. Caught it on a cool day. It was just 100 degrees F when we got there at 1 pm.

But the good news is that the air conditioning in our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant was up to the challenge. Even if we heat soaked the wagon for hours and got its black interior really smokin', the a/c cooled it down quickly. My 60 lbs. canine riding back in the cargo area really appreciated it since he can't take off his fur coat.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 18,188 miles


September 09, 2009

You can get V6 versions of the 2009 Audi A4 sedan and convertible but the wagon only comes with the 4-cylinder.

Audi's turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 is an excellent engine. When driving the A4 Avant I've never felt the need for more.

And, actually, the V6, which has about 50 more horsepower than the 4-cylinder 2.0T, is somewhat disappointing. The 2.0T actually outrun the V6 in our zero-to-60-mph testing — a likely reason why the V6 will not be available for 2010.

With the 2.0T as its sole engine for 2010, do you think the Audi A4 can keep up with the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

2009 Audi A4 Avant Meets the 2010 Audi R8 V10

September 10, 2009

"So what are you in for?"

"Full Test. You?"

"Long-term. They bought me."

"Really, I'm only here for a week. But two of those guys, Ed and Dan I think, just drove me all over the place. We ran over a rabbit. They even took me to a dragstrip on grudge night. The Ed guy can sure throw gears."

"Sounds fun. I don't get to have much fun. I'm a wagon. I drop the kids off at school. And that Scott guy keeps putting his messy kids and shedding dog in me."

"That sucks. They just track tested me. I'm not as quick as that white GT-R over there but I'm close. You ever been track tested?"

"Yeah, but you know, it's not really my thing. Then I had this problem with my steering. The same problem as the red S5. Have you guys met?"

"Yeah, I was parked next to him yesterday. Good guy. But he seemed a little conceited. Like he loves himself or something. Maybe it's just all that color."

"I know what you mean. We don't hang out much, but we did both get to go "to Pebble Beach this year. Kelly took me, but on the way home she hit a deer, which hurt. Have you been to Pebble?"

"No, but I did just do some lapping at Sears Point...I mean Infineon Raceway. I always do that."

"Me too. Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. Give me a break. It's Laguna Seca and it always will be."

"Have you done a photo shoot yet?"

"Tonight, but I did do video."

"Ah, those video shoots take forever."

"I know, and we started at 6 am. Anything I need to know about the photo shoot?"

"Who's doing it? Kurt? Or Jacobs?"


"He's good, but don't let him take you to GMR. He has shot all of us at GMR. You deserve something fresh. I mean you're the new R8 V10 for goodness sake."


"Hell, here comes that Scott guy. His dog must have to go to the vet. Have fun tonight."

"See ya. Don't let that dog get to you. Keep your grille up."

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

Our Favorite Caption

September 11, 2009

Thanks to ergsum for this week's favorite caption. I scalped it a little for length.

This was not the most PC of weeks. But it's all in good fun.

Here are the honorables:

As we drive through Madonna Pass...(ergsum)
No, I said to park it between the *TT's*... (ahightower)
Tee-pee or not tee-pee, that is the question (creeper)
How a Native American kid Tee-Pees a car (gooney911)
Keeping up with the Sitting Bulls. (lowmilelude)
Save A Horse, Ride An Audi (ergsum)
Circle the Avants, there's engine trouble! (ergsum)
Dances with Quattro. (thejohnp)
The latest in A4-dable housing. (rick8365)
Retro Avant-garde! (ergsum)
Through the cones, you'll swear it was a much smaller car. (zc1)
Relax man, you're two tents! (sherief)
Chief Aging Bull failed to notice driving the last five miles home with his left Smoke Signal on.(ergsum)
You bought this because they killed Pontiac? (mnorm1)

What was your favorite?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

You Write the Caption

September 11, 2009

Chief Scott took this photo of our 2009 Audi A4 Avant at his new home.

We suggest: Audi Partner

Or how about this joke from when I was a kid: What do Indians make for dinner? Reservations.


What's your caption?

We'll post our favorite at 4:00 PM our time.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Hangin' at the Wigwam

September 11, 2009

Since so many of you participated in the caption contest yesterday I thought you might be interested where I took that photo of our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant sitting between two giant TeePees.

The Wigwam Motel is a landmark on old Route 66 in Rialto, California. It's been there since 1949 and was originally part of a chain of seven such establishments. Three survive today and remain open for business; this Riato location along with facilities in Cave City, Kentucky and Holbrook, Arizona.

I didn't actually go inside one of the TeePees, but I did peak inside one (the door was open for the maid) and was amazed at how large it was. It was also very clean, as was the motel's pool.

What a great piece of Americana. I hope it's there in another 50 years.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

Nonintuitive Nav Controls

September 14, 2009

OK, maybe I'm missing something but does Audi really expect you to be able to drive and scroll around the map on the nav screen at the same time? See the above picture of our 2009 Audi A4 Avant's nav screen? Well the function to scroll around the map requires that you click on that arrow icon on the lower right. Horizontal arrows mean you want to scroll on the map sideways and vertical means scrolling up or down. But you have to first move the line to where you want to look and then click the button again to move that box where you want to go on the map. Huh? Try keeping your eyes on the road at the same time you're trying to see where the next major street is on the map.

Of course, the nav guidance itself is nice, as editor Chris Walton has already said. The nav lady gives clear instructions, sometimes multiple times and you get plenty of heads-up before your next turn. But if you just want to see where the freeway is or something, better pull over first.

Also, it took some figuring out how to exit the above function since there's no "back" or "return" option on the screen. I just resigned myself to not using the map function. But when I eventually looked down at the button I was using to click the screen, I saw the return button. Heh, oops. It's not a very intuitive place for it. Naturally this is a nonissue to Audi owners.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 18,532 miles

Spare Key Overkill

October 27, 2009

I was rummaging through our box of long-term car spares and found the set to our 2009 Audi A4 Avant. Not only is there a spare key fob (left) but also a plastic emergency key fob (right). Both plug into the dash and operate like the standard fob.

The emergency key separates into two pieces, a holster and key. Both must be fit together for it to work. There is a specialized sleeve in the glovebox to store the holster, and ideally, the key portion is stored elsewhere. It's fancy. But is this a good idea? Is it spare key overkill?

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 18,700 miles

Leaving the Line

December 03, 2009

When leaving a signal or a stop sign in our long-term 2009 Audi A4, things don't happen instantaneously.

First, the intial tip-in response of the throttle is too soft. Then the revs climb high and hold as the torque converter tries to let the engine build boost. It makes for dignified, though not particularly hasty, departures.

Once you're underway and the torque converter is fully locked up, there's ample sauce underfoot.

This throttle lag/softness has me two-pedaling the Audi as I approach empty four-way stop intersections. Left foot brake as a stop sign approaches, and apply throttle just before it reaches a standstill.

I suppose a partial solution to this minor irritation is the 'Dynamic' mode of the Drive Select system found on our longterm S5.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

Can't Believe It's Been A Year

December 07, 2009

Recently, our long-term Audi A4 Avant crossed the 20,000-mile mark. I was surprised to discover that it's already been here for more than a year (we introduced it back in November 2008). Maybe it's because I've only driven it a few times, but I still think of the A4 as one of the newer cars in the fleet.

Happy Birthday, Triple A.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, @ 20,099 miles

Gimme Some Oil, Expensive Oil

December 08, 2009

Gassing up our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant this afternoon I decided to take a minute and check the oil. So a pushed a few buttons and sure enough the display on the screen told me the A4's 2.0-liter could use some oil. Nearly an entire quart.

Being at a Mobil station at the time I figured I'd save myself the run to the auto parts store and just buy a quart in the little mart. Which I did. I bought a quart of Mobil 1 5W-30, which is acceptable according to the A4's owner's manual. Then I poured 75% of it into the engine; until the computer told me enough was enough.

Cost? $7.99 plus tax.

That's right. $8.77 for one quart. Ouch.

By the way, the computer also told me the A4 isn't due for an oil service for 4,000 miles.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 20,234 miles

Tire Wear Check

December 10, 2009

We bought our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant 13 months ago. In that time it has been driven over 20,000 miles. I thought you might like to see how its 18-inch Bridgestone Potenza summer tires (Remember our car is equipped with the optional Sport Package.) are holding up. I think the answer is remarkable well.

In fact, I drove the car in the rain this week and it's as sure footed as you'd expect an all-wheel drive Audi with massive perfomance tires to be.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 20,309 miles

A Big Hit in Beverly Hills and KISS

December 14, 2009

A rainy night in the heart of Beverly Hills. I park our long-term 2009 Audi A4 just west of Rodeo Drive, the world's richest street and pop into my favorite pizza joint for a slice.

This is where money comes to breed. In this neighborhood millionaire doesn't mean much. In this neighborhood the maids drive BMW 3 Series convertibles, high school kids cruise around in M5s and a Bentley Continental GT ain't nothing if it ain't a Speed. In this neighborhood a stock Ferrari is no big deal.

In this neighborhood our A4 Avant is a hit, proving once again that this is one of the world's best looking wagons.

On this night our little German wagon gets a thumbs up from a guy driving a Rolls Royce Phantom and an "I like your car" from a women driving a Aston Martin V8 Vantage convertible. Then, just when I thought it can't get any weider, I'm pretty sure I spot Gene Simmons from KISS driving by in a black Escalade on very large chrome wheels. He doesn't acknowledge our A4 Avant, but it's a cool celebrity sighting anyway. Kinda. Sorta. Maybe.

Merry KISSmas Gene. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 20,402 miles

Rides Too Stiffly For Me

December 16, 2009

I just spent the better part of a week (except for the few day detour to Abu Dhabi) driving our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant, which is equipped with the optional Sport Package, although I wish it wasn't.

This little wagon just rides too firmly for me. Fact is, I think it's sprung stiffer than our S5, yet it doesn't really have the engine or the high-performance vibe that makes such a sacrifice in ride acceptable. Instead it just feels like a wagon with a small engine that is sprung too stiffly and insists on crashing over even the smallest road imperfection. No point except discomfort, which is no point at all.

But there's an easy fix for this. Don't pay for the Sport Package. I've driven 2.0T-powered A4's without it and they ride wonderfully.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

It Rides Just Fine

December 17, 2009

Scott's getting old and soft. The ride quality in our longterm 2009 Audi A4 Avant is fine. It's firm, but never harsh and definitely doesn't have bump sensitivity. I'd rock this thing across the country without thinking twice.

Then again, I drove our old Audi R8 from LA to Seattle and back in the span of three days.

With that said, Scott does make a valid point. This autobox-equipped, indifferent steering-havin' A4 otherwise doesn't have the sporting chops to fully realize the promise of the ride's taut control. Ah, to have a manual gearbox...

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

Holiday Drive Begins

December 24, 2009

We're all packed up and ready to head North to Avila Beach/Port San Luis for the Holidays. The A4 Avant proved quite a pack horse, holding a kiddie bike, extra booster seat, games, and luggage for a week away. Follow the jump to see photos from Hwy 101 along the coast and the A4's impressive fuel economy.

After getting out of the San Fernando Valley, Highway 101 is one of my favorite drives because it snakes in and out of the coastal route, past Santa Barbara, Solvang, Santa Maria, Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, and finally back to the coast in Pismo Beach. After a good rain, the rolling hills are green, the Oak trees are full, and the sunsets are spectacular.

and here's the payoff once we reached our destination...

That's old Port San Luis, next to Avila Beach.

After 218 miles at or about 75-mph, the A4 earned 27.8 mpg.

Happy Holidays from the Central Coast of California,

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 20,747 miles

Remarkable Fuel Economy

January 04, 2010

Ah, vacation is over but we put a bunch of miles on the A4 Avant, 1,467 to be precise. Over those miles, the A4 (EPA rated at 21 mpg City / 27 Hwy / 23 Comb) earned 25.1 mpg average. The worst tank was 20.0 mpg and the best tank returned 28.3 mpg. Seems the "new" method the EPA uses to predict fuel economy is far more applicable than the pre-2008 way.

By the way, we found a terrific highway between Hwy 1 in Cambira and Hwy 101 in Paso Robles. It's called Green Valley road (or Hwy 46) and it bends and rises from sea level up to about 1,000 feet and the views as the terrain changes from rolling hills dotted with small ranches to arid wine country is stunning.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 22,060 miles

Hot Stuff

March 01, 2010

The seat heaters in the Audi A4 Avant have six intensity settings.

I find 3, 4 and 5 to be acceptable. 1 and 2 are too subtle for me. And 6 is even too hot for my tastes. Wow, 6 gets hot. Good thing I wasn't wearing a skirt.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Folding Rear Seats

March 02, 2010

I've been without a television for a couple of months now. My friends think I'm nuts for not replacing my busted set right away. But it was very refreshing to not have a TV in the house. I highly recommend everyone try to go without any television viewing for a few weeks. It's very liberating and it clears your head of all that nasty news the box inundates us with every day.

Well, I finally broke down this weekend and went television shopping. Luckily, I was driving the Audi A4 Avant with 51 cubic feet of max cargo capacity. Folding down the rear seats was very easy as you can see in this video.

The seats rest nice and flat and there is an adjustable cargo cover to hide the contents. Although the hatch opens manually, it is effortless. And closing it is light to the touch without feeling flimsy. I give it two thumbs up.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Viva la Vida!

March 02, 2010

This morning as I started the Audi A4 Avant's engine and the beautiful display screen lit up with Coldplay's "Viva la Vida," I remembered how much I love this car.

I haven't driven the Audi in weeks, but after a quick flash of the wagon's brilliant red cabin lights, I quickly forgot it was just 6 a.m. and I hadn't had any coffee yet.

I even let go of the grudge that I was headed to the office to edit Geneva auto show news instead of sipping espresso in the press room at the actual Geneva show.

As I sped past a new Honda Accord on the freeway entrance ramp, I was reminded once again that the A4 Avant is the absolute perfect car for me.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 23,354 miles

Where are those controls?

March 08, 2010

The A4 Avant is one of, if not my favorite car that we have in our long-term fleet, so naturally I was pretty excited when I was offered the keys for the weekend. I could gush about how I like the way it looks, the way it drives, or that I like the added utility one gets with the wagon; but what stuck out to me the most this weekend was what I don't like about the car. Every time I drive an Audi I have to teach myself how to use a stereo again, and where all the controls are located. I wouldn't say that any of the controls are hard to use, but I also wouldn't say that any of them are intuitive either.

The two controls that constantly reminded me I was driving an Audi (and not in a good way) were the cruise control, and the dial on the center console that operates pretty much everything. The cruise control comes off the steering column, which inherently is not a problem however because of where it is placed it can't be seen from the driver's seat. If you look at the picture you can see the controls for the blinkers and the windshield wipers, but what you can't see is the third set of controls that is blocked by the spoke of the steering wheel. Unfortunately your view of these controls is blocked even when seated in the driver's seat.
My second complaint and I'll admit it's a small one, is the direction the user has to turn the main dial in relationship to the direction the curser moves on the main screen. If you twist the dial clockwise the curser moves up the list, and if you twist it counter clockwise the curser moves down the list. This seems backwards to me. To be perfectly honest I don't have a good reason as to why it seems backwards, however with no prompting from me my brother said the same thing while operating the radio from the passenger seat.
After a weekend in our Audi, even though the controls aren't as intuitive as some other brands, our A4 Avant is still one of my favorite long term test cars.

Seth Compton, Field Producer @ 23,669 miles

Camera and Sensors Watch Your Back When Backing Up

March 17, 2010

I can't remember ever backing into something. Well, there was that motorbike in Mexico a few years back. But that was the owner's fault for parking it behind my '84 Chevy Blazer, where I couldn't see it.

If the Blazer had a backup camera like our Audi A4 Avant, the owner of the motorcycle would have saved his turn signal. And I would have saved the 200 pesos I paid him for the damage. Fortunately, my beater Baja Blazer was none the worse for it.

I was glad the A4 has Audi's Parking System when I backed out of a buddy's long narrow driveway this morning, threading the wagon between the stucco exterior of his house and the cinder block wall of his next-door neighbor.

Call me old fashioned, but I still like to look behind me when backing up rather than forward at an in-dash screen, although in this case the Audi Parking System's orientation lines help keep me on track. And the screen gives the warning: "Look! Safe to Move?"

Even more useful were the ultrasonic sensors in the rear bumper that warned me when I was too close to something with a series of escalating beeps. Without them I may not have noticed that the driver's-side rear corner of the A4 was only inches away from scraping against stucco.

And I'm sure that would have cost much more than 200 pesos to repair.

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology, @ 24,291 miles

Oil Filler Painfully Easy to Find, Use

March 22, 2010

As you can see, our A4 needed a little more grease in the crankcase this weekend. I like how the display warns gives you a warning without making it look like the engine is going to explode any minute. Probably a good method given the average driver's meager knowledge of oil consumption.

Adding oil was a snap as the crankcase cap is top dead center. Doesn't get much easier than that. And before you get too concerned that I took the path of least resistance when it came to finding a quart of oil, the A4 is due for a real service this week. I'm pretty sure it can endure a few days of Shell's finest until then.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 24,475 miles

10 Things I Like About You

March 23, 2010

1. excellent turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4
2. strong brakes (60-0 in 103 feet)
3. six-level seat heaters (a warmth setting to suit everyone)
4. well-positioned A/C vents
5. roller balls for audio controls on steering wheel (this is the best design)
6. easy-to-fold rear seats
7. non-glare navigation screen
8. easy-to-read instrument panel
9. prescient automatic windshield wipers
10. elegant good looks

Care to add anything to my list?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Good Timing

March 25, 2010

Ed mentioned that our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant is due for service. I like the messaging for "Service Due!" in this car. You of course see the message for a few seconds right after you start the engine. Then, you see it again right after you shut off the engine — you know, in case you got wrapped up in your hour-long commute and forgot that you needed to call the Audi dealer. Good idea.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 24,631 miles

It's Drawing Me In

March 29, 2010

I put about 200 freeway miles on our long-term 2009 Audi A4 wagon over the weekend, and unusual for me, I didn't fret about the car's overly stiff ride. I'm a fretter, you see, and as mentioned here before, our sport-package A4 can feel pretty brittle on LA freeways as its 245/40R18 93Y Bridgestone Potenza RE050As slap against the pavement.

But this time the ride didn't bug me. I was quite taken with the rest of the car. The driving position is just so spot-on. The visibility is excellent, with good sightlines and a low-cowl feel (plus a rear camera watching your back). The wagon's turn-in response is sharp and, as expected, the RE050As grip like crazy. The torque band is accessible, if not exciting, and the six-speed automatic mostly stays out of my way. The steering has a comfortable dead spot on center and good weighting off center.

I still get a little annoyed about the inconsistent power steering assist (via the electric motor that drives the pump) at parking speeds, but I ended the weekend feeling quite enthusiastic about our Audi wagon. This is a good package for commuting, and those sticky tires give you some capability on back roads. This wagon could work for someone with a lot of interests who can only afford one car.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 24,865 miles

Happy 25,000 Miles

April 12, 2010

It wasn't until I got home this weekend that I realized I had gone two weeks without driving a car.

Oh, I was driven around plenty, first by taxicabs during the New York auto show, and then by my mother's 2000 Oldsmobile Alero (don't ask) while I was vacationing in Detroit (again, best not to ask).

Imagine my delight when I returned to Southern California and found the Audi A4 Avant waiting for me.

Happy 25,000 miles, A4. I've missed you so.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 25,165 miles

Concert Limo

April 19, 2010

Drove the Audi A4 Avant this weekend to a concert at the Staples Center.

Guess who we saw?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 25,548 miles

2009 Audi A4 Avant - Cargoriffic

April 22, 2010

Many years ago I was derided for falling in love with an Audi Avant. I'm talking the B5 generation. I got brochures. I dreamed of taking my camping gear or a bike out for the weekend. People thought I was dumb for liking a station wagon.

"Why would a single late 20-something want a station wagon," they all wondered aloud. "You're weird."

I got older. I ran out of cash. I bought an old Honda Accord to get me around. I lovingly named the Accord the P.O.S.. I still longed for the Audi, but at that stage in my life I just couldn't afford one. Audi's aren't exactly cheap and I don't believe in leasing.

I bought a Mazda 3 hatchback when the deals got really sweet. I loved the 3 because it reminded me of an Audi, just cheaper. Nice interior, fun, practical and stylish. I bought a previous generation, I'd like to add. Not the freakish Steven Tyler grille generation.

Last night I drove our '09 Avant. Oh it brought me back many years. It's luxurious interior, great handling and Euro cache really put the spell on me. I only drove it the short distance home and back, but I'm ashamed to admit I looked at prices on the internet when I got into the office. My lady's car is getting old and she's thought about replacing it. This might be a nice step up from her Jetta?

The current Avant is about seven inches longer, has more cargo capacity and frankly looks better in my opinion. It's no race car, but it moves when you ask it and sounds great doing it. By any measure this car is an improvement over the previous generations. It's a nice car, I don't think there is any debate on that point. But I have to come back to the question of would I really need this car over wanting it? Temptation is rough.

I think I have to let go of the past and wait for something I need.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer


April 22, 2010

There we were, sitting at a red light in our 2009 Audi A4 Avant. And shortly afterwards there we were, standing on the side of the road exchanging insurance information. We were rear-ended.

So now it's off to our local body shop, the Golden Hammer, for an estimate to repair minor rear bumper damage. With insurance involved it isn't likely the process will be quick. But we will keep our fingers crossed and let you know how it goes.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 25,548 miles

Rear Hatch Open, Open, Open

April 27, 2010

Finally! I have my first real complaint against the 2009 Audi A4 Avant. Well, really more like a whiney, little grumble than an actual complaint.

I drove the A4 wagon to run some errands which caused me to open the rear cargo door several times in one day. Every single time I slammed the hatch closed and got behind the wheel the dash light warned me that the door wasn't completely latched.

It sounded like it was closed, it looked like it was closed, but it wasn't closed.

Kinda annoying.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 25,494 miles

The Thrill of the Grass

April 30, 2010

It was the weekend of the Big Game. Well, maybe not the Big Game, since that's football, but still Stanford and Cal were playing baseball, so close enough to prepare for a cobbled-together tailgating exercise.

Klein Field, the classic Sunken Diamond at Stanford, started out in 1931 as just the big hole in the ground after the dirt had been used to prop up the grandstands of the old Stanford football stadium. It's always been the university's baseball field (we snuck on there as kids and played in front of the old wooden bleachers), but it was renovated in 1991, and now like so many new college ballparks, it's a showcase. It has all of the style, comfort and convenience of a modern big-league ballpark, only you can sit right up close to the field, where you can sense the thrill of the grass.

There's not a lot of the tailgating thing involved with baseball, but the 2009 Audi A4 Avant had the right amount of utility for it.

It's not too big, and yet big enough for our purposes, which surprisingly filled up the Avant's fairly modest amount of cargo capacity. Our stuff included:

a) Three jackets (hey, it's still April)

b) One motorcycle helmet (well, he wanted to ride and meet us there)

c) One bag of stuff (three baseball caps, three pairs of sunglasses, sunscreen of assorted vintages, print-out of Stanford baseball media guide, Mercury News crossword, The New Yorker, assorted crap).

d) One medium-size woman's purse (contents undisclosed)

e) One briefcase.

In short, we had hardly anything at all, really. Of course, if we'd have been driving a sedan, it would have been piled up around us on the seats, as if we were living in a hamster burrow, or it might have been stashed in the trunk where we'd have a devil of a time finding anything — plus there would be nowhere to put down your drink when we were standing around in the parking lot and eating our sandwiches.

It's true that a sedan really offers more cargo-toting capacity than a wagon. A wagon only offers you a sliver of room behind the second seat, and you have to erect some kind of barrier to let you stack stuff to the ceiling without worrying that it will spill into the back seat. The A4 Avant itself doesn't have much cargo capacity as wagons go, but no wagon is really good.

But as we looked at our stuff on the Audi's cargo floor that had suddenly exploded in size once lunch was unpacked and the end of the day had been reached, we finally figured out that what the wagon offers is convenience. We live lives that are full of stuff, and when it's in the car, you typically want to get at it easily. Putting stuff in the trunk of a car is like packing it away in a cabinet — nicely organized, but inaccessible and quickly forgotten. But when you throw something in the back of a wagon, it's like putting it in a kitchen drawer — always there, right when you need it.

Go take a look right now at all that crap in your kitchen drawer and you'll figure out that you'd probably be better off driving a wagon.

Not a titantic defensive battle at the Sunken Diamond, as both pitchers were gassed by the third inning, and since both teams are ranked in the NCAA's top 20, they can rip the ball. Some serious action, because most college teams have adopted the small ball popularized by CSU Fullerton, so there's no more of that boring, base-to-base baseball, where the manager is always hoping for the three-run homer. It's all signs, spaghetti pickoffs and going for the extra base. There's more baseball to this kind of baseball, if you get that. Stanford took the weekend series, though California had been ranked higher.

Stanford might be only a country club, but it's a really nice country club.

Michael Jordan @ 26,650 miles

25,000 mile service

April 30, 2010

Edmunds Maintenance Calculator estimates that the 25,000 mile service on a 2009 Audi A4 Avant should run $112.11 and include engine oil ($13.58), oil filter ($6.97), and then an additional $57.04 of labor for checks and stuff.

What did it cost at Santa Monica Audi? Follow the jump for that and a bonus story of a crazy Audi driver waiting for parts!

$231.96 inc tax. Dollars. US dollars.

Here's how it breaks down: Oil filter ($20.02), Engine oil ($28.32), Oil disposal ($2.67), Parts Wash ($5.45) and hour....($170).

Welcome to the West Side, kids!

And here's what happened when I was waiting to pay:

Lady in line ahead of me to cashier: "I can't believe I forgot the air filter!"

Cashier: "Good thing you came back!"

Lady: "I just don't know what I'd've done if I hadn't remembered. I was three blocks away."

Lady: "Oh, wait, this says it's made in Slovenia (ed: Not sure if it was Slovenia or Slovakia, either way, the story continues the same way.), but my oil filter, I think, is made in Germany. Don't they have an air filter made in Germany?"

Cashier, very concerned: "Oh, I don't know. That's something you should ask. I'd certainly ask."

Lady: "Will this one even work? It's not made in Germany."

Cashier: "I'd go back to the parts guy and ask."

Lady: "I will!"

Five minutes later — they lost my paperwork — I come outside to see the lady leaving the parts dept with the same filter in hand and a cell phone in the other....presumably calling someone to see if her Slovenian air filter will, in fact, filter air despite its non-German heritage.

Welcome to the West Side, kids!

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 26,739 miles

2009 Audi A4 Avant - Avant Junkie

May 03, 2010

The first step is to admit you have a problem, right? Ok, I admit it. I'm an Avant Junkie. Recently I got a tour behind the wheel. When I was presented with the chance to drive it again, I greedily grabbed the keys. I'm hooked.

My lady rode around in it as we did the standard couple weekend stuff. She loved the car. "Scott," she said to me as we drove to buy lottery tickets, "you should have just bought this instead of your (Mazda) 3." Slightly deflated from the confirmation, I replied "I know."

Currently the California lottery is over $260 million. We pondered what we'd do with that kind of money of we won. In all honestly, the Avant would probably be the most car I'd want (with perhaps the exception of an S6 Avant, or a nice Mercedes-Benz E63 Wagon). I feel, for me, this car is just that nice.

There are three things I love about this car: the versatility, the interior, and the engine. I drooled over the first two things the last time I drove this. This time I really enjoyed the engine and how growled when entering the freeway. The Avant's 2.0 Turbo has got plenty of power for my every day needs. It cranks out 211hp from it's smallish displacement with plenty of help from that turbo, making my Mazda's 2.3 I4 feel pretty anemic.

You might think I'm crazy for thinking this is my "it" car. I enjoy the Avant that much. If I hit the lottery, I would trade my 3 in for one of these in a heart beat. Then buy a truck, too.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer @ 26,972

Uh Oh

May 06, 2010

This must have happened at a car wash. The cap on the end of our rear wiper is missing. I couldn't get it to stick back together. But Mike Schmidt did some magical maneuvering. He took the cap off the other side and put it on the more important end. It should hold us for a while. Or at least until the next car wash.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

I Miss the Old Stuff

May 07, 2010

Our Audi A4 Avant has a button for the electronic parking brake right next to the gear shifter. Pull up to engage, push down to release. Only one finger needed.

I don't mind it. But it's not very satisfying. Sure, it's conveniently located and saves space. But I prefer a lever in between the seats that you pull up with your hand. You feel like you're fixing the car in place. I'm old school, I guess. I even prefer the parking brake pedals you operate with your foot.

There are some old-school features I miss in cars. I miss automatic gear shifters that were mounted on the steering column. And I loved the front bench seat in my Caprice. You could fit three people up there. Did you ever drive a car that had the windshield fluid button in the footwell?

What old-school features do you miss in modern cars?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Plenum Panel Pendency

May 24, 2010

Clogged sunroof plenums everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief today. Well, at least those in the above stated Audi models. A settlement was reached in the class-action suit they fought so tirelessly to win. What did our 2009 Audi A4 Avant get for falling into the Settlement Class? You're looking at it. A supplemental page for the owner's manual.

Monetary compensation is also available through the settlement. Those eligible for a piece of the $8 million reimbursement fund must submit their claim by July 23, 2010. But none of this hard earned cash will find its way to our pockets. We are yet to experience any drain issues, and as a result, have nothing to claim. Back to business as usual.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 27,615 miles

Feed Me, Seymour

June 15, 2010

I know other editors have had a problem removing the key from the Audi A4 but I've never had it happen to me before. I've been driving the Audi over the last few days and it has stumped me three times. I can't see that I'm doing anything differently than when it pops out easily.

So, I asked Dan, resident smart guy. He said you have to have your foot on the brake just so. Well, I don't know. It seems awfully finicky to me. The problem is, you have to press the key in to make it pop out. So, if you have your foot on the brake, it restarts the car. Very strange.

OK, so in honor of the Tony Awards the other day, what Broadway Show does my title reference?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 28,084 miles

Doesn't Need the Shift Paddles

June 16, 2010

I've put plenty of miles on our A4 Avant and I've rarely found use for its steering-wheel mounted shift paddles. In fact, I actually forgot they were there until last night.

The transmission shifts plenty quick for me and it's not like the car is all that fast anyway. Don't get me wrong, I think the 2.0T engine is one of the best four-cylinders on the planet, but it doesn't wind up so quick that you're afraid to reach over and bump the shifter to change gears.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 28,104 miles


June 16, 2010

No, I'm not talking about the Audi. The moon and Venus were lined up beautifully, so I snapped a shot.

What did I learn? It's really difficult to take a picture of the moon with a Nikon Coolpix.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Seats are Holding Up Well

June 24, 2010

Our A4 Avant has nearly 30,000 miles on it and the seats are holding up fairly well. There's some obvious wear on the outside corner, but they feel solid when you're sitting in them.

In fact, the whole interior looks pretty good. Nothing appears weathered or even the least bit worn out. Guess you should expect that for a car that costs this much.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 28,210 miles

Another Great Weekend...Is It Time to Sell?

June 29, 2010

I just had a another great weekend in our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant. No surprise. The Audi is a favorite around the office and at the Oldham house because it's a great drive and it does it all so well short of hauling home that new refrigerator. Not to mention it's simply beautiful.

This weekend the A4 Avant got myself and a friend to Dodger Stadium in downtown L.A. for a ballgame (it's pictured above at the Walt Disney Concert Hall also in downtown Los Angeles), hualed boxes of my junk to a local swap meet and then it took my wife and her snooty friends to a fancy restaurant in swanky Manhattan Beach for a too expensive dinner.

We all love this thing so much we've kept it waaaaaaaay too long. It has been with us for more than a year and it's creeping up on 30,000 miles. Should we sell it? I think the time has come. But what should we replace it with? If you ask me we should always have a wagon in our long-term fleet.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 28,652 miles

Zero Range for 22 Miles

June 30, 2010

Yesterday I proved that our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant can be driven atleast 22 miles with zero range. No, I'm not proud of it, but it was fun living on the edge.

By the way, after 22 miles I wimped out and zipped into some no name gas station. I wonder how far it could have gone.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 28,659 miles

Better Looking Than an Alfa 159?

July 08, 2010

I was gassing up our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant at a low-rent, off-brand gas station on world famous Sunset Blvd. across from the legendary Whisky a Go Go night club (the red building in the background) when I had the moment of clarity.

Audi, I realized, makes the world's best looking station wagon sold in America. But the Alfa 159 is even prettier.

That is all.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

Behind the Scenes

July 21, 2010

A month ago today we published Corvettemageddon, a generational comparison test of these beasts. But there were some key players behind the scenes that you didn't get to see. One of the more instrumental roles (camera car) was filled by our 2009 Audi A4 Avant. And yes, that is the A4 in the background.

Take the jump backstage.

Our recently departed Audi S5 also participated. But the A4's rear hatch and smoother ride made it more practical from a photography standpoint.

Strategically (and safely) wedging one's body into the A4's rear hatch area allows for shots like this.

And this.

Yep, our Viper was there too.

Some days on the job are better than others. So now comes the hard part. Which one of these would you choose?

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

Chilling at LAX

July 22, 2010

Sometimes test cars are left at the airport while staff members fly in and out to attend one- or two-day press events in distant locations.

Sure, we prefer to drive when possible, but a Los Angeles-to-Detroit round-trip is kinda difficult to squeeze into two days.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 29,771 miles

Time for a Brake Job

July 26, 2010

As we approach the 30K mile mark in our Audi A4 Avant, it appears as though our brakes are in need of attention. At least that's what the computer says.

From the driver's seat, I detected no immediate need for new pads or resurfaced rotors. The brakes still grab firmly and there's no wobbling or squeaking. We'll take it to the dealer and see what they recommend. Then we'll step back and take a reality check to see if it's reasonable. We'll keep you posted.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line @ 29,975 miles

So What Is This Going To Cost Us?

July 27, 2010

So I brought our A4 into the dealer this morning to have the brakes checked after getting a dashboard warning for the last several days.

Since you were all so concerned about the actual brake wear on the car, I attempted to get a photo of the pads and rotors with the wheel off. There was one problem though - no lugnut key.

Yes, our A4 has a locking lugnut that requires a special key and that key was missing from the toolbox in the trunk. Glad I figured this out in front of my house and not on the side of the highway. I did my best to get a picture of the pads and rotor with the wheel on, see for yourself after the jump.

The dealer hasn't called yet with an estimate, but we're guessing it won't be cheap since they were suggesting that the rotors would have to be replaced. Anyone care to guess?

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line @ 29,978 miles

The Cost of Brake Service

July 28, 2010

Ok, pencils down. All answers are in. Yesterday, Ed asked what you thought the brake service on our 2009 Audi A4 Avant would cost. Drumroll, please...

$672.32 (hambone72 came awfully close)

We spent $210 for labor and the rest on materials, including two new front rotors. A brake change is a relatively simple undertaking, even for a novice. But this blog is about trying to represent the typical ownership experience. Most A4 owners aren't going to jack up their car in the driveway. They are going to the dealer just like we did. And they can expect to get hosed there, just like we did.

So, either transfer some extra cash into the checking account to pay for new brakes, or learn to change them yourself.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 29,978 miles

30,000 Miles and Counting

August 03, 2010

Our Audi A4 Avant passed the 30,000-mile mark this week. It's still one of my favorite cars in the fleet.

If you need to chill out after a long hard day or if you've got a groggy morning face, the A4 can be chill right with you. And if you want to kick it out a little after a long hard day or need to wipe the groggy off your face in the morning, the A4 will gladly comply.

Its steering is spot on. Its transmission is quick. Give it some throttle and it responds without hesitation. Or sit in traffic and be comfy with your first class seat heaters and satellite radio.

Oh, and the new brakes feel great, too.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 30,059 miles

Our Favorite Caption

August 06, 2010

Thanks to rayray633 for this week's winner.

And here are the other honorable mentions:

Relaxed In Sixty Seconds (ergsum)
A-Road-A-Therapy Massage with essential engine oils. (ergsum)
Pleasure Wagons. Take your pick. (stephen987)
Oh, sorry. I was looking for the Swedish Volvo (rayray633)
Additional charge for winding your turbo. (rayray633)
BMW Exec: "No, I said 'message'! Send a MESSAGE to Audi!" (sherief)
Pass. The Econoline has always rubbed me the wrong way. (actualsize)
You should see their Ford Escort. (actualsize)
Watch out for the Ford Probe (cello_one)
CalA4nication (festus67)

What was your favorite?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

You Write the Caption

August 06, 2010

Vehicle Testing Manager Mike Schmidt sent met this photo of our Audi A4 parked next to an emergency services vehicle. If they use their siren, are we required to pull over and let them pass?

What's your caption?

We'll post our favorite this afternoon.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

What are your must-haves for a road-trip car?

August 09, 2010

I've just spent almost an entire week with our Audi A4 wagon. And while I was just back and forth to work and doing my normal weekend things, I got to thinking about what a great road trip car this would be. I've been itching to drive across the country and think a lot about what I would drive.

Here are some of the A4 Avant's travel-ready features:

* storage (plenty of cargo space with a pull-over cover to protect your goodies from the sun and wandering eyes)
* more storage (lots of little cubby holes and cupholders inside the A4, too)
* Decent fuel mileage (EPA estimates 23 MPG combined. We're averaging a little over 21)
* power (It gets a lot out of its turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4 and never struggles. No one wants to be toiling along in a vehicle full of passengers and gear wondering if they're going to make it up that hill.)
* entertainment (good-quality audio, satellite radio, the best steering wheel controls)
* non-glare nav screen (so you can see how lost you are)

The only thing that might get old:
* hard seats (the driver seat may be heated and power adjustable but the cushions are not comfortable)

What do you look for in a road trip car?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Avant, not Wagon

August 11, 2010

Avant? I had to look it up. According to Merriam-Webster online:

Function: adjective
Etymology: French avant- fore-, front, from avant before, from Latin abante
Date: 1965
Definition: culturally or stylistically advanced

So there you go. Our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant is stylistically advanced, and is perhaps the best small wagon out there. However, it isn't called a wagon because vehicles marketed as such in the U.S disintegrate slowly on the sales floor.

I like our A4 Avant, but prefer the sedan version myself.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ ~30,100 miles

Sedan or Wagon?

August 24, 2010

Car lovers love wagons. Non car lovers hate wagons. I can understand wanting a comfortable ride over sports car handling or not wanting to slog through traffic with a clutch, but this disconnect between enthusiasts and regular folks keeps me baffled. I just don't get it. Are people actually confusing an A4 Avant for a Country Squire? Are people actually concerned that people will confuse their A4 Avant for a Country Squire? Because thus far, that's the only reason I'm getting.

I just don't get it, especially since I think the Avant looks better than the A4 sedan. That trunk lip that works so well on the wide A5 just looks contrived on the A4 and kinda like this guy's hair. More so, the Avant's tapering roofline better compliments the A4's arching, downward cutline. They're harmonious and the car is consequently quite elegant. Not all wagons are like this, mind, but many at least look pretty darn cool (Exhibit A, Exhibit B).

So what say you? A4 Sedan or A4 Avant? And does the latter just remind you too much of this?

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 30,362 miles

Best Steering Wheel

August 25, 2010

I like the steering wheel in our Audi A4 Avant. It is perfectly sized to the car, fits nicely in the hand, and has well-designed controls. I like the slightly flat indentation in the bottom. The leather is sticky without feeling gross.

It feels good when I make a turn.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

MMI — My Favorite Interface

August 27, 2010

Yesterday I posted about our long-term Camaro's high-quality audio system (relatively speaking, of course; it won't put Mark Levinson out of business or anything). That system also has a fully-functional graphic interface, impressive given it accomplishes this with a simple, non-navigation-capable, non-touchscreen display.

But if we're talking best graphic interface (versus the Camaro's very good, all things considered) then my vote goes to Audi's MMI.

I remember when I first used this system in an A8 several years ago. It was intuitive, so the learning curve was much gentler than some competing systems (cough-i-Drive-cough). But what really got me wasn't just MMI's ease of use but the slick animations and clear display templates. Somebody obviously put a lot of thought into the design.

There's no need for a cool, "swooshy" transition between audio information and navigation functions, but MMI has one. It's also got color coding for different functions, and the above graphic recreation of a physical set of buttons to skip tracks or play a song list randomly. Very cool.

Early indications suggest the new MyFord Touch system is better still, but I haven't had enough quality time with said system, so I'm reserving judgment. Hmm...a long-term 2011 Ford Explorer would probably resolve the issue, in case anyone at Ford is reading this...

Karl Brauer, Editor at Large

Still Using Oil

August 30, 2010

The 2.0T in our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant continues to use oil, although not at an alarming rate. In April the Audi recieved an oil change at 26,739 miles. That was 5,000 miles ago.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 30,607 miles

Life's a Beach

August 31, 2010

I've had worse Sundays. That's my daughters and our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant during our outing this past weekend to the beaches of Malibu, California. Obviously the weather was ideal for testing the Audi's legendary Quattro system. Yuck, yuck.

Seriously, the A4 remains one of my favorite long-term cars ever. I never turn down a chance to drive it. And I've never regretted grabbing its key. It's one of those car that does everything well. Plus, it remarkably feels like just the right vehicle for every occasion. Opening night at the opera? Lets take the A4 Avant. Surf safari? A4 Avant. Run to the recycle center? Well, you get the idea.

And it doesn't seem to age. After more than 30,000 miles our Audi still feels new and its just as beautiful to look at and to drive as the day we got it.

I think I'll take it home again tonight. Maybe I can get the kids to vacuum up the piles of sand they left in it.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

Still Feels New Inside

September 02, 2010

The other day I posted about how fresh our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant feels after more than 30,000 miles and the abuse of 25 editors. Some of you asked me for any example, so I'm back with a photo of the A4's driver's seat.

Check it out, even the bolster looks new.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

Two Cups, One Happy Driver

September 10, 2010

I think I've discovered the best feature of our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant:

Its twin cupholders in the center console (one large, one small) are perfectly sized to hold one In-N-Out lemonade and one In-N-Out neopolitan shake.

Forget the interior materials or all-wheel drive; this is a reason to buy!

Karl Brauer, Editor at Large @ 30,810 miles

The Three Faces of D.I.C.

September 13, 2010

There are actually far more than three faces of Audi's Driver Information Center, depending on how you set it up, but here are just three shots from our long-term Audi A4 Avant. These images show how effectively the D.I.C. is at displaying multiple forms of vehicle information on a diminutive 3-by-6-inch screen.

Let's take a quick tour of all the information that's provided:

Left Screen: This is my default setting, as I like the large digital speedometer along with the Sirius satellite station information (Classic Rewind in this case) and distance-to-empty number. Of course this screen also includes odometer, trip meter, transmission gear and outside temperature information. Pretty informative if you ask me.

Center Screen: This is a great screen for scrolling radio stations. With the information available right between the primary gauges, along with the steering-wheel-mounted thumbwheel, it's easy to browse stations without taking your eyes off the road or hands off the wheel.

Right Screen: The telephone screen also works with the thumbwheel, making it easy to browse your phonebook, dialed calls, received calls, etc. Plenty of people think you should never make a phone call from behind the wheel, but Audi's interface is an example of how that argument doesn't hold up. It's just not a distracting (or dangerous) process folks.

Of course I haven't even touched on how effectively this screen coordinates navigation information or engine warnings or a dozen other uses. Fodder for another blog post I guess. In the meantime, suffice to say Audi's D.I.C. is the SH.IZ.LE.

Karl Brauer, Editor at Large @ 30,855 miles


September 16, 2010

With over 30,000 miles on its odometer, 164 blog posts, and still a perennial favorite of our staff, our 2009 Audi A4 Avant has proven itself a reliable and capable sports wagon as well as an awesome family or cargo hauler that achieves uncanny fuel economy (30 mpg best observed tank). I really had my doubts about how well this car would fare in our hands, but I am impressed and have already recommended it to several friends.

Of course that still doesn't keep the sun from sneaking around the visors. Uncanny how that happens so often. "Sorry, Hon. You're just going to have to slouch, or squint, or wait for the road to turn."

It joined our fleet officially in November 2008 (I know, I couldn't believe it's been that long either), so it won't be long when we post the Wrap Up story. Is there anything we've missed?

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 30,944 miles

Maintenance Costs

September 17, 2010

Following up on the previous post where readers asked for our out-of-pocket expenses on the 2009 Audi A4 Avant, here's our running total of maintenance/repair costs thus far:

Scheduled Costs

  • 5K Service: $0
  • 15K Service: $387.62 (including tire rotation)
  • 25K Service: $231.96 (recommending front brake pad/rotor replacement)

Unscheduled Service

Total Cost: $1,846.37

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor

Warning Signs

October 18, 2010

According to a recent survey, this warning light is a mystery to many motorists. It could mean just about anything in their eyes. Low oil, a broken transmission, insufficient blinker fluid.

So Imagine the pride I felt when I instantly identified this as a warning that one of my tires was low. "I've got a flat!" I yelled excitedly to the puzzled driver next to me.

The elation quickly wore off, however, once I realized that I did indeed have an injured tire. It was only about 8 pounds low so I could drive on it, but it would require a patch at the soonest opportunity. As you can see, an average sized nail was the culprit, should be an easy fix. The rest of the car is fine, especially for one that has 31,000 miles on it.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line @ 31,441 miles

Something Is Missing Here

October 19, 2010

I learned the hard way that our A4 is missing its rear wiper. Turned it on during a recent rain shower (that's about all we get around these parts) and I got nothing but a shrill scraping sound out back.

No one seems to know what happened to the wiper. Torn off in a car wash? Stolen by rubber thieves? It's a mystery. Just went to the dealer though as picked up a new one for a not surprising $17. Looks like it just snaps right in, we'll see. Oh, and we're working on new tires, that post will be coming shortly.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line @ 31, 445 miles

New Rubber All Around

October 21, 2010

Last weekend the A4 picked up a nail in its right rear tire. It oozed air slowly until the pressure monitoring system posted a warning. At first it looked like it might be patchable, but we soon realized that it was too close to the sidewall for such a fix.

So a new tire was in order and as long as we were going to replace one, we figured the other side might as well get one too. The tires did have a little over 30,000 miles on them anyway, so they were due for replacement soon anyway. Once on a lift, closer inspection of the front tires revealed they were pretty much shot too.

We had Stokes Tire order up a new set of original equipment tires, in this case Bridgestone RE050s size 245/40R18. As you might expect, they were not cheap — $268 a pop. When all was said and done, the total came to $1192 for the tires, mounting and balancing.

Oh, and in the process we also realized that there was no wheel lock key in the A4. This had been brought up before with no resolution. We went to the Audi dealer to get a replacement and they said it would take awhile to get that exact key. Instead, we just bought a new set of locking lug nuts for $70. Glad we didn't have to figure out that little detail on the side of the highway.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line @ 31,450 miles

Here's What a $17 Wiper Looks Like

October 25, 2010

A bit expensive eh? Yes, but are you seeing how perfectly wiped the rear window is? I mean, it's like a swinging squeegee.

Would a $3 wiper have done the job that well? Probably, but given that Audi uses some kind of proprietary attachment system you don't really have a choice in the matter. No trips to Autozone for this wagon, it's the dealer wiper or nothing. Welcome to luxury car ownership.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line @ 31,472 miles

Little Things Can Matter

October 27, 2010

We record each and every fill-up on our long-term and short-term test cars, and of course the 2009 Audi A4 Avant is no exception. In addition to the number of gallons added, we must record the date, the odometer reading and the mileage on the trip counter, and then hit the reset button.

On most cars, our drivers must poke and prod one or more buttons associated with the trip computer. We may have to scroll through a menu or three. Resetting the trip meter(s) isn't always obvious or straightforward, either. The button may be hidden and the screen itself can be buried within the menu structure.

Oftentimes we have to reinsert the key (which we removed because we're at a gas station) to bring the menus to life so we can make the required notes. This last bit is a pain even if we have the car memorized.

This 2009 Audi is made for folks like us. The screen above is what we get when we open the door with the engine off and the key in our pocket.

It's all there, and more: date, time, odometer, trip meter, outside temperature. And the "0.0" reset button for the trip meter is right there. No searching, no scrolling. Just look, read and write.

OK, it's a small thing. But for folks who follow their fuel economy rigorously, it's a big convenience. It's also a sign that somebody, somewhere really thought about it.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 31,567 miles

Driver's Seat Still Looks Good

October 28, 2010

Our A4 has almost 32,000 miles on the clock as of last night. So I was pleased to notice that its leather seats look as good as new. Readers who've been around for a while will remember that our long-term M3's driver's seat was showing its age at less than half this mileage.

Sure, the A4's bolsters aren't quite as big, but we've been dragging our butts across this bolster for 23 months and it shows little, if any, wear.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

How To Remove an Ignition Key Redux

October 28, 2010

It's been over a year since I first posted the above video on how to remove the seemingly stuck key from our 2009 Audi A4 Avant's ignition after editor Chris Walton and I blogged about our ordeals just trying to exit the vehicle. And I STILL get messages on YouTube asking me how I did it as, apparently, Googling an answer is no help and I couldn't find anything about it on our Edmunds forums. So just for the Audi A4 Avant owners who missed it the first time:

When you want to take the key out, push it in like a button. When you hear a clicking sound, pull the key out. Ta-da!

I also made sure to post this in the caption for the video on YouTube.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

You'd Think The Vanity Mirror in an Audi Would Be Unbreakable

October 29, 2010

There should be a small piece of plastic that the vanity mirror / sunshade snaps into. It's gray and curved. I know this because I found it in the cupholder.

So far, no confessions, but regardless, we'll need to get this fixed. Until then, it'll flop around wherever/whenever it wants.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor, Inside Line @ 31,000 miles

Talk Me Out Of It

November 01, 2010

I've been thinking a lot lately about selling my Acura Integra and getting something more adult.

Driving the Audi A4 doesn't help keep those feelings in check. I really don't drive my own car that often, so I can't justify the cost. But now that I'm ten years older (my Integra is a model year 2000) I enjoy the comfort and practicality of the Audi A4 Avant.

I love the excellent 2.0T engine that keeps it from being a stuffy old wagon. I'm used to the gadgetry that controls all of the accessories. And I like the way it looks.

Somebody talk me out of it.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 31,885 miles

Now I Want One

November 03, 2010

Last night I scored our 2009 Audi A4 Avant and drove it from Santa Monica to West Hollywood to East Hollywood to downtown LA. And I just fell in love with it. So comfortable, smooth and powerful. And its steering wheel feels so good to hold — its size, material and the shape where I can rest the meat of my thumbs. Plus, like chief Scott said, it does feel like the right car for any occasion as well as any environment. In my case, whether that be valeting it at a swank restaurant in West Hollywood or negotiating the tight streets of East Hollywood and the congested freeways.

I can understand why Donna and photographer Scott really want one. In fact, I'd put it on my car wish list behind the Evo and Mini S. Oh no, does this make me a grownup?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 31,988 miles

Oil, Please

November 04, 2010

Our long-term 2009 Audi A4 wagon has consumed some oil since it was last serviced at 25K. I checked the book and it asked for SAE 5W-40, preferably synthetic. The book said you may also use 5W-30 or 0W-40 if it meets Audi oil quality standard VW 502 00 specifications. Yeah, whatever.

I was able to find some Pennzoil full syn 5W-40, so I dumped in 2/3 of a quart because that was all that was left. I tried to check the level but couldn't find the dipstick.

Anyway, the warning message went out, but it would have been nice if I could verify the oil level myself.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 32,000 miles

Beauty Is Fleeting

November 08, 2010

This sunset lasted about 60 seconds, then poof, it was gone.

But the good looks of our Audi A4 Avant have held up after more than a year of being in our fleet. And you know we're not delicate with our vehicles. Inside and out, our Audi still looks fresh.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 32,000+ miles

2nd Most Blogged About

November 15, 2010

Our 2009 Audi A4 Avant is the second most blogged about car in our current long-term fleet with 179 posts. Of course the most blogged about of all time is the Ford Flex, coming in at 292 posts, but that shouldn't be a surprise. Both these cars have proven indispensable to our staff. We use them to transport everything from furniture to family. What are we going to do once they leave the fleet? Shudder! I don't want to even think about it.

The Audi is one of my favorite weekend cars as it fits all my needs whether I'm just running around doing errands, picking up furniture or going on a road trip. But enough gushing.

So what are the top 5 most blogged about long-term cars of all time (not counting the A4 and Flex) — at least since the beginning of the Long-Term Blog? Sure you can just scan the sidebar to find out OR you can hit the jump.

1. 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS (203)

2. 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T (200) and 2009 Nissan GT-R (200) — tied

3. 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 (162)

4. 2008 Pontiac G8 GT (159)

What's interesting is that the top five are enthusiast cars while the Flex and A4 are the more practical, everyday sort. And I'm really surprised that the Camaro has more posts than the GT-R, sure it was only 3 more but still. Thinking about the GT-R still brings a tear to my eye.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 32,758 miles

Itty, Bitty Paddle Shifters

November 16, 2010

I nearly always fail to remember that our long-term 2009 Audi A4 wagon has paddle shifters. I forget because one normally wouldn't find paddle shifters in a wagon. But our A4 is quite sporty, so it has them. Another reason they're overlooked is that they are tiny. You can feel them behind the steering wheel, but don't see them unless you're looking (Euro spec car pictured.)

They work fine and shift quickly, although the transmission defaults too quickly back to Auto if there are no inputs.

And they are too plasticky. I would expect metal paddles in a car that costs $44K.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ ~32,800 miles

Steering and Storage

November 22, 2010

It's been a while since I've been in our Audi A4, but my adoration for it hasn't faded one bit. With its exceptional interior, tenacious handling and understated good looks, there's little to complain about. Among these criticisms, though, I found the steering and cargo cover on top of my list.

The steering is too light. I realize that most wagon drivers probably don't want sportscar-like effort and feedback, but the A4's feels like a video game controller. More importantly, the lack of effort means the steering wheel takes too long to return to center. I constantly found myself having to manually turn the wheel back rather than let it slide past my loose grip.

Then there's the cargo cover. It's been noted before that the tonneau will block a good portion or the rear hatch window if you leave it in place. Most covers are attached to the hatch and open and close with it, but not the A4's. More distressing to me, however, is that the cover doesn't anchor firmly to the back of the rear seats. After a few openings, the whole unit popped out of its bracket. I tried to re-attach it, but it just keeps releasing. It seems to me that there's a problem with the single-sided latch — it refuses to catch, no matter how much force I use.

It's a minor annoyance, sure, but something to check out in the next service.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor


December 06, 2010

The best feature on our Audi A4 Avant is the revenge squirters. The windshield sprayers shoot straight out sideways. Perfect for getting drivers back who do stupid things near you. Or to wake up texters who are next to you at a red light.

Seriously though, somehow these got misdirected and make cleaning the windshield difficult. I tried to readjust them by hand but I couldn't see into the well below the window. I'll let Mike know so we can get them looked at during its next service visit.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Cars & Coffee

December 13, 2010

Saturday we had a Tweetup/Meet Up/Gathering whatever you want to call it at Cars & Coffee. We brought the new 2011 Ford Explorer and a few of our long-term cars.

I was driving the Audi A4 Avant, Dan brought the Raptor and you'll catch a glimpse of one of our new cars in this short video from the event.

It was great meeting some of our readers. Hopefully, we'll do this again soon.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Nearly Perfect iPod Integration

December 15, 2010

The iPod interface in our long-term A4 Avant is pretty darned good. The graphics are clear and crisp while the menus are intuitive. One thing that bugs me is really quite minor, but a inconvenience, nonetheless.

I like leaving my iPhone in shuffle mode, letting it randomly play whatever it feels like. Maybe one out of twenty songs I'll let play all the way through, the rest I just skip, skip, skip. The first small complaint is that when you're in the Control menu (pictured above) and you select Mix (shuffle) it doesn't let the current song play out. Instead, it shuffles to the next song. I'd prefer if it stayed on the current track and then shuffled after it ends.

Issue2: If you scroll down the list of songs that will shuffle through next, and select to find a song that you want to hear, it cancels the shuffle mode. Let's say I scroll down and want to hear Porcelain by Moby. Click, and the song plays.

The problem for me is that the playlist switches back to alphabetical order. Now I have to go back to the Control menu to reselect shuffle mode, then it'll skip to the next song. I know, I know, boo hoo. This really is a tiny problem. There's a lot to like about the A4 Avant, and this certainly isn't a dealbreaker. But you know what they say about the squeaky wheel. If we don't point this stuff out, Audi may just keep it this way.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

Audio Review

December 16, 2010

Europeans don't share most Americans' disdain for the wagon, but maybe that's because they know how to do them right over there, as with our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant. Aesthetically and athletically, it's light years removed from the faux-wood-paneled family wagons that went out of style at about the same time as leisure suits in the 1970s.

The A4 Avant's standard Concert audio system also makes the AM/FM/eight-track setup of its '70s American predecessors seem like an ancient relic. But it doesn't come close to the ear-pleasing audio and eye-candy appeal of the Bang & Olufsen premium systems available in other Audis. And we couldn't get the B&O system in our Avant, even though we shelled out for the expensive $4,000 Premium Plus option to get the Multi Media Interface (MMI) for iPod integration and an upgraded Symphony head unit.

The Setup
The Concert sound system in our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant consists of 10 speakers powered by 180 watts. Six channels of amplification drive the speakers: 3 x 20 watts and 3 x 40 watts. Audi wouldn't give speaker sizes, but we know that the system includes a midrange at each end of the dash, a midrange and tweeter in each of the four doors and a subwoofer in the spare-tire well. Unlike the spare-tire-straddling sub in some Bose systems, the one in the A4 Avant fits around the back of the spare, just aft of the battery.

The Sound
As with every system we test, I listened to about a dozen different musical tracks in the A4 Avant that I've heard in literally hundreds of vehicles to gauge clarity/lack of distortion, tonal balance, timbre, tonal accuracy, soundstaging, imaging and dynamics. I also used non-musical tracks to test soundstaging, imaging, linearity and absence of noise. For more details on the testing process and the tracks used, click on the article Sound Advice.

The A4 Avant's system performed ably if not admirably. It had a midbass bump typical of most middle-of-the-road OEM audio systems, and this tilted the tonal balance toward boominess and muddied overall clarity. Timbre and tonal accuracy were also compromised by clearly audible artifacts in certain test tracks, and dynamics were limited and a little lackluster.

The soundstage was sizeable and imaging was fairly detailed, which is commendable given the lack of a center channel. And despite the system's deficiencies, with several tracks the music had a tangible spacious quality. The bass from the subwoofer tucked in the spare-tire well was also surprisingly effective for its location and apparent size. While it can't provide the oomph of a larger sub getting the proper of power, the impact it lent to the overall sound was impressive.

I confirmed with two non-musical test tracks — one with voices mixed in the left, right and center of the soundstage and the other with seven drum beats that span across it at precise intervals — that center images were indeed slightly shifted to one side. In the tests of linearity, an indication of how well the sound holds together at low and mid volume levels, the system scored a fair and good rating, respectively. It also passed the zero bits/absence of noise test.

The Sources
We sprung for the pricey Premium Plus option package, which in the audio department includes the Symphony six-disc in-dash AM/FM/CD player and Audi's Multi Media Interface for iPod integration. By dropping an extra four grand, we got what looks like a CD changer in the glove box, but with a cubby for an iPod and an interface cable to connect the device. The MMI system is supposed to come with a whole bag of cables that you can swap with the iPod wire to plug in a portable media player through an aux-in and or a USB drive. But either ours got misplaced or the cables were never provided. The car also has Sirius satellite radio, but not Bluetooth audio for wireless music streaming.

iPod integration is adequate if not exceptional. Contents are accessed using the MMI rotary controller in the center console and the buttons behind it. In addition to playlists, artists, albums and songs, the top-level menu also provides selections for genres, composers, audiobooks and podcasts. I found the interface a bit clumsy compared to the best ones, but an owner would probably get used to its quirks pretty quickly. And scrolling through a long list on a packed iPod is pretty quick. At one point the system didn't recognize my iPhone 3G after I switched sources, but such temporary incompatibility (or worse) with iPhones doesn't surprises me much these days.

What We Say
The Premium Plus option package also includes a long list of features, including Audi's signature LED running lights and 17-inch alloy wheels on the outside, and Bluetooth for hands-free phoning and heated front seats on the inside. But that's still quite a bit of coin just to get an upgraded head unit and iPod integration. The 2011 Premium Plus Audi A4 Avant is available with a 14-speaker, 505-watt Bang & Olufsen system as an $850 option. So if you're buying one, the extra money would be well spent if you want the best sound possible.

The Scores
Sound: C+
Source Selection: C
iPod Integration: B-
Cost: C-

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology

2009 Audi A4 Avant vs. 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander for Fave Rush-Hour Ride

December 16, 2010

As much as I love living in L.A. I detest its omnipresent traffic. So whenever I have an event to go to across town, I always make sure to pick a long-term car that will make that stressful situation a bit more bearable. And out of the cars in our current fleet, I'd have to say that our Mitsubishi Outlander (the big one) is my favorite for these reasons: 1) Seat heaters, 2) paddle shifters, 3) Sirius First Wave.

And yes, our 2009 Audi A4 Avant has all of those, too. By the way, I realize that most people wouldn't cross-shop these. (The A4 is a $27K wagon while the Outlander is a $20K crossover SUV.) These are just my picks out of the variety of cars in our fleet for the particular purpose of dealing with rush-hour traffic.

Anyway, the reason the A4 comes in 2nd for me is that even though it has really excellent steering, its paddle shifters aren't as responsive as the Mitsu's. Most folks may appreciate the A4's refined, smooth shifting and call me crazy for liking the Outlander's loud and rough downshifts. But downshifting slows the car down quicker compared to the A4 so I'm more apt to use it than the Audi's during stop-and-go traffic.

With the A4, I have a minor panic attack as I quickly downshift to slow down, while the Mitsu instantly drops in speed.

But other than that, I love them both for making that hectic daily L.A. ritual a bit less aggravating. Just fire up the seat heaters, turn up The Cure and sit back and relax.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Want To See Something Boring?

December 17, 2010

Just because I'm sure you have nothing better to do with your day. Here's a video of my waiting for the lights of our 2009 Audi A4 Avant to go off. You don't really have to watch it as it's just to show that it takes about 30 seconds for the lights to go off after you lock the car. (You can see that I hit the lock button twice on the key fob as the taillights flash.) This may not bother you but for a worrywart like myself, it drives me crazy. Case in point, the other night when I locked the Audi in my garage and could still see the lights through the crack in the door. "Did I forget to turn off the lights?"

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Finally, AWD Makes Sense in LA

December 29, 2010

It's not very often you can justify the extra cost of all-wheel drive in Los Angeles. But over the past two weeks we've had more rainfall in the City of Angeles than we typically get during an entire winter.

That's meant road closures, even worse potholes and plenty of scared Angelenos behind the wheel.

Too bad they can't all enjoy the confidence that comes with driving our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant with quattro. Other than the hissing road noise and the water on the windshield I can't even tell it's raining when I drive this car.

Karl Brauer, Editor at Large @ 34,048 miles

Idiot iPod Interface

December 30, 2010

I like the AC/DC song "Hells Bells" — really I do. I mean, I wouldn't have it in my iPhone if I didn't.

Yet I may never listen to Hells Bells again after driving our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant for the past week. Apparently the Audi's iPod memory skills are akin to the rat that just keeps grabbing the cheese, no matter how many times he's been shocked.

When I get into the A4 Avant I always plug in my iPhone 3GS into the glovebox-mounted iPod cord and within a few seconds I'm hearing the "Bong...Bong...Bong..." beginning of "Hells Bells." This happens every time I get into the car and plug in my iPhone because the iPod interface defaults to the first alphabetical artist in your library and then to the first alphabetical song from that artist.

Because I like to listen to all of my songs from all of my artists I have to go to the control panel, "up" out of the "AC/DC" folder, "up" out of the "Artists" folder and "up" to the "All" folder. Then I have to go down into the "Songs" folder and click on a song to start it playing.

Then I have to get back out to the master control screen and click on "Mix" to get the car to shuffle randomly through all of my songs.

I was feeling annoyed by this process every time I got into the car, but last night I had just completed this journey to Suffleland and was beginning to enjoy random songs from all artists when I decided to unplug my iPhone and shoot a picture of the sunset off PCH. Twenty seconds later I plugged the phone back into the iPod cord.


Really??? Even without shutting the car off and/or turning the phone off????

Maybe I should just get some headphones for when I drive this car.

Karl Brauer, Editor at Large

Six Settings to Toast Your Buns

January 03, 2011

Like a Good Housekeeing-approved appliance, the long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant offers several settings for toasting your buns.

Most cars have at least two seat-heater settings (often dubbed "Hi" and "Lo"), and it's not uncommon for premium cars to offer at three settings (usually a "Medium" stuck in between).

Four or five settings would easily impress me, so you can imagine my suprise when I saw SIX seat heater settings on the A4 Avant's LCD screen. That borders on ridiculous, though when charging premium prices and displaying a premium badge it's probably smart to overdeliver.

Why would I even be accessing the A4's seat heater settings in Los Angeles? Because it was like 51 degrees when I got in the car this morning, that's why.

Karl Brauer, Editor at Large (and official cold-weather wimp) at 34,180 miles

Smitten with the Handling

January 05, 2011

It took me a long time to warm up to our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant, and now that it's about to leave the test fleet, I'm borderline downright sad to see it go. Never fails, does it? You always want stuff you can't have.

More seriously, though, this wagon really does handle well. Never mind the electric-assist power steering that still feels a little off, this A4 wagon corners hard — and it does so in a way that you are entertained even if you're just making a decisive left turn at some intersection. Last night, our Audi reminded me a little of an old favorite, the 2005-'09 Subaru Legacy GT.

That Subaru just happens to be on my used car shopping list. Perhaps I should add the A4 as well.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 34,221 miles

Audi Two Touch

January 06, 2011

Kia hired a former Audi designer to give its cars some snaz. Maybe Audi should consider an exchange program, hire some Hyundai/Kia designers to help with their baffling electronics interfaces. Yeah, I know this is more nitpicking about audio/info controls. I see your eyes rolling. I see them! Really though, c'mon...

A volume knob set off to the right of the gear selector in the center console. Two climate control knobs masquerading as volume and tune knobs. Multiple other commands accessed through the primary dial wheel and four-corner buttons aft of the gear selector - clockwise for scrolling up the menu, counterclockwise for down. Thumb the knurled wheel on the left side of the steering wheel to scroll on the small screen between tach and speedo, press to select. Don't push at an angle though, or you'll be zooming back up the list.

Touch, twist, thumb, press. Good grief, man. Working the audio and navi functions in the Avant keeps your hands busier than those of unsupervised 16-year-olds at the movies.

Like any car, you'd get used to it, I suppose. But should you have to? Especially when you're dancing around the $40k threshold and there are cleaner interfaces in cars half the price - like the Sonata or Optima? If this was just your weekend canyon bomber, it's probably no thing. But if this is your daily driver, as it will likely be for most folks, it seems an unnecessary compromise.

And I'm only talking the interface here, not performance or driving experience, so don't flame me on the wrong premise. Once you're on the gas in the Avant of course, music, talk and directions succumb to more immediate cerebral cortexian sensations.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

Dealer vs Manufacturer Recommended

January 24, 2011

I took the Audi A4 in for service last week. We are about to sell the car and figured we might as well take care of the maintenance and the broken visor clip that had been hanging around since October. At 34,420 miles, the car was close enough to the 35,000-mile service interval, which is considered a major service. The original price Audi quoted for the service was $509.19. It seemed high, but not unreasonable for a major service at a luxury-brand dealership in upscale Santa Monica.

When I was back in the office, I had a chance to inspect the billing estimate more closely. The dealership gave us a breakdown of the parts and service for the maintenance. Cabin filters, synthetic oil — everything looked normal until I saw a line item for spark plugs ($64 for the parts, plus labor).

Thirty-five thousand miles seemed a bit premature for spark plugs. I looked at the owner's manual and saw spark plugs listed under the major maintenance section: "Spark Plugs-Replace* (Audi A3 3.2L, TT 3.2L, A8 6.0L only)." Clearly the A4 was not listed in this group. I looked at the next major service, 55,000 miles, and saw that it called for a spark plug replacement on all models except the Audi A3 3.2L, TT 3.2L, A8 6.0L.

I called the service advisor and asked him to remove the spark plugs from this service. He asked why and I told him that we didn't want to spend that much on the car, since we were selling it soon. I didn't confront him about the premature spark-plug replacement because it wouldn't have changed anything. If had said something, I suspect it would have been business as usual for the next car that pulled into the service driveway anyway. But the incident is a good reminder of why you need to pay attention to exactly what service is being performed and make sure the elements match what's called for in your owner's manual.

I worked at two dealerships in my pre-Edmunds days and my theory is this: Service departments have one standardized "major service kit" for all cars and the service team doesn't bother to look at the differences among models. They're erring on the side of caution, but the unsuspecting A4 consumer ends up changing spark plugs 20,000 miles too early and paying more than necessary. This "dealer recommended" service is a common occurrence at nearly every dealership.

After it all, removing the spark plugs brought the service total down by $155. Our final price with tax was $362.03.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 34,500 miles.

Welcome Wagon

January 24, 2011

I come from a small family, and have a small family, so wagons have never been on my automotive radar. But on Friday, after picking up the 2009 Audi A4 Avant from its 35,000 mile service, I had it for the weekend. A couple months ago, I was lucky enough to drive the 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic Wagon for three days. Although these are both German luxury-brand wagons, the contrasts between them are stark.

The Audi A4 felt more agile and responsive than the Mercedes E350 4Matic. When I was driving the Audi, I was calling the shots. With the Mercedes, I felt like the captain of a stately ocean liner, calling down commands to the engine room ("Lane change right!" "Aye, lane change right!"). I was, to be honest, a little intimidated by the Mercedes. It was as though I was driving my rich aunt's car, and there would be hell to pay if anything went wrong. The Audi felt more like a friend had tossed me the key and said, "Have a fun weekend." And I did.

More contrasts: Although the Audi is just 7 inches shorter and 2 inches narrower than the Mercedes, it feels like a much smaller car — in a good way. The Mercedes is awash in luxury. The Audi is more tailored, practical and sporty. If the Mercedes is a country mansion dripping in lush appointments, the Audi is a sleek, spare city loft. (Audi is actively exploiting such contrasts in marketing the 2011 Audi A8. Check out its "Good Morning" commercial to see a swipe at Mercedes' version of luxury. Love the yawning mink stole.)

Although my colleague Dan Frio recently complained about the fussiness of the controls in the Audi, I got the hang of them relatively quickly, particularly in comparison to the Mercedes' split-layout Comand multifunction controller. Werner von Braun might understand Comand without an owner's manual — I couldn't.

All this, you might say, is an unfair comparison: 2011 versus 2009; A $56,000 Mercedes versus an Audi whose 2011 model has an MSRP starting at $36,300. Bigger engine versus smaller, with, I might point out, the related differences in fuel efficiency: the Mercedes does 16 city/23 highway; the 2011 Audi comes in with 21/29.

It's all about personal taste, of course. But if I were in the market for a German luxury wagon and had a generous budget, I'd give both wagons a drive and serious consideration.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @34,500 miles

Lugnut Covers

January 28, 2011

There is one thing about our 2009 A4 Avant that I've always had mixed feelings about. The lugnut covers. Every time you need to access the lugs these silly caps have to be removed first. Part of me likes them for the clean, cosmetic touch. But the rest of me despises them, hoping I never get stuck on the side of road with a flat.

We use pliers to remove them now that the special hook-tool supplied by Audi has gone missing. I'd wager the small tool will disappear from most owner's cars over time. So what do you think? Are these caps worth the trouble? What would you do about it if this was your car?

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 34,651 miles

Our Favorite Caption

February 04, 2011

Thanks to rayray633 for this week's favorite caption. Here are the others that pulled our leg:

Avant to move this trailer. This Audi do it. (technetium99)
Avant to tow! They Audi let me try! (ergsum)
Pullitt (ergsum)
...And the box it came in. (technetium99)
Riswick is getting hitched! (technetium99)
Dude, I think it's supposed to be on a truck. (vt8919)
You're doing it wrong. (seth111976)
Before it starting pulling the trailer, it was an A4 sedan. (ergsum)
Home sweet home. (teampenske3)
An idiot Avant. (ergsum)
STEELER CARAVAN - SUPER BOWL OR BUST!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (blackngold1000)
Transmission Impossible (ergsum)
These aren't the loads you're rated for. (ergsum)
The Avant Gets an A 4 Effort!!! (bluepunk82)
The Load of the Rings (ergsum)

What was your favorite?

To the winner:
You can select one of these three prizes:

- Crazy Heart Soundtrack
- GM Design Paperweight
- Flat Stig key ring

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

For Sale Pricing

February 04, 2011

When we offer one of our long term cars for sale, it's always tough to set the right price. Sometimes, we schlep it down to CarMax and see what they offer us. If they offer "strong money" (as a car salesman might say) we cash out. If it's a lukewarm price we might put it up on Craigslist for a few grand more and see if we can get a quick sale.

The 2009 Audi A4 Avant falls into a different category. First of all, it didn't seem like a CarMax kind of vehicle and their offer of $23,000, confirmed that. We looked at our True Market Value, and similar cars for sale in our area (not many of them) and decided to list it for $29,500. We knew that listing it at $30,000 or above would likely bring a lot of silence. At $29,500, we would get calls. Or, in this new era of used car buying and selling, we might get e-mails or text messages.

Sure enough, after only two days on AutoTrader, we had two emails asking if it was still for sale. No test drives yet, but early interest is always a good sign.

Meanwhile, we created this simple YouTube video. We put the link in our Craigslist ad.

You Write the Caption

February 04, 2011

Automotive Editor James Riswick sent me this photo of our Audi wagon from the Heavy Duty Truck Comparison Test. Get that trailer Audi here.

What is your caption?

We'll post our favorite this afternoon.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Interest from North of the Border

February 07, 2011

The 2009 Audi A4 Avant has been up for sale for a week and we've been contacted by some scammers and some real people. One call, which I almost didn't return, was from Canada. I checked the number and it looked like it came from a real person so I called back. Turned out there is a guy from Calgary who travels to Los Angeles. He figured he could buy an all-wheel-drive car here for less than in Canada since no one really needs it here, at least on a regular basis.

The Calgary guy asked for more pictures of the interior so, rather than bog down an e-mail, I decided to put the pictures up on the web in a Picassa Album. This is a good tool for people selling their cars since Craigslist limits the number of photos to four and AutoTrader makes you pay for extra pictures.

"Where Are You From, Eh?"

February 21, 2011

I've learned a lot by selling the vehicles in the long term fleet. For example, I learned that people from Canada don't always look like they are from the Great White North. These three women are not from Rodeo Drive, in Beverly Hills, but Calgary, Canada. In case you don't know, that's about four hours drive north of the U.S. border in Montana.

I've been communicating with a buyer from Calgary, Canada, for the 2009 Audi A4 Avant and he asked if he could send a friend over to inspect it. No problem, I said, picturing perhaps some screaming cliche of a Canadian of a hockey player with missing teeth. Instead, I looked out my window to see a black Porsche Cayenne pull to the curb with low profile tires. Out popped these three "Canadians."

On the test drive I asked them where their accents were? "Oh, should we end every sentence with, 'eh?'" I said yes, that would make me feel a little more comfortable. Otherwise, I felt they might be ready to pull off some diabolical online fraud, posing as Calgaryians and then driving off in the A4. But then they referred to the temperature in Canada in Celsius and I knew they must be for real. We don’t do metric here.

Meanwhile, I'm working out the details with the buyer who will be wiring the money soon and then flying down to pick up the car. We have negotiated a price of $28,000, which is $5,000 more than we were offered by CarMax. I could have probably gotten more for it since, after the fateful call from Canada, I've had many other calls from interested parties who are much closer. But our Canadian buyer jumped on the car because, with the exchange rate, it’s a deal for him.

By the way, the buyer, who will be driving it all the way back to Calgary, had the foresight to ask what kind of tires are on it. When he learned that we had recently bought performance tires for it, he decided to buy some winter tires online and have them shipped to a local installer. Good move.

We'll let you know when this deal finally goes through, eh?

Bundle Up, Old Friend

March 03, 2011

As I write this the 2009 Audi A4 Avant is somewhere between Los Angeles and Calgary, Canada. Part of me is happy that it will finally be used for the purpose it was designed, namely driving surefootedly in snow and cold. But the Southern Californian in me shudders at the thought of this handsome car caked with cruddy, frozen slush. I grew up in New England and I know what winter does to cars.

Our buyer, Alex Roudinski, had wired us the $28,000 purchase price and flew in Tuesday night. I picked up him and his buddy, Doug, at the airport. The backseat and trunk were filled with the performance tires that had been removed and replaced with winter tires for the long drive north. Turned out these two Canadians-on-the-loose weren't exactly in a hurry to get back home. In fact they were detouring through Las Vegas for a stay of uncertain length. Road trip!

Roudinski had contacted me after finding the A4 on Autotrader and reviewing our blog carefully. On the drive from the airport to my house he commented that it was handy to be able to read everything about a car before he bought it. If you could read my mind at that moment, I was thinking, "Well… Not absolutely everything…" Still, Roudinski had done more due diligence than any other buyer I've dealt with. While we made the deal nearly three weeks ago, barely a day passed without an e-mail from him beginning, "Just one more question…"

Prior to Roudinski's arrival, I ran the A4 through the car wash and parked by the water for one last photo. As the sun began to dip below the horizon I noticed that the quartz gray paint reflected a palate of colors from the sky. And, as I said, I cringed to think of what lay ahead for this guy.

Roudinski had said he will check in with a blog or two as he heads north. But he was back pedaling a bit saying he'd see what he could do once he got back home. But with stop offs in Las Vegas, and a lot of ground to cover, I wouldn't hold your breath.

Philip Reed, Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor @35,457 miles


November 12, 2008

An entry on the 2009 Audi A4 Avant long-term blog page read, "There's just something endlessly appealing about the wagon. It's that magical expression of utility, only in something that doesn't look like a box.

"Though we make fun of a wagon's domesticity, it never really goes out of style, does it? Think of the enduring good taste expressed by the Volvo wagon through the decades. Even the 1955 Studebaker Conestoga Wagon that I saw on the streets of Santa Monica the other night still looks pretty interesting.

"But let's not get too heated up by the practicality of a wagon. Plenty of people will tell you that a wagon can take the place of a crossover, yet I'm not too sure. And the dimensions of the 2009 Audi A4 Avant make the point."

Why We Bought It
Our test of the 2009 Audi A4 Avant was more than just an excuse to own what may be the most attractive wagon ever built. For 2009 Audi redesigned its cash cow, the A4. It was revised and reengineered to be larger, faster and more fuel-efficient than the car it replaced. The new A4 was a big deal.

And after decades of dominance by SUVs and then CUVs, it was high time we looked into whether the smaller, more aerodynamic wagon was back in fashion. Only 10 percent of the A4s sold in the States were Avants but that didn't stop us. We also bought one for a glimpse into the practicality of its design over that of the traditional CUV.

We looked forward to 12 months and 20,000 miles with the newest Audi. But it wasn't long before the scope of our test grew. Before we knew it, more than two years and 35,000 miles had passed.

We enjoyed the 211-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo powering the Avant and piloted the Audi for many a road trip. But we hoped for a little more. Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh shared his sentiments: "When leaving a signal or stop sign in our long-term A4, things don't happen instantaneously. First, the initial tip-in response of the throttle is too soft. Then the revs climb high and hold as the torque converter tries to let the engine build boost. It makes for dignified, though not particularly hasty, departures. Once you're under way and the torque converter is fully locked up, there's ample sauce underfoot."

Editor in Chief Scott Oldham put into words what some of us felt when he explained why to avoid the sport suspension. Oldham wrote, "This little wagon just rides too firmly for me. Fact is, I think it's sprung stiffer than our S5, yet it doesn't really have the engine or the high-performance vibe that makes such a sacrifice in ride acceptable. Instead it just feels like a wagon with a small engine that is sprung too stiffly, and insists on crashing over even the smallest road imperfection. No point except discomfort, which is no point at all. But there is an easy fix for this. Don't pay for the Sport package. I've driven 2.0T-powered A4s without it and they ride wonderfully."

Power delivery and ride quality aside, it was the atmosphere inside the cabin where the Audi left its impression. Senior Automotive Editor Brent Romans reflected, "I really like our A4's interior. Even though our car's interior is trimmed in black, it's welcoming and premium in appearance. The wood highlights are tasteful and not overdone. The control layout, including MMI, is pleasing, sophisticated and largely intuitive. It looks and feels like an entry-level luxury car should."

But our back-burner comparison to the CUV arose multiple times. There wasn't quite enough space. Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds weighed his car options prior to a family vacation. "Four suitcases fit. This would work for a 3-to-4-day trip but not this 13-day trip. Positives: navigation system, double sunroof, full-function iPod connection. Negatives: general lack of breathing room and space for the kids, road stuff in this compact backseat, rear seats are hard and don't recline and there is no place for a small cooler. Probability of whining: High."

If we learned anything from almost two and a half years with the 2009 Audi A4 Avant, it is that Audi maintenance is not cheap. We miss the free schedule maintenance program. Four routine service visits to Santa Monica Audi averaged $245. And one of those was free. We spent another fistful to replace four Bridgestone Potenza RE050As ($1,190) and front brake pads and rotors ($670).

One unexpected issue of note involved a pronounced steering wheel vibration. Our A4 and an S5 we owned concurrently were part of a service bulletin concerning the Servotronic steering. The TSB involved swapping out both front lower control arms under warranty. Doing so remedied the problem completely. We had just two more surprises before the test was over. A careless motorist rear-ended us and a clueless fawn front-ended us. Sorry, Bambi. Body repairs cost us 15 days and $550.

Total Body Repair Costs: $554.47
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 29 months): $981.61
Additional Maintenance Costs: $1,864.32 for new brakes and tires
Warranty Repairs: Front lower control arms replaced, visor clip replaced
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 4
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 2 for Servotronic TSB and new brakes
Days Out of Service: 18
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None

Performance and Fuel Economy
We tested the A4 twice, as we do with all long-term cars. It performed significantly better at 1,000 miles than its final test at 35,000 miles. Some tests showed more degradation than others.

Acceleration from zero to 60 mph took 6.3 seconds (with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip), and the A4 completed the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds at 90.5 mph. Both milestones were 0.3 second slower than before. Braking distance from 60 mph grew to 108 feet, an increase of 5 feet from its first go-round. Lateral grip around the skid pad lessened ever so slightly, from 0.90g to 0.89g. Slalom performance dipped nearly 2 seconds, to 67.5 mph. Nonetheless, seat-of-the-pants calculations did not reflect the actual numbers. Road Test Editor Mike Monticello drove the A4 during its final test. He noted, "The A4 flat-out sticks as you weave around the cones. The suspension has little roll, the steering tightens up and offers good quickness and accurate turn-in while the tires just grip and grip. The all-wheel drive makes the final cone as easy as flooring it and holding on."

We averaged 21 mpg during our test, which equaled the EPA city mpg on the window sticker. Our best single tank was 30 mpg, though we exceeded the estimated 27 highway mpg on multiple occasions.

Best Fuel Economy: 30.7 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 14.2 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 21.0 mpg

Retained Value
We purchased the A4 Avant in October 2008 for $42,000, a tick above invoice price. By the end of our test it had more than 35,000 miles and Edmunds TMV® calculated its private-party resale value at $28,797. We set our asking price just above that at $29,500 and advertised on Auto Trader and Craigslist. Two days later we had an offer. After minimal negotiation we sold the Audi for $28,000 to a gentleman from Canada.

True Market Value at service end: $28,797
What it sold for: $28,000
Depreciation: $14,000 or 33% of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 35,484

Summing Up
We bought a 2009 Audi A4 Avant to test its utility. Were its wagon-size proportions enough to justify its practicality beyond a normal A4 sedan? Better yet, was that enough to justify shopping the Avant over a competitive CUV?

Our eyes saw the matter one way. As Senior Editor Erin Riches praised, "Whenever I look at our long-term A4 Avant I think, well, that's it, no one else should ever bother trying to build a wagon because it will never look this good." There was no denying this was an attractive wagon. We also couldn't argue that look and luxury would make this A4 quite a success in its segment. But we were stretching a bit to think it could compete with crossovers.

Cargo storage in the wagon was not significantly larger than the trunk space in the A4 sedan. That is, assuming the rear window is not grossly obstructed with sundries. So extra storage room didn't justify buying an Avant over a sedan. Along those lines, there was no chance the wagon could compete with taller, boxy CUVs. As Editor in Chief Scott Oldham concluded, "The A4, although larger than before, is still too small for real family duty." It may be true, but we challenge anybody to name a better-looking station wagon on the road today.

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.