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, Edmunds.com Editor at Large (and official cold-weather wimp) at 34,180 miles
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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