2009 Audi A4 Avant Long-Term Road Test - Maintenance

2009 Audi A4 Long Term Road Test

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: Dealer vs Manufacturer Recommended

January 24, 2011

Invoices.jpg 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.

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: Oil, Please

November 04, 2010

A4 add oil.jpg

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

Pennzoil syn motor oil.jpg

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: Maintenance Costs

September 17, 2010

Invoices 001-1600.jpg

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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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


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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 25,000 mile service

April 30, 2010

Audi Service.jpg
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 labor....one 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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: Rear-Ended

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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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


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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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


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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: Steering Failure, Part Deux

June 10, 2009

A4 blog.jpg

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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: Power Steering Problem?

April 21, 2009

Audi A4 Avant Steering Wheel.jpg

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, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief @ 11,279 miles

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: It's Not A Tumor

February 18, 2009

a4 bulge.jpg

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.

Tirerack.com lists the A4's Bridgestone RE050A in 245/40/R18 at $239.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 6,845 miles.

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2009 Audi A4 Avant: 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

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