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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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 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
Back to All Long-Term Vehicles
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
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.
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 6,099 miles
(My camera is down, so no rainy photo. I went artisic instead.)
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
December 24, 2008
2009 Audi A4 Avant 2.0 Quattro
0-60 (with 1 foot of rollout like on a dragstrip): 6.0
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.
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.
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
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