Audi A4 Avant 2.0T Quattro Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
audi a4 avant 2 0t quattro review

You gotta love Audi. Despite its rivals' explosive growth, The Boys from Ingolstadt have resisted the lure of sudden intended niche acceleration. While questions about reliability and resale value have shadowed the brand's progress like a pack of predatory wolves, Audi keeps on plugging away with a limited line of luxury limos, waiting for their turn to fill US owners' heated garages. As always, the A4 is both the point man and the mainstay of Audi's long march. Does the latest evolution finally signal the beginning of the end of the beginning?

From a sheet metal standpoint, the A4 is perfectly positioned to enjoy a rare window of unopposed conservatism. BMW's once-staid products have been turning Japanese (I really think so), Mercedes has renounced their discreet design heritage, Jaguar has overexploited theirs, Cadillac continues to live on the edge and the Asian brands are stuck in Pasticheland (save Infiniti). Aside from its inappropriately voracious snout– perfectly designed to make US license plates look ugly and stupid– the A4 is the ideal choice for drivers who believe discretion is the better part of showing off. It's old money on wheels.

The A4's rear lamp treatment is the only other concession to the vagaries of style. Audi's artisans added a pair of lenses resembling eagle heads to the tailgate/trunk. And? One suspects they were devised solely to help anally-retentive German corporate car buyers gauge their relative worth (with appropriate efficiency). No matter: the A4 is still as sensible as a bran flake breakfast. I reckon the Avant (that's "station wagon" to you and me) is the only machine that can make a Buick LaCrosse (that's "masturbation" to Quebecois) look like a hot rod.

Inside, welcome to the world's best interior. Not even brother Bentley can compete with the A4's superbly coordinated combination of shapes, textures, colors, materials and ergonomics. Did you know that every A4 switch, from the radio station buttons to the odometer's trip reset to the HomeLink transponder, responds with the exact same click? Or that the carmaker employs haptic and olfactory teams to make sure Audi interiors feel and smell like, um, Audi interiors? If you were wondering how the guys running Ingolstadt's four ring circus dare charge 40 large for a miniature station wagon, then you've never road tripped in an A4 Avant– or worn an Armani suit.

Yes, there is that. By American standards, the car is too small by half. I'm not sure if you could park an A4 Avant in the back of a Dodge Magnum, but I'd like to see you try. Meanwhile, the A4's rear chairs are less accommodating than a Turkmenistan Airlines economy class seat. Rear legroom is so scarce there are knee-shaped indentations on the back of the front seats. The obvious DVT danger restricts the A4 Avant's appeal to middle-aged Euro-snobs with small children. Works for me…

As does the dynamic payoff. While BMW's 3-Series is the better steer, there is nothing wrong with the way the A4 Avant drives. Cruising is the small Audi's default mode, but there's plenty of scope for speed-oriented shenanigans, what with seriously grippy brakes, Quattro four-wheel-drive and a supernatural handling Nanny keeping an eye on things. Unfortunately, the Servotronic speed-sensitive steering is lighter than an anorexic dust mite. In fact, all the Audi's major controls– helm, throttle, clutch and brakes– lack sufficient heft for small car drivers who enjoy regular bouts of contemptuous sniggering. Still, as the Audi product planning guy says, it's easy to park.

The Avant's two-liter four-cylinder turbo deserves special mention. The powerplant stumps-up enough low-end grunt to maintain smooth progress without dialing-up the revs. Once the turbos kick-in, the five-door Audi skeedaddales with the kind of free-flowing mechanical abandon that makes tuning shops very, very happy. Even without the inevitable used car bargain boy racer mods, the A4 Avant sprints to sixty in 7.4 seconds and tops out at a buck-thirty. That's not bad for a 3800lbs. vehicle that travels 25 miles to a gallon of dead dinoflagellates.

In fact, there's just one thing wrong with the A4 Avant: size. In the US market, "small" and "luxury" go together like "bling" and "Brooks Brothers". If this spatially-challenged luxury wagon had the word "Volks" in front of it and stickered for $10k less, it'd sell like heissekuchen. The A4 Avant and its sedan sibling are just not big enough to earn their crust for US drivers rooting around at this elevated price point. Aspiring Avantissimos are advised to buy used or plunk down $10k more for the A6 Avant and hold onto it for life. If the cost scares you, remember: it's what's inside that counts.

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  • Donmei Donmei on Jul 19, 2007

    I'm a HUGE subaru fan. (I own a WRX STi) But now that the wife and I are looking for a wagon for her, the Subaru Legacy GT wagon feels cheap and tinny. Yes, it does what subarus do best. It goes like hell and is supremely tunable. (For about $1000, spent on a chip and springs, you have a fantastic cornering 300 hp beast) But the quality of the interior, the solidity of the chassis can not compare to the Audi or BMW. Don p.s. For what its worty, my STi is as fast as an S4. But when you open the door, you can see where Subaru savede the $20K that differentiates the two cars. Subarus are for hardware freaks. There are no better values if thats what YOU value.

  • Beken Beken on Sep 04, 2007

    So it's two years after this review was written and I find myself looking for a family car. Given VW/Audi's reputation for long term reliability, Audi was not even on our radar...until our Buick lowered the bar of reference for reliability. There's an Audi dealer right next door to a BMW dealer in my area. We are cross-shopping the BMW 3 series, Subaru Legacy, ToyHondissan trio, as well as the VW Passat...which happens to be the $10K less expensive alternative. One testdrive and a very good salesperson experience and the A4 Avant finds itself at the top of our shortlist. We're not finished looking yet, and the longterm reliability reputation still lingers, but the Audi is looking like it will be in our garage soon.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion:
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?