Long seen as a pioneer of all wheel drive vehicles, Audi’s Quattro system is possibly one of the best of its kind available. Couple it with a torquey turbocharged four, a mostly user friendly DSG transmission, and with Audi’s S-Line trim inside the wagon or Avant body, it’s an iron fist in a velvet glove. All up, it’s the Audi A4 Avant Quattro S-Line.Up front, behind the LED lit headlights, lies a 2.0L four cylinder turbocharged engine in an in-line configuration, fed on a diet of 95RON petrol. When prodded with the angry stick, the 1615 kilogram machine (thanks to a weight reducing aluminuiom chassis) will be hauled away to 100 kilometres per hour in just six seconds to a limited top speed of 250 kmh, seeing maximum torque of 370 nm (1600 to 4500 rpm) being applied via the seven speed dual clutch auto to all four wheels. Keep the foot buried and the tachometer on the full LCD dash screen will swing around to over 6000 rpm, delivering peak power of 185 kilowatts between 5000 to 6000 revs.Being the beast it can be, it’ll drink and drink hard when continually pushed. Consumption of the good fluid can be over 12.0 litres for every one hundred kilometres covered. However, it can also be docile, averaging around 7.0L per 100 km for normal around town work. Audi’s figures are 6.6L/100 km on the combined cycle for the Avant from a 58 litre tank.
Drivewise, punch the accelerator whilst on the freeway and the torque spread shrugs aside any opposition, watching the numbers change with alacrity. It’s a situation that well trained drivers will appreciate and understand.Should one wish to drive with a touch more verve and a little more zing, Audi has a drive mode selector, offering four options including Dynamic. This holds the gear shift point for longer, changes the engine’s ignition mapping to suit and provides the driver a more assertive driving experience. This would be ideal for an owner to take to a track day and find out the true limits of what this very capable machine can see. The downside to this is a lack of anything welcome stroking the ears. Although you can hear the engine working, it’s muted, lacking a real sense of buzz and excitement, whilst at the rear there’s a faint “phut, phut” as the transmission changes up.It’s a little too easy to confuse it at times; it’s not a fan of very low throttle applications such as those coming out from your driveaway, or in city traffic. The engine takes a moment too long to telegraph what it’s doing and the transmission furthers that lag. It’ll all too easily change down to an unwanted ratio on some downhill runs, especially at lower speeds required due to the road itself or traffic ahead, necessitating a flick of the paddle shift to get it to a more appropriate ratio. There was the occasional indecision in traffic and a clunk as the gearbox and AWD system talked to each other momentarily before reaching a decision on what to do.However, it’s as easy as breathing in regards to engaging the system. A rocker style gear selector is what Audi uses; foot on brake, press the Start/Stop button, pull lightly back for Drive or push forward for Reverse. Park is engaged by a push button at the top right and it couldn’t be more simple to use. Manual mode is simple tip to the right and rocking forward or back or using the paddle shifters.Being all wheel drive is one thing, but if the tyres aren’t up to the game, you’ll be hard pressed to fully appreciate what it does. Thankfully Audi has wrapped all four 19 inch wheels with rubber from Pirelli in a 245/35 profile. On the curvy, winding, roads A Wheel Thing uses every day, the Avant simply hunkers down, hands the driver a note saying “I’ve got this” and powers through as if Velcro, superglue and liquid nails have held the chassis to the rails it’s on. In one of the roundabouts near home, which to access the desired road requires a change of direction of over 180 degrees, there was no under or oversteer at all.The well weighted and pin sharp responsive steering had the Avant planted firmly, squarely, confidently, in this kind of situation and worked hand in glove with the sports suspension. Think of one of the hard erasers you had a school; squeeze it and there’s a touch of compression before it shops the squeeze. Close your eyes and imagine that’s the ride quality of the A4 Avant Quattro; firm but not hard, compliant enough to not dislodge the teeth but solid enough to let you know it’s just eaten a ripple in the road for breakfast. Helping with front end and overall chassis stability is the alloy strut tower brace.If there was a design quibble, it was something constantly mentioned by the junior members of A Wheel Thing: Daddy, why do the door handles open upwards? I don’t like it.
The test vehicle came clad in a delicious metallic blue paint, wrapping the slinky Avant and showing off its subtle curvature, and was complemented by a power blue colour for the seats. Yes, they were electrically operated. Yes, they were comfortable. Yes, they were a sports bucket style. Yes, they came with two tablet devices attached for the rear seat passengers. No, this car did not come fitted with the data enabled SIM card allowing certain usage options such as in-car wifi hotspot. No, it did not come with switches in the cargo area to release the 40/20/40 split fold seats.What the test car did come with was some of the vast array of options Audi has for the A4, both as options and fitted as standard for the Quattro. The folding and heated external mirrors for example, the sports suspension which drops ride height by 20 mm, Audi’s virtual cockpit including HUD, and parking assistance ($2735 and $1255), with the S-Line package covering the 19 inch wheels with V spokes/stainless steel pedals/matt brushed aluminuim inlays and more for $4160.
The Drive Select, Side Assist Blind Spot Warning, Cruise Control, Rear Cross Traffic Assist, and space saver spare are standard fitment, as are the LED headlights with self levelling and dynamic (inside to out in motion) indicators. Heating and venting, however, are optionable and are a questionable cost at $2600. And although Bluetooth streaming and digital radio are standard, the Bang and Olufson sound system is a $1950 option.In the upper centre of the dash is an 8.3 inch multimedia screen, operated via a control dial ahead of the gear selector. It’s not a retractable screen either, making it look oddly out of place. The system displays a hi-res map, the fact you’re listening to a radio station but won’t simultaneously show the RDS (Radio Data Service) information. The twin screens on th erear of the seats are a $4680 option in the Avant Quattro yet are a thousand dollars cheaper in the sedan version…At the stern is a powered tail gate, with plenty of LED lighting (a nice touch to have one directly overhead when open), with a rear camera that’s part of the 360 degree system. It’s 1025 mm from the rear of the car to the rear axle line, with the lip of the gate just 630 mm above the ground in normal trim. Overall length is 4725 mm with a wheelbase of 2820 mm, track is 1575 mm/1550 mm front and rear.Interior room benefits from good packaging: 1476 and 1446 mm are the numbers for hip room front and rear yet there’s a massive 505L for the cargo section (once you remove the cargo blind) with the rear seats up. Fold them, they don’t go completely flat, but you’ll still get 1500 or so litres.Safety wraps the A4 Avant Quattro in eight airbags, including full length curtain airbags, pre-tensioning seatbelts (which provide a somewhat eerie feeling as they slide up your shoulder by themselves), the excellent presense crash avoidance system and pedestrian friendly active bonnet. Peace of mind comes with a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
At The End Of The Drive.
It’s testament to Audi that, although they make a range of SUVs, they recognise that the station wagon still has a measure of appeal. With a starting driveaway price of just over $70K, it’s also priced reasonably fairly for the huge amount of standard kit, although Aussies used to the humble Kingswood or Falcom wagon might snort in their coffee.
It offers up a wonderful ride and handling package, a comfortable and well appointed interior, a plentiful tange of options however with some question marks over price and value for some.
Head over to Audi Australia and follow the links for information on the A4 range including the A4 Avant Quattro S-Line.