Test Driven: 2011 Audi A4 Avant

The rims just don’t quite fill up the fenders like they’re supposed to. Not sure if it’s the rims themselves or the rest of the car.

During the summertime, I decided to embark on a quest of station wagons in the United States.  Audi’s seen success with the little A4 Avant, and it’s the only wagon they’re still selling here as of this year, as the new A6 Avant will not make landfall here.  So, I decided to take one out to see how it was in today’s world.

The styling is still pretty handsome, but in the face of the BMW 328i, it looks almost anonymous.

The A4 has been around with this engine, in this body, since 2008.  The Avant has only ever been available with the 2.0T engine (shared with the GTI) and the automatic transmission since 2008.  Audi also only offers the wagon at this point with quattro AWD, a nice touch, as this is the sole compact premium wagon on the market with this feature as standard equipment.  The car I tested was black with black leather.  The A4 looks pretty nice from most angles but is almost too pedestrian around the Acura TSX and BMW 328i wagons–in fact, I would almost call it anonymous.  It’s not bad overall, but I would like a little more chutzpah on the styling front, especially when combined with the almost-too-small 7-spoke alloy wheels fitted to the Premium model shown here, which stickered for about $38K.  This is the basic Avant, with only one option–heated front seats (Note, this is a necessity in the Northeast, where I reside).

The interior is the best part of the car–excellent materials quality, plenty of room up front, and easy controls.

The interior, thankfully, is a lot better than the exterior.  The seats are comfortable, the driving position is decent, and visibility is well-catered.  The interior as a whole feels solidly put together, but lacks personality, like the exterior.  In fact, with the badge covered up, I would nearly mistake it for something else, thanks to the lack of charm.  It feels a bit cold on the inside, and would probably do well with a bit more than just silver accents.  The steering wheel is well-sized for the interior, and the center stack is well-organized, with the radio controls up top and climate controls below.  The shifter feels a bit too much like the GTI, but because I have no issues with that car, I didn’t mind.  For 38 grand, this doesn’t feel like corners were cut.

This is the only engine available, the 2.0L turbo I4, with 211hp. It’s not bad, but I with the 3.2L V6 was still available.

On the move, the first thing I noticed was the amount of refinement.  Most wagons have issues with sound vibration in the cabin because of the large expanse of air in the interior, but the Audi didn’t seem to be victim to it.  In fact, this little wagon was impressively hushed.  The engine note, thanks to the GTI’s roots, sounds like a big turbo four, and pulls as such–it’s not slow, but could be a bit quicker for its size.  The little 2.0T has enough power off the line, but runs out of juice eventually, which doesn’t help much on the highway compared to its rivals.  However, Audi put the money into the chassis, and I did notice it.  The ride is comfortable, and with better tires than I had, it would be a great handler as well; on an off-ramp, the A4 Avant held on well, but the all-season tires fitted to it weren’t quite up to snuff.  Despite the inherent abuse, the Audi felt like it could handle a lot more than I threw at it (if it had better tires).  Fuel economy is rated at 21 city, 29 highway, which isn’t at all bad for its size.

Cargo room isn’t at all bad for the class, but I felt as if it could be improved by a better opening.

In terms of room and comfort, the Audi does pretty well.  The rear seat has a decent amount of room, and with the seats folded down, there’s enough room to fit a drum set and a guitar, but the opening isn’t quite as good.  Interior storage space is about average, with cupholders and map pockets of standard size, and a sunglasses holder up top.  In all, I like a lot of things about the A4, but I don’t love it, because there isn’t enough to keep my attention on it.

-Al

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