Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDi Ultra review

Definitive premium class estate car gets even better with more space, sweeter engines and lots of high tech equipment, but look out for the price of the huge list of optional extras. As usual the cabin is great but the quiet way this car goes about its business is almost unreal. There's a real feeling of quality and technical sophistication, though having suffered computer grief recently I am not sure that is always a good thing.

Review by Russell Bray

PERFORMANCE

Audi has produced some fine, state of the art turbo diesels of recent years and the 'green' Ultra version of the 1,968cc four-cylinder in the Avant test car produced a strong 236 lb ft of torque from just 1,500rpm. This made the car brisk moving away from rest when in town traffic or nipping on to a roundabout. Maximum power of 148bhp arrives at 3,250rpm so thanks to a six-speed manual gearbox there is always ample power in the pot. Acceleration to 62mph takes 9.2 seconds and top speed is 130mph. It doesn't take many miles to realise this car is about quiet, refined and relaxed transport and leave the sportier, noisier stuff to other people. The more powerful 2.0 TDI Ultra Sport 187bhp is expected to be the best seller in the range.

HANDLING

As usual you can order most Avant models with front or four-wheel quattro drive depending on your needs regarding traction in bad weather and road handling characteristics. Only front drive is available with the engine power choice tested here. Handling characteristics have been slightly sharpened via the fully independent, multi-link front and rear suspension. You can order the suspension in comfort tune or with a tauter, more sporting set-up that is standard for S line models. S line is now also available with comfort suspension at no extra cost. You can also order dynamic steering which varies its ratio according to speed and steering angle and adaptive damper control with a 'sport' bias. I have not been a fan of this when tried on other models. Adaptive damper control with a 'comfort' set-up favouring suppleness can also be specified for all versions except the Ultra models, which are exclusively equipped with sports suspension. When these options are fitted, they can be configured using the standard Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system. The comfort, auto, dynamic, efficiency and individual modes change the response of the throttle and the weighting of the steering.

BODY STYLE

Estate cars can look more elegant than their saloon counterparts and the Avant is an exceptionally sleek looking car with dramatic headlights giving a strong frontal appearance. It looks great without looking flash. The car is much bigger than before and now a proper five-seater. The downside of the sleek looks is how low the Avant is if you are tall and need to load it frequently. An electric rear tailgate and electrically retracting luggage cover as standard on all models helps though and the load bay is wide. There's a class-leading 505 litres of luggage space that extends to 1,510 litres with the rear seats folded down. Length 4,726mm. Width 1,842mm.

COMFORT & CONTROLS

Audi A4 Avant interior

You don't realise how tiring noise is until you haven't got it but if you do thousands of miles every year this Audi will be a great companion. The lack of engine, wind and road noise is testimony to the hours spent in development in wind tunnels and engine cells. So well shaped are the electrically adjustable seats it was easy to cover long stretches without getting tired. The computer helpfully reminds you to take a break but doesn’t yet emit the smell of fresh coffer to tempt you. The steering has a lovely, measured action but the brakes were a bit too soft for my tastes if driving briskly. The clutch and gear change have a light and precise movements. Audi drive selector lets you vary the stiffness of the suspension through four settings, one of them customisable. Changing the settings can sharpen the throttle and increase the weight of the power assisted steering. What I did not like on a very wet motorway was a feeling like aquaplaning and having to fight the steering. Gentle acceleration seemed to increase stability and then it came back again. I eventually realised a system to keep the car between white lines was intervening and tugging the steering. Clearly it should not be used in such conditions but the previous driver had left it switched on. No wonder I dread the days of driverless cars. Turning it off restored stability and normal service.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Despite all the fuel-saving technology on this car in the real world the overall consumption proved to be 50.8 MPG rather than the 70.6 MPG of the official combined test performed in a laboratory. We were quite pleased as it was hard though not to take advantage of the car's willingness to get a move on. Carbon dioxide emissions of 104 g/km slot the Avant TDI in Sport trim into band B for road fund licence with no first year tax and then £20 per annum. Less well equipped, ie lighter, versions can break the 100g/km mark at 99g/km but even the spicy and superb 215bhp 3.0 litre V6 diesel records only 114g/km. The car comes with a three-year/60,000 mile warranty. Main service intervals are two years or 18,600 miles.

GREEN CREDENTIALS

To take advantage of the economy potential of the latest engine technology, the gearboxes and chassis of the A4 Avant have been completely redeveloped. The six-speed manual transmission, the seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch (now also available for front-wheel drive) and the eight-speed tiptronic have been reworked. Automatic transmissions now have a fuel-saving freewheeling function. Aerodynamic drag coefficients as low as 0.26 and weight reductions up to 120kg compared to the outgoing model means the all-new A4 Avant is up to 21 per cent more fuel efficient than its predecessor according to official figures. Drivers wanting to maximise economy can use a predictive efficiency 'assistant' which uses navigation route data to warn when it would make sense to reduce speed, such as before bends, towns or speed limit signs that are not yet visible. The system can adapt the preselected speed to the route and the speed limits. Tests suggest it can reduce fuel thirst by ten per cent. With automatic transmissions it can take over predictive control of the free-wheeling function of the transmission.
According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 37.

OPTIONAL EXTRAS

Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, Xenon or LED headlights, Audi smart phone interface, driver selection mode, three-zone climate control and 7-inch colour systems monitor. Technology options include the virtual cockpit, Matrix LED headlights and various driver assistance systems. Avants start at £27,880 on the road. The test car's list price was £31,950 but metallic paint increased that by £645 and luxurious leather and Alcantara interior trim by a further £1,150. The test car was also fitted with a £1,450 technology pack with a tablet computer-like screen that delivers both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. My Samsung phone connected easily. You can show the satellite navigation map in the main instrument binnacle on cars with the £450 extra virtual cockpit box. This lets you vary the size of the speedometer and rev counter to show more of the map. A flat panel on the centre console, can charge your mobile phone by induction so that you don't have to use a cable to plug it in.

MODEL SUMMARY

Audi A4 Avant rear

Model tested: Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDi Ultra Sport
Body-style: Five-door compact executive estate
Engine / CO2: 148bhp 1968cc, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine / 104 g/km
Trim grades: S line, SE, Sport

On-road price: Diesel versions from £29,600. Price as tested £Â£31,950 (without extras)
Warranty:
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars

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Russell Bray

Author:Russell Bray
Date Updated:20th Oct 2016

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