A decade old, automatic Audi wagon with an exterior colour that could be confused for a Melbourne winter sky is likely to be owned by either a complete irrational Audi enthusiast or someone who has a morbid fear of using the internet to research cars.
I clearly fall into the first camp, having developed an unhealthy obsession for all things Audi, mostly of the wagon variety, which culminated in the purchase of this A4 wagon. Three engine variants were offered in both a sedan and wagon body, a 4 cylinder 1.8L turbo, and two V6 engines; a 2.4L and the less common 2.8L version. My car is equipped with the 30 valve, 2.8L V6 and has an output of 142kW with 280Nm of torque. This is sent through a 5 speed ‘tiptronic’ gearbox (a manual was not an option) and coupled to Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system. In addition to standard features like climate and cruise control, 6 speaker Bose audio system, the car also came with optional sports suspension (uprated springs, dampers and roll bars) as well as larger 17” 10 spoke alloy wheels.
Audis are not known for breaking any ground with their exterior design, tending to err on the conservative side across their entire model range. But the designers of this A4 generation managed to create a body shape that had simple yet elegant lines, resulting in a timeless design. I often find myself deliberately walking towards the back of the car when returning from a trip to the shops just so I can admire that gorgeous rear end!
Modern Audis have a reputation for their interior design and overall fit and finish, but what did surprise me was how pleasant and comfortable the interior was for a car designed and built over a decade earlier. The leather 3 spoke steering wheel feels purposeful and the sports seats are supple yet supportive. While there are large sections of dark plastic on most trim surfaces, it never feels ‘cheap’ and the cabin is an enjoyable (albeit small) place to spend time in.
In terms of handling, the addition of sports suspension provides the car with surprisingly good body control when navigating corners and the larger wheels wrapped in 225/45 profile tyres ensure ample grip in all road conditions. The ride is noticeably firm at low speeds, but the well tuned dampers mean this car is comfortable to live with day to day. The light and overly assisted steering that appears to be a common Audi trait does take the shine off the dynamic abilities of the car somewhat, particularly in wet conditions where the lack of feedback through can be disconcerting at first.
Although the V6 is a very capable unit that feels bullet proof at freeway speeds and has ample low down torque, the very dated tiptronic automatic gearbox and the poor fuel economy make for a less than enjoyable driving experience. Gearshifts at low speeds are often slow, sometimes taking seconds (yes seconds!) to shift down. Unfortunately, trying to use the steering wheel mounted gear selector buttons only exacerbates the frustration of living with this gearbox.
The poor fuel economy is more of an irritation than a dislike, as I knew from my research that the V6 was less economical than the smaller turbo engine. I typically get between 450 to 500km on a full 62L tank of premium fuel in a mix of urban and highway driving.
Although known to be more reliable than the 1.8L turbo, the V6 has a habit of leaking engine oil but this is more of design peculiarity and can be remedied by replacing the camshaft and valve seals. Front suspension control arms and electronic gremlins are other major areas that can cause owners problems.
Regardless of how many km’s the cars has travelled, ensure the car has been serviced regularly and that major items such as the timing belt replacement have been performed. For peace of mind, do what I did and pay for a pre-purchase inspection to ensure you don’t burn a hole in your back pocket and lose all your hair as a result of an issue that you didn’t notice during a test drive or in the logbook.
If you want something that is a bit different but still has subtle qualities, don’t mind the higher cost of regular maintenance that come with an older car then you will be rewarded with all the joys (and frustrations) that come with owning an early model Audi.