Holding on to traditional ideas and concepts can be dangerous. Sometimes, the very thing you're clinging to becomes defunct. The world is undergoing huge change in every way at the moment, as is technology – the main thing that underpins car design, as well as car development.
Thankfully, the most traditional Audi of them all, the A4, is far from obsolete. In our market, it's still the most popular non-SUV model that wears four rings.
With an advancement in design comes the broadening of our palates. As a result, cars like the Audi A5 have come about, which is a very similar product to the A4. Consider the A5 Sportback 'the sedan' for today's tastes.
It sells reasonably well, too, but not as well as the Audi A4 does in Australia. We should acknowledge here that the database we use for sales figures does include business-to-business (B2B) sales, fleet sales, rental car sales and the like, which are no doubt spaces the Audi A4 plays in.
However, a portion of that B2B market does include user choosers, and other custodians, who will embark on an ownership journey equal to that of a private buyer. In their case, it's just that the car was technically retailed, and reported, under a different sales channel.
Regardless, more A4s end up in the hands of consumers one way or another. It's still the more popular choice.
One of the strongest points of the Audi A4 range is that it's offered as a wagon. In fact, I believe this is the best way to have your Audi A4, given that the Audi A5 Sportback is a pretty-looking thing, and is arguably worth the extra dosh over an A4 sedan.
The wagon, or 'Avant', format of the A4 comes in three varieties in Australia. Two are Allroads, which are jacked-up, black-clad gravel-road bandits that lack the chic sleekness of the regular wagon. Functional as the Allroads are, one cannot deny the loss of expensiveness that comes as a consequence of its metamorphosis.
That leaves one regular-style wagon for Australia – the 2020 Audi A4 Avant 45 TFSI quattro S line. Audi has clearly taken feedback, as it's decided to fit the more powerful petrol engine, complete with all-wheel drive, in its sole regular wagon offering.
|Engine (capacity, cylinders, type)||2.0-litre four cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Power and torque (with RPM)||183kW @ 6000rpm, 370Nm @ 1600-4500rpm|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Drive type (FWD, etc)||all-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||7.3L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||9.5L/100km|
|Boot volume (seats up/down)||495L / 1495L|
|Turning circle||11.6 metres|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||5 (tested 2015)|
|Warranty (years / km)||3 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Mercedes-Benz C-Class estate, Volvo V60|
The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 183kW of power from 6000rpm and 370Nm of torque from 1600 to 4500rpm. This engine is exactly what you need for this style of car. It's pokey enough to be a riot unladen, but will also lug around a full load with no drama.
A large contributor to its breadth of ability is that chunky torque figure of 370Nm, which is offered for nearly 3000rpm. At any time while on the roll, a stab at the throttle pedal is met with strong response, signalled physically by a good shove in the seat.
It did use substantially more fuel than claimed, though, with the trip computer showing an average of 9.5L/100km compared to an official combined claim of 7.3L/100km.
The transmission, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, also responds well. These two are a great pairing; an excellent harmony of well-calibrated automatic and potent engine.
You'll find none of the usual dual-clutch nuances here, as they're well muted in this application that's matched to a permanent all-wheel-drive system. There's no lurching, initial stretchiness, or much else of the bad stuff that's often found in small-power, front-wheel-drive applications with the same transmission type.
Quality of execution continues to flow into the suspension and chassis design. As this is an S line version, the only version offered as a reminder, it does get fixed sports suspension as standard. There is an optional adaptive suspension package available for $1430, but our test car was devoid of this.
As far as a single-setting set-up goes, it's close to the mark. As with every other Audi, it sits on the firmer side of the spectrum. After all, the brand does state that dynamism is a core brand element.
However, it does employ high-quality dampers, which never fidget when tasked nor become wobbly when stressed. This results in a firm yet controlled experience that's become the expectation from this brand. Around town, the sharp edge of the ride quality becomes apparent, but not irritating. It pays off at pace, however, as through sweeping rural roads, often littered with blemishes, the Audi A4 is a treat to punt about.
If you're considering a wagon because you see this body type as instrumental in achieving your adventurous goals, then you're on the money. Those who mountain bike, kayak or partake in such activities that involve heading out of the concrete jungle will love this thing.
Its manners at higher speeds are simply better than the SUV equivalent at the same price point. Even if the SUV comes from the same brand, too.
As I've mentioned in a previous Audi A5 review, I'd love to see if the adaptive suspension package is worth the money. It would be a difficult task to split the excellent pre-existing ride quality and get something that's genuinely superior.
Inside the cabin, not much has changed since this ninth generation's Australian debut in 2016. It has undergone a recent facelift, which is what we're testing here, but the hard points inside are all the same. Some things have improved, such as material selection and its infotainment screen in isolation, but other areas have taken a backward step.
My biggest gripe with the latest 10.1-inch Audi MMI Touch system is the 'Touch' part of its name. It never used to be that, as it relied on a rotary dial to navigate the system. All new Audi models are moving to either of two new interfaces – one with a dual touchscreen that has both haptic and acoustic feedback, and another single-touchscreen system that has no haptics.
The A4 gets the latter system – the one worse off from this decision to remove the central dial. It may seem like a small quibble to have, but it also affects two things. Firstly, how easy it is to interact with the system when driving, and secondly, its premium nature.
Because it lacks haptic feedback, the touchscreen has lost tactility when directly compared to one operated with a dial. This same dial also added a sense of expensiveness to the system, as they were initially pioneered by, and most commonly found in, expensive European cars.
It's a fancy remote, basically. One that made sense, worked well, and lifted the bar in terms of automotive human-machine interfaces. It's a shame it no longer exists.
Now we've cleared the air, let's get back to the rest of the cabin. Genuine aluminium clads the dashboard and doors – a material that certainly suits the demeanour of this car. You can opt for other materials, such as carbon-fibre or brushed aluminium, but the finish applied to the standard stuff is still technical enough to suit its worth.
Directly in front of the driver is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, which again feels smart. Leather-finished sports seats come as standard, which are well bolstered, feature thigh-support extensions, and electric lumbar support. The basics of the cabin are excellent, so rest assured that driver comfort, visibility and general ergonomics are well thought out.
It's worth noting here that despite featuring S Line in its name, it's more half an S Line. As standard, it's missing the 'S Line interior package', which adds the sporty touchpoints of a fancy steering wheel, embossing to its seats, and metal pedals – just to name a few.
Things like the black rubber pedals in our half S Line car, as I've now anointed it, do look a bit budget. The cost to lift the small things up to expectations is $2730. Not cheap.
Another cheeky jab I'll land is the fact that the advanced driver-assistance package is still not included for free at this price point.
Our car was optioned with the $3770 package, which introduces a more advanced autonomous emergency braking system (the standard system works up to approximately 85km/h), adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, front and side vision cameras, and others.
Factor into your budget that you'll likely be opting for this safety suite. As for nice inclusions, a usefully located wireless charger lives in the armrest, as does a fast-charging USB-C port. A regular USB port is located in the front part of the centre console, for good measure.
The second row is paid dividends by the wagon roof line, as its continuation right over the rear axle creates both excellent ambiance and head room. Using a baby capsule, or a rearward-facing convertible child seat, with this car is a simple affair.
The fitting of such child seats doesn't overly corrupt first-row passenger space, either. A pair of adults will find themselves comfortable in the second row, even sitting behind taller drivers around 180cm. Knee room is good and foot room is excellent.
Guests can adjust their own third row of climate control from the back seat, and the centre console also features a pair of air vents alongside a 12V power outlet. No USB ports in sight, however. Second-row seats can be folded in a 40/20/40 arrangement, with the middle section doing so independently, which is handy for loading long goods while retaining usable seats.
As for storage, there are regular-sized bottle holders in its doors and a pair of flip-out cupholders in the centre armrest, alongside a flocked storage tray. It is quite shallow, but you'll slot in a small tablet or maybe some knick-knacks for baby at best.
Finally, we arrive at the cargo area. What you've all no doubt been waiting for.
After you've popped the electric tailgate, which comes as standard, and noticed the cargo blind retracted electrically, also standard stuff, you're presented with 495L of cargo space. An equivalent Q5 does offer 55L more here, but leave that with me for now.
It also appears to only have 35L more space than an A4 sedan, but bear in mind we're discussing capacity up to the parcel shelf. The benefit of the wagon is that you can actually stack items, like suitcases, beyond this point, and easily so.
When you consider that, it absolutely strides ahead of the sedan in terms of storage space. The clever electric parcel blind can be rolled up but kept in place, which makes utilising the extra wagon-exclusive space simple.
Another area where the wagon shines is in terms of extending the cargo space. With the second row folded, via levers located in the cargo area, storage space can be boosted up to 1495L. Remember those adventure types I spoke about earlier? This is what they're looking for.
At $71,400 before on-roads, in basic form, it's cheaper than the equivalent Audi Q5 45 TFSI by a touch under $3000. The Audi A4 Avant may have less boot space, but it packs more equipment and something else less tangible – dynamics.
The A4 Avant, to me anyway, has a much more suave air about it, too. Its proportions are striking, it's low to the ground, and it looks fantastic.
I am a fan of bright colours, but this example with its unpigmented Glacier White hue, blackout trim package, and optional five V-spoke satin-grey wheels nails things clinically. It's one of those examples where simple colours have freed up airtime for busy forms, such as this car's mesh wheels and intricate grille, to do the talking.
Our test car will set you back $78,701 before on-roads. As it is, it's a magnificent, practical family car, and the way you should have your Audi A4.