There was a time when the go to car for hauling luggage, furniture, anything really, was an estate.
Go back 30 odd years and the car of choice was a Volvo 850, the ‘box on wheels’, which counted for half the UK’s estate market, but come the new millennium the ‘boxes’ turned into stylish machines with names like Sportwagon, Touring, Avant and Shooting brake.
Leading the way was Alfa Romeo with the 156 Sportwagon, so sleek it looked better than the beautiful saloon. That said it was not at all practical and very much style over substance.
Now you feel sorry for sales people trying to shift an estate because everyone wants to buy an SUV, yet an estate is much nicer to drive and there are some cracking examples on the market.
If an estate with a posh badge still takes your fancy then head for an Audi showroom and seek out an Avant. A6 is the big boy, A4 a little more compact and there is an abundance of models although the emphasis on sporty has dwindled. Audi is putting the lion’s share of its efforts into electric models.
Not that the German marque has completely turned its back on performance. You can still get the RS badge and a reminder of the power crazed days when Audi battled for bragging rights with BMW. In the game of speed every fraction of a second counts and the four rings nearly always edged it.
Now the focus is on heavyweight horse power from smaller engines and this A4 Avant is a case in point. Normally I would favour diesel – Audi will still supply a diesel model – but with the spiraling cost gap over petrol, along with a general reluctance, the 2-litre petrol is a sensible and rewarding alternative.
Performance is on the money with a sprint to sixty taking around seven seconds but, more significantly, so is economy. Who would have thought 50mpg was achievable from a 200bhp motor? Well I got 51mpg on a round trip and averaged 46mpg over a week’s driving.
As an estate A4 fairs well on space against its premium rivals although none can match the incredible Skoda Superb which comes from the same family and is easier on the bank account.
Avant has a low sill, wide aperture with the powered tailgate open, minimal wheel arch intrusion, flat load area, reversible boot floor (handy for muddy boots or a wet dog) and an excellent retractable boot cover. That pretty much covers everything you want from a load lugger.
How many times over the last four decades have I written ‘no one can trim a premium car like Audi’, and nothing has changed. The cabin is dripping in quality, has superb build quality with every detail meticulously executed.
Audi’s mantra Vorsprung durch Technik (keeping ahead through technology) lives on particularly with the multi media interface, that’s the bag of tricks that controls navigation, Bluetooth, phone app connections, you name it, it does it.
The updated system is touchscreen, a sophisticated piece of kit with lightening response and ultra sharp graphics, you can even use a finger to scribble a navigation postcode, but I still believe ditching the rotary controller a backward step. Why not have both, like BMW and Mazda?
Audi would probably suggest using voice control for radio and navigation commands which, I admit, is very efficient. At least the separate climate control functions are neatly laid out with tactile switches.
It is hardly a surprise that A4 is a comfortable place for driver and passengers even if those in the back are a bit tight on legroom, something that has never been adequately sorted. There is barely any wind or road noise and ride comfort is now spot on.
This is the Sport edition with a choice of drive modes but don’t get too excited as there is little benefit switching to the sport setting. If sharper handling is your bag then go for S Line or an RS model.
As a premium brand you pay premium prices for A4, but once on the road you get the satisfaction that it is worth it.
A4 Avant Sport 40 TFSI
2-litre 200bhp; 7sp S tronic
0-62mph 7.3secs; 130mph
148g/km. 1st tax £230
Boot: 495-1495 litres
Insurance group 27