THE rush to SUVs has somewhat sidelined the traditional station wagon in most buyers’ minds. However, not everyone wants the taller ride height, heavier kerb weight and that rolly-polly sensation that comes from the higher centre of gravity that many SUVs possess. Thankfully, carmakers such as Audi still offer traditional load-lugging family transport as an alternative. We call it a wagon; Audi calls it an Avant.
- The 185kW/370Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre engine is Audi’s best engine. It’s fast, going from rest to 100km/h in an official 6.0 seconds; it officially uses only 6.6 litres of fuel for every 100 kilometres it travels (expect around 9.0L/100km in the real world); and combined with the seven-speed “S tronic” dual-clutch automatic gearbox it’s also a lot of fun if you like driving.
- There’s loads of luggage space making the Audi A4 Avant a good family holiday car. The wagon has 505 litres of load area available compared with the A4 sedan’s 480L, with a 630mm floor height so you don’t need to lift things very high to slip them in. Tumbling the rear seats forward via the handy boot-mounted levers yields 1510L. By comparison, the second-generation Audi Q5 mid-size SUV due on sale here next year will have from 550L to 1550L, and a much taller load floor.
- It’s safe. The Audi A4 Avant has eight airbags, including side airbags for rear-seat passengers. When the sedan version of the Avant was independently rated for crash safety, the Australiasian New Car Assessment Program awarded it five stars, based on what it said was “impressive technology” including the ability to scan the road around the car and warn if a pedestrian or cyclist is approaching before you open a door.
- The Avant’s extra room comes at a high cost: the $72,900 wagon is a $6000 premium over the equivalent sedan. However, it is a bit cheaper than BMW’s 330i Touring (BMW calls its wagons “Touring”) and slightly more expensive than the Mercedes-Benz C250 Estate (“Estate” is Benz’s name for its wagon).
- The cost of options. With a few very user-friendly options thrown in the price, of our test car blew out to $95,324 – a difference of $22,424. We had $1420 assistance package with active cruise. The most expensive – admittedly making it a lot more child-friendly – was the $3600 rear seat entertainment system featuring a pair of 10.1-inch tablets integrated with the car’s multimedia system.
- Luxury car tax. In this instance, the Audi’s price will tip an extra $4604 into the government’s pocket.
- Servicing is an expensive part of luxury car ownership. In the A4 Avant’s case, you can expect to spend about $1620 per service for the first three years or 45,000 kilometres as part of the German luxury brand’s guaranteed pricing structure.
ANY COMPETITORS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
BMW’s 330i Touring is priced from $73,300 with an eight-speed automatic and features a similar level of performance to the Audi and is the enthusiast driver’s pick, but its luggage space is smaller. The Mercedes-Benz C250 Touring, priced from $71,900 with a seven-speed automatic, offers slightly more interior space than the Audi and a hybrid version is available, but in 250 form offers slightly less performance.
Then there’s the wildcard: the BMW 3 Series GT. It’s a swoopy hatchback version of the sedan offering a long load space with the rear seats folded down and a much nicer profile than the boxy wagon. It is priced from $77,900, making it more expensive, but as the saying goes, fashion ain’t ever cheap.