September 29, 2011

Review: Audi A4 Avant

Always on the lookout for places to put a cello (soon to be full-sized as the player is growing), CelloMom's eye fell on Audi's A4 Avant. Perhaps "station wagon" has too many connotations of suburbia, and "wagon" suggests something that goes way, way back in history. So, "Avant", to the future - or something like that.

However forward the name, there is plenty of space in the back for a cello, and the back row folds down flat for carrying large items. CelloMom loves the clean lines on the dashboard.

In the US, the choices are limited: you can only get this car with leather seating (not that CelloMom has anything against leather seating!), and you can only get it with one engine, the 2.0L TFSI that puts out 211HP, with the quattro drive. in Germany, Audi offers the A4 with a choice of 3 gasoline engines (with and without turbo option) and 3 diesel engines. Whatever misgivings one may have about the long-term efficacy of those diesel particle filters, there is no doubt that turbocharged diesel engines put out the power at impressive fuel economy.

As an example, take a look at the 2.0L TDI turbodiesel engine (143HP): In the 6-speed manual configuration it does 39mpg in real-life driving (European sticker efficiencies are over-estimates). This is doing quite a bit better than the 24 mpg delivered by the 2.0L TFSI available in the US.

CelloMom has better news than this: for the same trim level, an A4 with the more gas-frugal 2.0L TDI (143HP) is less expensive than the same A4 with the 2.0L TFSI (211HP) engine by €3,300. The difference will be less in the US, where taxes are much lower; here the MSRP for the more frugal one is probably close to $33,000. And it would still come with leather seats. it just shows once again that cars are cheap in the US. In Germany leather seats don't come standard until you get to the "S" version. For that trim, the 2.0L TFSI quattro (211HP) version with the S-tronic transmission lists at €45,180, or about $61,200 (Sept 2011 conversion). Zoom!

In the interest of full disclosure, German Audi A4 Avants also come with a larger engine: a 3.2L FSI quattro version with Tiptronic transmission. This baby puts out 265HP, with an official fuel economy of 30mpg. Its top speed is 250kph (155mph): only good for places like Montana; the rest of us perhaps don't need something that can go well over twice the highway speed limit. On offer from €45,600 for the simplest trim.

CelloMom could easily see herself living with the German engineering, the clean-lines design, the safety record, and the attention to detail that went into this car; not to mention the space for the cello. But it would be nice if car designers would just get over their infatuation with LED lighting. In this case a line of white LEDs goes underneath each headlight, and gives the car a look that frowns, underlined with negative eyeliner. It's A Clockwork Orange with white eye makeup. The kind of thing that will make our children shudder to look back on the early LED era.


Audi A4 Avant, Same-Model comparison, different engine.

2.0 TFSI 2.0 TDI
Type "Premium" "Attraction"
Year 2012 2012
Emissions rating EURO5
MSRP $ 36,400 € 33,450
($ 45,300)
CelloMom Rating
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 21 / 29 mpg 6.4 / 4.5 l/100km
(37 / 67 mpg)
Avg. quoted 24 mpg 5.2 l/100km (45mpg)
Avg. actual 24 mpg (DOE) 39 mpg HonestJohn

2.0L TFSI quattro,

2.0 TDI
Power 211 HP 143 HP
Gears 8-spd Tiptronic 6-spd manual
Fuel premium unleaded Diesel
Length, mm(in) (185.2 in) 4703 mm
Width, mm(in) (80.3 in) 2040 mm
Height, mm(in) (56.5 in) 1436 mm
Weight, kg(lbs) (3814 lbs) 1585 kg
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) (50.5 cuft) 490 liter
Turning radius, m(ft) (37.7 ft) 11.5 m
Top speed, kph(mph) (130 mph) 208 kph (129 mph)

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