The Audi A4 has been around in one form or another for 25 years now. The latest version may be restrained in its styling but it reeks of quality, says Charlie Flindt


The Audi A4 has come a long way in 25 years. Charlie Flindt is impressed by the new Audi A4 Avant TDI quattro, though restrained in its styling, it reeks of quality.

For more on Audi, read our review of the Audi Q7 50 TDI. Have we reached peak SUV?

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If you are looking for a medium-sized estate car, you’re spoilt for choice. It is, after all, one of the most popular sectors of the market and manufacturers all want to get in on the sales action.

The secret to attracting buyers’ attention is, of course, to stand out from the showroom crowd, and in the A4 Avant, Audi (which, don’t forget, is competing against some really fine opposition from within the same parent VAG group) has come up with a cracker.

Audi A4 Avant 40 TDI quattro

The cabin is plain but practical, though the satnav looks like an afterthought.

It’s not ‘stand out’ at first glance – in fact, it’s quite restrained in its styling, but still streets ahead of the dull lump that was the first A4, 25 years ago.

The interior is the same; not too fancy, very practical, but fantastically well put together, although even Audi’s brilliant designers haven’t cracked how to install the central tablet-style screen without making it look like a cheap add-on.

Our test car had all its best surprises tucked away out of sight. First was the two-litre diesel engine (the ‘40’ name is hugely confusing), one of the latest generation of oil burners and one that shows just how civilised diesel ownership can be. We took child number three on a 700-mile round-trip to start university in the A4, and when it was fully loaded with bedding, clothing and cooking utensils it was almost silent.

Once we’d disgorged the huge heap of contents (including a 6ft 5in teenager, who had survived the long drive happily in the back), done our brave and manly farewells and set off home, contemplating an empty-nesting eternity, the noise levels did creep up a bit, partly due to the low-profile tyres, and probably also due to the extra drive train in the 4WD system. Our A4 made no claims about being able to leave the Tarmac (‘NOT for off-roading’ says the owner’s manual), but it probably helped make the Avant incredibly stable.

Audi A4 Avant 40 TDI quattro

The estate version has up to 1,495 litres of load capacity.

As we swept home on long stretches of ‘smart’ motorway (or ‘death traps’ as they are becoming known), I was twice told off by the on-board computer for neglecting to steer. My defence – that my hands were on the wheel but they hadn’t been needed – fell on unhearing electronic ears.

We did spend a lot of time rummaging in the owner’s manual – many of the numerous warning systems and ‘driving aids’ come with teeny tiny dashboard lights.

We passed many happy miles debating what one light meant – was it ‘brake system failure’ or ‘insufficient inter-car distance’? Once we’d found our reading glasses we confirmed that it was, of course, the latter. I told the A4 to stop being such a bossy boots. It ignored me.

It’s not hugely economical, it’s not firebrand quick, and if you turn up at a farm people will think you’re a land agent (oh, the shame), but the A4 Avant reeks of quality, and is certainly one of the stand-out choices in a crowded corner of the car market.


♦ Engine: 1,968cc inline 4-cyl EU6 diesel
♦ Power: 187bhp
♦ Max speed: 143mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 7.6 seconds
♦ Combined fuel economy: 44.1mpg
♦ Insurance group: 19
♦ Price (on the road): £38,880