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Final report: Audi A4 Avant long-term test

Date: 23 December 2016   |   Author: Tristan Young

Mileage 9,822
Official consumption 58.9mpg
Our average consumption 42.3mpg
Forecast/actual CPM 77.0p/78.5p
P11D price £38,525
Model price range £27,880-£40,880
Residual value 37.3%
Depreciation cost £24,156
Fuel £5,001
Service, maintenance and repair £3,017
Vehicle Excise Duty £220
National Insurance £4,306
CO2 (BIK band) 126g/km (25%)
BIK 20/40% per month £161/£321

Final report - When three's better than two

The granitekitchen A4 Avant covered very nearly 10,000 miles over six months and is being defleeted, so it's time to reflect on the highs and lows of running a 3.0-litre diesel estate with four-wheel drive.

Those characteristics, particularly the quattro all-wheel drive and the larger engine (although not the most powerful Audi offers in the A4), may not be the default choice for fleets who repeatedly tick the 2.0 TDI option, but our time with the car has highlighted the advantages. First up, the refinement of the 218hp 3.0-litre TDI engine is a class above the 2.0-litre. Not only is it refined, but when you do hear it, the engine note is pleasant and not harsh or raucous.

The added power isn't to be sniffed at either. Where a 2.0 TDI would have seen performance drop off when the car was fully loaded with family and luggage, the 3.0 meant driving was still easy going. It also meant you didn't have to work the engine as hard in these conditions either. Better still, the 3.0 comes with a seven-speed auto as standard.

1. A4Avant Quattro Badge

Quattro four-wheel drive is also worth the additional initial (£1,430) outlay simply because it totally eliminated that nasty wheelspin that happens when you pull out of a slippery junction. And while we ran the car in the summer, the four-wheel drive would be a real safety feature in the wetter, potentially snowier, months.

What's more, our car still has a CO2 figure of less than 130g/km, which means it could get onto many fleet lists.

The pay-off to the larger engine and all-wheel drive is, of-course, a drop in economy. However, I'd argue that this is worth it. Over the 10,000 miles in our hands, we saw an average of 42.3mpg in mixed conditions. That may not sound as good as the 51.2mpg we saw in the A4 Ultra 2.0 TDI we previously ran, but you have to remember the Ultra was a saloon, not estate, was a manual and only front drive.

A4Avant Roofbox -2

The best and worst fuel figures for a complete tankful of diesel were 48.3mpg with mainly unladen motorway use and 36.8mpg fully laden with a roofbox on top [2], on holiday around the lanes of Northumberland.

The estate part of the A4 proved very useful and would be easily big enough for most, but if you have dogs then you'll know they use up most of the boot, hence the need for a roofbox.

Our car came in S-line spec, which is the top trim level, but still misses out on some items you might expect to be standard such as; keyless entry, leather, clever cruise control and powered seats.
These options may sound like needless fripperies, but when in every other aspect the Audi A4 feels luxurious, from the styling to the build quality, the fact they're missing takes the edge off the premium brand experience.

3. A4Avant Navscreen1

This is why the Technology pack (£1,450) is an absolute must and brings a better satnav system [3], voice recognition, internet connectivity (although you'll still need to pay for your own sim and data plan) and wireless phone charging.

Pick the right options, however, and the A4 Avant with the 218hp 3.0-litre diesel and quattro is a proper premium car and one that should be selected by more drivers. Yes, the 2.0 is a bit more efficient both in fuel and tax, but the gains in well-being from greater refinement and better performance are well worth paying for.

11th report - Windscreen wipe clean

The granitekitchen Audi A4 will soon be defleeted, but before it does there are a handful of items left on the list that are well worth a mention.

First up, it's taken me almost the entire six months of ownership to discover that hidden in the car's settings menu is an override for the windscreen wipers for when you wash the car. Basically, because the wipers are hidden when not in use - for better aerodynamics - you can't lift them easily to clean them and the windscreen properly.

That's where the override setting comes into play. It just moves them up a few inches meaning you can flip them into a position standing away from the windscreen for cleaning. It's a very useful feature and one I wish I'd found a few thousand miles ago.

1. USE THIS ONE - A4Avant Wipers

The next point is that after almost 9,000 miles the A4's 3.0-litre diesel needed an oil top-up. The dipstick is of the electronic variety and gives you a 2,000-mile or so warning, so plenty of range to find the right oil. However, you will have to translate (using Google) the type of oil from Audi and VW Group language into the standard UK format for oil - something that's missing from the handbook.

Finally, now that the roads are getting more slippery with rain, leaves and the occasional frost I've been impressed by the quattro all-wheel drive system, which totally eliminates that spin of an inside wheel and the flashing traction control light when you pull out at junctions that's typical of many front-drive diesels in these conditions

10th report - Audi on the charge

Watching both the tech industry and the automotive industry evolve can be fascinating. In most cases the techies, and I'm talking about mobile phone producers, lead.

They're the ones that are bringing out new, more advanced, gadgets every few months. Whereas the automotive industry and I'm talking specifically about car manufacturers here, take around five years to develop a new car from scratch.

The result is that often there's a mismatch in connectivity between cars and phones. The number of cars I've driven where the connection via Bluetooth or a wire doesn't behave as it should is worryingly common. However, with our Audi A4 it seems the car manufacturer is ahead of the mobile phone company, or at least Apple. The A4 comes with wireless charging for mobile devices.

A4Avant Iphonecase -4

There's a pad in the centre console that will automatically charge your phone. But Apple hasn't put that technology into its phones, so it's redundant tech. Don't worry, though, Audi, realising that a lot of its drivers use iPhones is now selling (£35) a phone case that allows wireless charging. It's slim, stylish, Audi branded and works perfectly.However, there is one issue and this is, again, where Audi is ahead of Apple.

To use CarPlay, the Apple connectivity system that allows phone control such as podcasts, spoken text messages and music, through the car's infotainment system you must have the phone connected via a wire, which means you can't have a wireless charging case which uses the same (only) connection. This is the same no matter which car brand, because that's the way Apple has structured CarPlay. What we need now is for Apple to catch up and get properly wireless, both for charging and CarPlay.

9th report - Holiday haul for A4 Avant

If you've been following the reports about the Audi A4 Avant, you'll know that one of the highlights of this car is the 3.0 TDI engine - it's exceedingly smooth with loads of shove.

Apart from making you feel a little bit more special than all the 2.0 TDI-engined A4s on our roads, it makes long distances super easy to cope with - even when the car's fully loaded with luggage, kids, pets and with a roofbox on top.

We know this, because that's exactly how it was used during the autumn half term.

The A4 Avant has one of the biggest boots in its class at 505 litres, which just beats its main rivals the BMW 3-series and the Mercedes C-class estate. This is plenty of room on an everyday basis, when it's more likely you'll need the luggage net to secure smaller items and stop them from rolling around.

A4Avant Roofbox -1

However, if, like this writer, you have three dogs that take up at least half of any space available, then a roof box is essential for holiday luggage. And thanks to the Avant's standard roof rails, attaching a roofbox isn't an issue.

Amazingly, the roofbox, which normally has a significantly detrimental impact on fuel consumption, didn't put much of a dent in A4's figures. Both of the 330-mile drives to and from the holiday saw just over 40mpg and therefore didn't have much impact on the overall average so far of nearly 43mpg.

I put this down to the fact that you just don't need to work larger engines as hard as smaller-capacity units, so the real-world consumption is better.

Audi A4 Avant 3.0 TDI quattro S-line 218PS S-tronic

Mileage 7,889
P11D price £38,525
Forecast/actual cost per mile 77.0p/78.4p
Our average consumption 42.9mpg
Official combined consumption 58.9mpg

8th report - Another tank to fill up

During the mid-summer family holiday in the wilds of Northumberland the granitekitchen Audi A4 produced a new message I'd not seen before - either in this car or any previous long-term test vehicle. The message clearly indicated that I had to fill up with AdBlue, the diesel additive, within 2000 miles.

Being the kind of person that doesn't like to ever have less than a quarter of a tank of fuel I didn't delay in refilling the AdBlue tank.

The nearest Halfords was able to supply a 10-litre 'bottle' for £20, which, while a little bit cumbersome to empty into the tank, did the job of removing the warning.

A4avant -Adblue -1

Later research has revealed our A4 has a 12-litre AdBlue tank, which at £2 a litre over approximately 8000 miles means an additional 0.3p a mile. Following the same line of calculation gives a total AdBlue cost of £180 over a typical fleet contract of 60,000 miles.

For those that don't want to put AdBlue in every 8000 miles, Audi offers a no-cost option of a 24-litre additive tank. Obviously, this doesn't change the costs, but it does make life a little more convenient.

Audi A4 Avant 3.0 TDI quattro S-line 218PS S-tronic

Mileage 6203
P11D price £38,525
Forecast/actual cost per mile 76.4p/78.1p
Our average consumption 43.0mpg
Official combined consumption 58.9mpg

7th report - A greener right foot

We've already written about how efficient our long-term Audi A4 Avant is. Given it's a 3.0-litre car with an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive, we think the 43mpg average is very good, even though it's not near the 58mpg official figure. Part of this efficiency has to be attributed to what I've been calling the 'green foot' function, but in official Audi speak is called 'predictive efficiency assistant'.

The system, which advises how to drive more efficiently, goes much further than other systems that usually just offer gear-change advice.  Predictive efficiency assistant uses mapping data from the satnav to 'see' when you could lift off the accelerator without losing momentum.

A4 Green Foot

The system looks at things such as the road ahead to see what the speed limit is, if it's downhill, mostly straight, and without obstacles such as roundabouts, to determine if you could be driving more efficiently. It's indicated by a green foot appearing on the dash, and when you follow the instruction the A4 switches into it's most efficient coast mode, which uses next to no fuel.

Audi claims it can reduce fuel consumption by up to 10% on country roads. In our experience that certainly seems the case.

Audi A4 Avant 3.0 TDI quattro S-line

218PS S-tronic
Mileage 5348
P11D price £38,525
Forecast/actual cost per mile 76.8p/78.1p
Our average consumption 43.1mpg
Official combined consumption 58.9mpg
 

 

6th report - Chipper service

The A4 Avant is performing faultlessly, however a flying stone from the other side of a dual-carriageway last week left a big, star-shaped chip on the driver's side of the windscreen.

One call later (plus an emailed picture of the chip) and Nationwide Windscreen Services said they'd have a replacement sorted one working day later.

A4 Avant Windscreen -9

The fitter was as efficient and friendly as the initial response and arrived exactly when the text alert service said he would. Two hours after he arrived the replacement was in - another couple of hours for the glue to set and I was good to go. A perfect service.

5th report - Motorway miles make Audi A4 mpg soar

Having added nearly 1000 miles to the granitekitchen long-term Audi A4 Avant in the past couple of weeks thanks to meetings spread across the UK, we've noticed that this steady motorway work has seen the mpg figure soar.

A4Avant _ridgeway -1

Of the two most recent fills, one scored a new personal best for a tank of fuel, recording more than 47mpg over almost 500 miles. And in one 95-mile journey in that 500 miles, the trip computer recorded 57mpg - only just shy of the official 58.9mpg.

The result is that lifetime consumption has now risen to 43.1mpg, which, given the overall high mix of shorter journeys, isn't bad at all.

4th report - Smoothing out the A4

One of the biggest reasons to buy the Audi A4 in 3.0-litre diesel form rather than with the 2.0-litre diesel engine is the smoothness of the larger engine.

It's not that the four-cylinder 2.0-litre is below par in comparison with similarly sized engines from rival manufacturers, it's just that Audi's 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine is markedly better in the refinement stakes. Even from a cold start the engine noise of the larger unit is more subdued and yet also manages to sound more powerful at the same time.

Coupled with the DSG auto gearbox it makes for seamless progress - or it does when you learn to turn off the automatic electronic parking brake and just use it manually.

A4Avant Gearlever2

For the first couple of thousand miles I've had the auto parking brake switched on and found it almost impossible to pull away from stationary smoothly because the auto hold mode seems to grab onto the brake discs fractionally too long. In stop-start traffic this can be infuriating. And when combined with the stop-start system it was doubly annoying.

Now, with the auto brake mode permanently switched off and therefore the 'A' never illuminated (unlike in the picture), I'm really starting to warm to the A4 Avant's cosseting nature, and the overall refinement makes journeys less ta.

Audi A4 Avant 3.0 TDI quattro S-line 218PS S-tronic

Mileage 2899
P11D price £38,525
Forecast/actual cost per mile 77.1p/78.6p
Our average consumption 42.6mpg
Official combined consumption 58.9mpg

3rd report - Error codes

 About a year ago we ran a TT with the Audi Connect system and were critical of the lack of simplicity and also the intermittent nature of the connectivity.

A year later and our Audi A4 Avant suffers from the same issues. Even though we now know how the £1450 system should work, both the car and the two apps - Audi MMI Connect and myAudi Mobile - frequently give mixed results.

A4Avant App Errors - 2

 

In the first 2000 miles I've had various error messages from both apps (I still don't know why there are two separate apps that seem to do broadly similar things), the car and from Google Maps (which should allow you to send a destination to the car). Let's hope Audi's techies can solve the issues soon.

2nd report - Engine connection

The first thousand miles in the A4 have been dominated by two things: the engine and the connected services.

Let's get the 'bad' bit out of the way first. The connected services system is not simple. Even though it has only been six months since I said goodbye to an Audi TT with the same system, I seem to have forgotten all the little foibles. And that's because it just isn't logical. Memories of 'how to' are slowly coming back, so hopefully it will get less annoying with time.

 1_a 4avant _front _1

However, the 'good' point to this report is that the 218hp 3.0-litre engine is just lovely. Not only does it mean the car is swifter than the average diesel-powered business estate, but it is smooth and sounds just that little bit purposeful at idle.

While modern four-cylinder diesels are refined, they aren't usually pleasurable to the ear, but Audi's 3.0-litre V6 is. And remember, its CO2 emissions are below 130g/km. There's also the added bonus that our car is a Quattro, which means that if you're a little heavy-footed you don't get any nasty front-wheel scrabble that you can in two-wheel drive cars.

Audi A4 Avant 3.0 TDI Quattro S-line 218PS S-tronic

Mileage 1014
P11D price £38,525
Forecast/actual cost per mile 76.7p/78.0p
Our average consumption 43.4mpg
Official combined consumption 58.9mpg

 

1st report - performance without penalties

Detail _1

I won't deny it - I've lucked-out a bit with the latest granitekitchen long-term test car. Wanting to sample the latest Audi A4 Avant simply because it will undoubtedly be a big fleet seller,

granitekitchen has combined this aspect with the fact the 218hp 3.0-litre diesel with quattro all-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox still comes in under the 130g/km limit used by many companies for their fleets.
Basically, Audi has shown that you don't need to downgrade on luxury and performance to achieve a lower CO2 figure.

For the record, the A4 Avant we're running comes in at 126g/km. That means it sits in the 25% benefit-in-kind tax band.

For those still after the performance (the quattro version does 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds) if not quite the same level of grip, then the front-drive version comes in under 120g/km.

But back to the basics. Our A4 Avant sits toward the top of the range in S-line trim. With this engine, that means the standard level of equipment is decent but not amazing. For instance, there's keyless start but not keyless entry, powered  and heated mirrors but not power folding, parking sensors but only at the rear, and sports seats but with manual adjustment.

Detail _2

However, the quality of the interior is brilliant, with first-rate materials used not just in your line of sight, but in less obvious areas too.

There's brushed aluminium trim and a large and ultra-clear screen for both the satnav [2] and the controls for the rest of the car. We've also opted for the tech pack and virtual cockpit (£1450 and £450, respectively) which are well worth it because they connect to an Audi app that, among other things, means you can find your destination and send it to the satnav before getting to the car.

It also adds a hard drive so you can upload CDs (for those that still use them), and if you pay for a sim card you can have a wi-fi hotspot in the car. The virtual cockpit gives a full-colour digital display similar to that in the TT and makes it very easy to read the satnav in large format.

Detail _3

We've also opted for the storage pack (£175), which adds a couple of extra storage areas, a luggage net, a cup holder in the rear arm rest and a 12V power outlet in the boot.

Other features we're looking forward to testing include the quattro system when the winter starts to draw in, and also the carrying capacity of the 505-litre boot, which was put to good use on day two of our ownership by taking my youngest's bike to a not-so-near park [3].

Over the next six months we'll be seeing if the A4 really does offer both prestige and performance in a fleet-friendly package.

Audi A4 Avant 3.0 TDI quattro S-line 218PS S-tronic

Mileage 114
Official consumption 58.9mpg
Our average consumption 44.3
Forecast/actual CPM 76.0p/76.6
P11D price £38,525
Model price range £27,880-£40,880
Residual value 37.3%
Depreciation cost £24,156
Fuel £5001
Service, maintenance and repair £3017
Vehicle Excise Duty £220
National Insurance £4306
CO2 (BIK band) 126g/km (25%)
BIK 20/40% per month £161/£321


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