UK CAR Road Test
Audi A4 Avant 2.6 1997

 

 

End of Days 

It's the day when the awful truth finally arrives - not only are you getting old but you've collected so much baggage in your life that you have to forget about such fanciful things as Sports cars and Coupes, it's the day when you start looking at estates.

Dark Ages

Historically estates have not had too much going for them. Take one saloon, tack on a dirty great van rear end and Bob's your uncle - instant practicality. Say good bye to quality trim, speedy motors and good looks. Say hello to hardwearing load swallowing.

Audi Avant 2.6

Renaissance

Luckily one or two manufacturers realised a while ago that not everyone doomed to pilot an estate really wanted to drive round in a bread van and actually started to attempt to style the things and give them decent levels of trim.

The enlightened ones realised that whilst space is handy, most of us only need a wee bit more than saloons offer and if we really wanted to carry 2 tonnes of s**te constantly we would have bought a transit van. Do you know what most of us want?  All the good things from the top of the range saloons and the occasional ability to squeeze a wardrobe in.

Audi have always been the vanguard of these super estates to the extent that the term Avant has become synonymous with stylish estates. With the A4, Audi have taken an already handsome saloon and created an equally, if not more, stylish Estate Car. And what's more, where other manufacturer's may limit your choice Audi offer the full range of engines and trims. Although with Audi trim levels you only really have the choice of glut or famine so that's no big deal. This A4 was the poverty spec model ie not the SE but it did include air con, super widgets and gross luxury like electric leather seats are missing but that's no biggie, the only things really noticeable by their absence was a centre front arm rest and rear electric windows. This is probably a bit of a faux pas in something which will inevitably be filled with small children and many owners would probably like to be able to disable the rear windows in the normal electric one button way, to stop the little sods messing about and probably eventually falling out. Audi have made a very nice job of the floppy winder thingamabobs which are inset with quality chrome highlights and will probably cost you nearly as much to replace as the electric windows would have cost in the first place, when the brat pulls them off and slings them out.

Audi Avant 2.6Interior-wise the car is built to Audi's usual high standards. The plastics are two tone, dark with light grey inserts separated by a sort of metallic/carbon-look thin centre strip with the seat and doors trimmed in a subtle hardwearing grey cloth trim.
The whole effect exudes class without having to resort to a rainforests worth of wooden planking and there is a distinct lack of bare metal surfaces to gripe about.
The dashboard is plain and simple but fully functional.
Three precise stalk controls leave little for other buttons to do and those that are left are large and neatly arranged across the centre.
Below the buttons lives the digital air con resplendent with tiny electronic controls and clear obvious iconery, most of the time you just leave it set to Auto and it does its job silently.
With the winter gloom here though its nice to know that, should you touch the Demist button, the screen clears in an instant. The buttons and dash all give off a homogeneous soft red glow when lit which is not only the same colour as, but also very easy on, your blood shot eyes late at night.
The only niggle I would have is the strange shielded guillotine of a hand brake which really isn't an improvement over a conventional gaitered item.

Audi Avant 2.6The Audi V6 is a smooth as silk and remarkably quiet. It barely raises its voice above a whisper until you venture deep toward the upper regions of the rev counter and even then it sounds sweet. Its smoothness is matched by its totally linear power delivery, it doesn't really matter where in the rev range you are as it just pulls strongly and unfussily from anywhere, the gearbox only needing to be used when really hard acceleration is required. This does not feel like a sporty exciting motor, just a very, very, very good one, its smoothness disguising its real urge. It may not be the last word in all out power but it delivers constantly and predictably on everyday roads. Its actually a shame that the engine was so good as the gearbox was short, sharp and swift and would have covered up some engine deficiencies had it actually had any. The pedals all seem to have the same weight, ie the clutch and brakes are light and the accelerator slightly heavy, but their effects are completely different, the light progressive clutch makes for smooth changes even under power, the long travel throttle needs a real push to elicit true power but the engine rewards when you do and it is very controllable. The brakes, though, have a short, lightswitch-style action, grabbing hard and stopping you very swiftly indeed, they are a little difficult to modulate at first acquaintance though the ABS should solve any difficulties it may cause (apart from getting rear ended that is).

Handling and ride are up to the usual A4 standards. The ride is a little fidgety on less than perfect roads, though it never becomes harsh or uncomfortable. The steering is still overly light when cornering at speed but fine around town and for general running around, though you can forgive this lightness more easily in estates which don't claim any sporting pretensions. For most of us it will always be a smooth, safe, grippy handler more than up to our expectations. There is, of course, the Quattro version should you require more grip again, but tiptoeing around December flood warnings presented no problems, though the snow coming down as I write this may have led to a different conclusion. The A4 saloons one let down is that it lacks a little rear and boot space. The Avant more than adequately solves that problem. Whilst many estates will claim to have bigger load areas than the A4 Avant, let's be really honest and think of how often we would really fill it and any way there's still the equally stylish A6 for those who need more room and we could forever go down the line of this-is-bigger-than-that, etc. Suffice to say, if you want a stylish estate then the Avant can't really be beaten and if you really need a lot more room than the Audi offers then you're probably into Citroen XM, MPV or Transit van league.

 

A4 Interior Trim Audi Avant 2.6 Dashboard Audi Avant 2.6 Rear Seating

SPECIFICATION

Audi Avant 2.6 Boot

 

 

Price

23,147
Engine 2598cc  V6 OHC
Max Speed 136mph
Max Power 150bhp
Performance 0-60mph in 9.1 sec
Insurance Group 15
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