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2011 Audi A4 Avant ReviewThe Good
The 2011 Audi A4 Avant wagon is a compelling alternative to small SUVs, offering stylish good looks, all-wheel-drive traction, and sporty driving dynamics.The Bad
Ambitious pricing and a smallish cargo bay make the 2011 A4 Avant less attractive than more mainstream wagons.
The CarGurus View
Buyers who want a measure of style and performance in a small station wagon need look no further than the 2011 Audi A4 Avant. With attractive lines, sprightly handling, and standard all-wheel drive, the 2011 A4 Avant proves that station wagons don't have to be boring. Though pricey, the A4 Avant exudes a European flair that's missing from most of its competition.
At a Glance
In an American market dominated by crossover SUVs, the humble station wagon has enjoyed a minor resurgence of late. Buyers have realized that a well-designed wagon can match most crossovers in carrying capacity while greatly outperforming them in brisk driving. Audi has sold station wagons (Avants, they call them) stateside for many years, and the latest iteration of their A4 Avant is their best one yet, offering handsome good looks and sporty performance.
Based, of course, on the popular A4 sedan, the 2011 Audi A4 Avant sports wagon seats five passengers and features standard Quattro all-wheel drive. All A4 Avants are powered by Audi's capable turbocharged four-cylinder engine, mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. A firmly tuned suspension makes for crisp handling and a firm but comfortable ride.
Competition in the sports wagon market is heating up, and the 2011 A4 Avant squares off against challengers from Volvo, Subaru, and BMW. Though not quite as expensive as BMW's 328ix wagon, the 2011 A4 Avant is far dearer than both the Subaru Legacy and the Volvo V50. The extra dough nets buyers a healthy level of standard equipment and, more importantly, a Continental sophistication that makes even a mundane trip a little more special.
All 2011 A4 Avants share the same engine, Audi's 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder. Featuring all-aluminum construction and direct gasoline injection, this turbocharged motor makes 211 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. With peak torque available from just 1,500 rpm, the four-banger feels much more powerful than its rather small displacement would suggest. The A4 Avant can gallop from 0-60 mph in less than 7 seconds on its way to a governor-limited 130-mph top speed.
Unlike the A4 sedan, which offers three transmission options and either front- or all-wheel drive, the 2011 A4 Avant is offered only with a new eight-speed automatic transmission and the company's vaunted Quattro AWD system. With eight ratios to choose from, the new transmission is a willing partner in sporty driving and helps the A4 Avant return 29 mpg on the highway. Despite the thriftiness, some enthusiast buyers will no doubt pine for the excellent six-speed manual gearbox that sees duty in the A4 sedan. Driving the sprightly Avant without being able to row through the gears is akin to eating a plate of chocolate chip cookies with no milk.
Ride & Handling
Perhaps the A4 Avant's best attribute is its confident, poised handling. Buyers trading up from an SUV or crossover will be shocked by the 2011 Avant's ability to tackle tricky corners with very little body roll, while those transitioning from a sports sedan will be surprised at just how little has been lost in the transition to a station wagon. If anything the A4 Avant is even better balanced than the sedan, owing to the extra weight over the back wheels. With the sophisticated Quattro system clawing at the pavement for traction, it's quite difficult to upset the A4 Avant's dynamic balance. Its sharp, organic steering turns in with enthusiasm and transmits plenty of informative feedback to the driver.
While firm, the 2011 A4 Avant's ride is never harsh or punishing. The control arm front and multi-link rear suspension has been tuned to provide plenty of travel, and its stiff structure helps make road imperfections feel far away. The base rolling stock consists of 17-inch alloy wheels with 50-series all-season tires that provide an ideal balance between grip and comfort. Several option packages include larger, 18- or 19-inch alloys with 45- or 40-series summer rubber that improve traction but degrade the ride.
Cabin & Comfort
With nearly five times as much cargo capacity as the sedan, the A4 Avant wagon features quite a bit of room for all your gear. While the swooping roofline limits space when compared to boxier, more traditional wagons, the A4 Avant still offers over 50 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded. Passengers, especially in back, are treated to a surprising amount of room for a compact wagon, and the seats are firmly bolstered and comfortable for long drives.
In keeping with Audi tradition, the A4 Avant's interior is supremely well finished. From the leather seats to the plush carpeting and soft-touch plastics, few manufacturers are capable of putting together a slicker cabin than Audi. Panel gaps are razor thin, and the secondary controls, while somewhat curiously placed, move with finely dampened smoothness.
As befits its premium pricetag, the 2011 A4 Avant is loaded with standard equipment. All Avants get standard leather upholstery, power seats, dual-zone climate control, and a panoramic sunroof. Two option packages significantly upgrade the luxury quotient. Premium Plus Avants get heated seats, xenon headlights, and Bluetooth/iPod stereo integration, while the top-line Prestige package includes Audi's MMI navigation system, memory seats, and a 505-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo that pumps out crisp, clear sound.
With the A4 Avant's positioning as a family hauler, it's no surprise that Audi has equipped it with a full complement of safety equipment. Included are front, front side, and curtain airbags (rear side bags are optional), stability and traction control, and antilock brakes. With five stars in government crash testing and a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Avant's solid construction is quite evident.
What Owners Think
Owners of the Audi A4 Avant report being very satisfied with their car's excellent handling and zippy performance. For buyers who transitioned from a big SUV, the A4 Avant's fuel mileage is a pleasant surprise, but its slight lack of cargo space is panned by a few. Though it feels every inch a high-quality product, some owners report that their A4s are visiting the shop on an alarmingly regular basis.