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2009 Audi A4 Avant Review

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Twins Separated at Birth?


By Marty Bernstein

Ibiza, Spain; The new 2009 Audi A4 and the Avant resemble each other and have exactly the same DNA. Ah, but are they paternal or fraternal twins? That depends upon one’s point of view. In the biological sense the correct term is Dizygotic but in a stretch of automotive jargon, I must call them a dynamic duo. .

While they are different – the A4 is the sedan and the new Avant is the wagon -- the importance of these two new models for the Audi line-up is significant. Johann Van Nysschen, the CEO of Audi USA, was very specific, when he said in an interview, “The A4 and the Avant represent 50% of our volume in North America.”

Fifty percent! Now that gets serious attention at every level of the automotive organization chart: design, engineering, development, manufacturing, marketing, promotion, advertising and especially finance at the factory level.

Adding impact are all the brand’s tools of preview introductions to consumers at major auto shows (both were shown in Geneva and New York shows last month) and to the media in special previews as well as traditional ride and drives. Serious marketing, advertising and publicity will begin prior to the September introduction.

With so much riding on them, are they really good? Well, actually they are better than that – both are damn good – with the A4 winning accolades in Europe where it was first launched earlier this year. It’s ‘twin” the Avant, is the newest and gets this review.

A4 + Avant = Station Wagon … Station wagon? Yes, station wagon. Certainly that’s a styling term from the halcyon days of auto design that often conjures up words like boxy and wood. But not the Avant. This is the new generation of station wagons for those who appreciate the versatility and practicality over vans and crosssovers.

Avant Exterior Styling

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There’s an obvious relationship that both mid-size vehicles come from the Audi Design department. They’re similar, yet different. The Avant has an interesting shape that’s not controversial, rather conversational. It’s sleek and modern with an aggressive shape – called the tornado line – that runs from the front fascia to the tail light. The roof line flows then angles off at the rear of the car. The new Avant is larger than previous Audi wagon designs by 4.72 inches, which is a lot but adds to the features and overall shape.

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The front has a bold design with the famous 4-ring logo of Audi. The curvaceous line of LEDs is a style note I’ve come to really like. It’s not obtrusive, but is distinctive.

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Driving behind an Avant on the road one does not see as distinguishing a design as the front. It’s utilitarian and functional as it must be to allow easy access to the cargo area.

Avant Interior Design

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Is it form or function? A little of each. The Avant’s interior is comfortable yet compact. There is good headroom and legroom in the front and in the rear seats too. And isn’t that nice. The drivers sightlines are clear and not obstructed. Gauges, speedometer and other essentials are easy to read and nicely located.

The overdesign is not overwhelming with too damn many knobs, dials and buttons that are confusing and hard to use. What you need is what you get with good design lines.

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Functional … with stylish and classy notes without being overbearing in use of materials and components.

Opps … almost forgot the cargo area … it’s large and commodious so it will hold most of the stuff and luggage needed for road trips or shopping excursions.

Driving the Avant

Smooth. Easy to drive. Fun to drive. Comfortable, adjustable seating. Water bottles are easily stored in convenient easy-to-reach locations. Very responsive engines (diesel and gas) that were exceptionally quiet on the hilly and curvy roads on the island of Ibiza.

The new 6-speed “Triptronic” fast-shifting 6-speed automatic is smooth and quick to respond with torque and power when needed. I particularly liked the diesel, but when the Avant goes on sale in America in early fall, only the 2.0 gas engine will be available.

Frankly, I expect that to change as the price of fuels continue their stratospheric rise.

Bottom Line?

With only a few differences the A4 sedan and wagon are great midsize vehicles in the highly competitive luxury car arena. Prices are not available now. The sedan will outsell the wagon. But for those who want elegance and refinement combined with power and drivability in a station wagon … this is it.

There is not an evil twin … just a dynamic duo.